PRESENZA - Introduction

A Subject

Italian Canadians: they live among us - our fellow citizens, neighbours and friends. But the roots of their communities lie with the people who one day decided to leave the places where they were born and raised: the immigrants. They came mainly from rural Italy, and brought in their suitcases traditions and values from the peasant societies they had left behind. Their outlook, way of life, knowledge and know-how are now an integral part of the Canadian fabric.

This exhibition is about their presence.

Photo: Steven Darby, CMC CD2004-0245 D2004-6012
Tony Mazzega
Red cedar
Lent by the Italian Cultural Centre Society, Vancouver

A Message

Will it be about the vestiges of a peasant life of days gone by? No, on the contrary. This exhibition invites us to rethink the linear view of history that labels the cultures of the past as being hopelessly "out of date". It invites us to take a new look at some of the traditions and values brought over from Italy. Although they originated in another place and time, many of them are relevant to the questions we are asking today and our aspirations for tomorrow.

In acknowledging their presence, the exhibition also highlights their relevance.

Suitcase - detail
Photo: Steven Darby, CMC CD2004-0245 D2004-6119
Suitcase (detail)
Red cedar

An Experience

Using artifacts and videos from across Canada, the exhibition introduces the history and current diversity of Italian Canadians (See Appendix "Unlocking the Past" and "Italian from A to Z?"). But the core of the exhibition is about the immigrant generation, and how it draws upon its traditions and values to improve the present. As we spend time with Italian immigrants and listen to them, we are invited to see ourselves in their experiences, their concerns and their hopes.

By combining our presence with theirs, the exhibition is also about encounters.