Hand worked baskets, the artisan Gennaro Di Meglio

baskets ischia gennaro di meglio

In Buonopane, land of 'Ndrezzata, a short walk from the stage of masonry which hosts the most appealing shows of this ancient dance, there is the home of one of the last island craftsmen specialized in the intertwining and in the production of hand-made baskets. His art is ancient, mainly made up of patience, through manual, mechanical and precise gestures. At the entrance of his house, we can get an idea of the temper of Gennaro di Meglio: at the antrance welcomes us, in fact, a mosaic, which he made, where it says “The Art .. Gennaro di Meglio invites you to visit his creations”.

The ellipsis are not there by chance: the landlord has put them to let the visitor choose whether to complete the word Artisan or Artist.
A game to involve even more visitors and make them comfortable before starting the journey through his creations.
Mr. Di Maio, when did it begin all?
I have to say that my family has always had a talent for the art of intertwining: some ancestors and cousins were very able in this field.
I, however, began by chance after a bad accident at work that forced me at home for some time. My mother-in-law, who was also very able in making woven baskets, always complained of her children who did not want to learn this art, and so, for challenge, I said I’d tried: to her surprise I showed I was able to do it and here I am after twenty years to create more objects weaving reeds and twigs of willow, elm, olive trees and brooms.
How is your work?
It is a purely manual work based on the use of the cane cut into strips and then weaving using tools such as scissors, boxcutters.
With the cane I usually do the walls of the baskets while for the base and the edges I use the willows after being wet to make them more flexible.
Are there all local materials?
The cane are very easy to find on the island and to give a touch of Ischia to my creations; willows, however, are imported. Sometimes I use the olive, elm or myrtle, which makes the basket scented, to replace willow and make native 100% of the product.
What have been the greatest satisfaction of your activities?
Being called by hotels and restaurants of Ischia to beautify their decor has always been a source of great pride for me, but what makes me most proud is having had the opportunity, through my work, to advertise our island through Italy: this has always been my main goal and motivation that still keeps me going on despite many ailments.
What kind of artifacts do you love most to create?
Apart from the baskets used for everyday use and in high demand by the villagers, what I like most to create are objects of embellishment that intrigue tourists. Weaving materials of different colours can make pleasant and worthy of exposure even simple items like trivets, baskets, fruit bowls, trays.
Lately I have created many cornucopias, faggots and chandeliers and I must say that they all had a lot of success and appreciation.
How do you see the future of your art?
My sons do not seem to, unfortunately, at the moment very interested to pursue my own business, and the eldest was learning and also promised well, but bureaucratic difficulties and some misunderstandings with the authorities regarding how to display our products in public places, led him to do anything else. I have always offered to teach in schools and to help those who wanted to start practicing, my door has always been open, but I repeat it for some time: it is necessary that everyone, from those who govern us, strive to preserve the ancient local traditions, not to stop them permanently.
A little bit of melancholy features the voice of Gennaro when we talk about these matters, but just passing the many souvenir photos on the walls of the living room and the many expressions of esteem received in the course of his life the mood changes and returns to the pride and the strength to continue to create.
Leaving the house-workshop-museum, almost stumbling among the many creations scattered on the floor and the entrance, the pleasant voice of Gennaro stopped me for the umpteenth time: the desire to talk, to entertain is innate, as the pride of belong to a particular land such as Buonopane.
And talking about his country, Gennaro wishes to point out that before getting injured and begin a career as a weaver was Corporal of 'Ndrezzata, the local folk dance, only a few can boast of having had the honor and the burden of leading the dance and he even did it in front of the Pope in the Sala Nervi in 1984.
Before the nth photo shown and after yet another invitation to drink a glass of local wine, Gennaro greets us with the phrase that sums up his life: “I can truly say that from the 'Ndrezzata I switched to' Ntrecciata!”
Long live the island traditions!

by Antonio Castagliuolo

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Posted: 5 years 3 weeks ago by didi #1451
didi's Avatar
Great Gennaro,
Ischia and all of Italy has so much need of people like you, Your creations are unique, long-lasting and very useful.
Thanks and good luck

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