Journeys of Discovery

Dr. Sunil Deepak, 15 October 2021

Autumn brings a rich calendar of cultural events to our little town and one of them is "Conversazioni", the Festival of Conversations. This years' theme of the festival was focused on different ways of imagining our future. I took part in two cultural activities of this festival - a workshop on watercolour painting and an Emotional Mapping walking tour of the city.

Emotional Mapping Walk ExvUoto, Schio - Image by Sunil Deepak

Both these activities took place on a Sunday and looking back, I think of it as a day of discoveries - a journey in self-discovery and a journey of discovery of our surroundings. In this post I want to share some thoughts about those experiences.

Watercolours Workshop by Francesca Lagonia

For the workshop we were supposed to reach the Jacquard gardens with a folding chair and a B2 pencil, they would provide all the supplies for experimenting with water colours. Our teacher was going to be Francesca Lagonia, a well-known artist from Venice.

My parents believed in the importance of promoting cultural interests in their children. I was around 6-7 years old when I was sent to a little arts & music school in old Delhi to learn painting, where I had a few lessons of water-colours, before my teacher left the school and they could not find a replacement. However, those few lessons were sufficient for me to develope a passion for both designing and painting, which continued through my childhood.

I rediscovered water-colour paintings some years ago in Schio a street art festival. They showed the world in a more translucent way, where water was a key element of the paintings - it could express all those ethereal and blurred elements, which lack definite forms. This way of using water colours was very different from the way I had learned it as a child - that water was only a medium for mixing the paint and it had nothing to contribute to the painting.

I wanted to try my hand at this new way of using the water colours. Thus, the announcement of this workshop came to me like a divine sign.

Watercolour workshop by Francesca Lagonia, Schio - Image by Sunil Deepak

We made three water colours during the workshop - two independently and one as a collective exercise. Francesca introduced us to some specific techniques. We worked in pairs by sharing the water-bottles and my companion was Ivana. It was a lovely sunny morning and the workshop was a good way to letting ourselves go. Though I had imagined of making beautiful artworks, in the end the results were quite poor but still I was glad that I had tried it.

Looking back on that day, I am really happy that I joined that workshop - it has helped to break the ice. I have already bought some colours and I hope that soon, I would try my hand with them. So, thanks to our teacher and artist Francesca Lagonia for this wonderful workshop!

Emotional Mapping Walk by ExvUoto Theatre

I love joining city walks and discovering the towns and their histories. Irish author Colm Toibin in the introduction to his new book "Mad, Bad, Dangerous to know" (2021) talks about learning to see the city-spaces through the lens of the different layers of events and histories and how it helps to build a "peculiar intensity about some streets in Dublin that gets more layered the longer you live in the city and the more stray memories and associations you build up. With time, thoughts thicken and become richer, connect more. Sometimes this aura in the city can be greatly added to by history and by books."

In Bologna, I had taken part in some walking tours and I had some wonderful memories about them. After shifting to Schio, I have been reading about it and trying to understand how it has changed along the centuries. For example, I am very curious to find out the route of the train which used to connect Schio to Pieve Bel Vicino during early 20th century. The last part of its route, where the train went along "Ferrata" and crossed the bridge over Leogra to reach the Lanerossi factory in Pieve is well-known, as it is explained in the board near the bridge. However, so far I have not been able to find its route in Schio city.

So I had high expectations from the "Emotional Mapping Walk". The walk started from the Civic Theatre and covered the "Quartiere Operaio" (the mill-workers housing area) built by the industrialist Alessandro Rossi around 1880s. Ivana, my companion from the water-colours workshop was also part of this walk.

We had two guides (Tommaso Franchin and Andrea Delai) from ExvUoto, a theatre group from Vicenza. Both joined us in nice head-masks - Tommaso wearing a sheep-mask and Andrea had a duck-head. They carried a speaker which played songs and voices. The two had been in Schio for a few days, visiting homes, talking to residents and recording their testimonies, which they played as walked through it.

One of the best moments of the walk was in the square Donatori di Sangue, where Andrea wearing his duck-head mask waded in the knee deep water of the fountain and called "Marcello, Marcello" like the iconic scene from the Fellini film in which Anita Ekberg was in the Trevi fountain along with Marcello Mastroianni (in the image below).

Emotional Mapping Walk ExvUoto, Schio - Image by Sunil Deepak

They explained that most of the residents they had talked to, didn't want to open their houses for the group. Most of the interviewees had not been living in this area for a long time and many of them said that they had no idea about its historical significance. We concluded our walk near Ferrata, the old railway track going to Pieve.

Compared to other historical city walking tours I had been to, I was personally a bit disappointed at this tour. I wish that they had done a little historical research about the area which could have made the walk more interesting.

Emotional Mapping Walk ExvUoto, Schio - Image by Sunil Deepak

I live in this same area, in a house where my wife's family has been living since late 1800s. I know three other families on our street who have been living in their houses for at least past 80 years. From them I have heard numerous stories about people and events that had happened in this area. None of which came out during the tour. So probably I was expecting too much from it.

Conclusions

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been living cooped up in our homes and towns. I had come back from India in February 2020, just before the Covid-19 cases had occurred and since then I had not travelled any where except for a couple of journeys to Bologna. Participating in these two initiatives gave me a feeling of freedom, a sense of coming out of the pandemic and to start living again.

Watercolour workshop by Francesca Lagonia, Schio - Image by Sunil Deepak

The picture above is from the water-colours workshop and I have taken it from Francesca Lagonia's website as it shows me during the workshop. I enjoyed both the experiences, as journeys to explore my inner self and to explore my surroundings. Though I felt that the walk could have been a better experience with a little more effort, in the end it is natural to feel like that since I am much more familiar with this area then Andrea and Tommaso can ever be.

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Dr Sunil Deepak
Schio (VI), Italy

Email: sunil.deepak(at)gmail.com