Extract from academic research conducted by festival producer Alessandro Sorbello in conjunction with Dr Eliane Karsaklian from the University of Paris (Sorbonne) as part of doctorate research.
Italian Festivals are broadly celebrated around Australia and the influence of Italian migration on the Australian lifestyle landscape has created increased diversity of understanding (Rando, 2000). Italian Festivals in Queensland showcase traditional and historical impacts of immigration, event such as the Australian Italian Festival in Ingham, feature Italian cultural exhibitions dating from the 1890s. Similarly, celebrating its 50th Anniversary in the year 2012, the Sicilian festival known as ‘The Feast of the Three Saints’ held annually in Silkwood, Australia brings people of Italian origin together, in celebration, from all over North Queensland and beyond. This religious event evokes huge emotion within the aging Italian Community. For non-Italians and tourists, the food and activities at a festival can offer a taste of ‘Italianness’ without the shock or inconvenience of total immersion in a foreign culture (Ireland, 1981). Aligning with the stated above is one quote from the respondents: I encourage others to come and enjoy the different events and entertainment Italian Week offers. Guests are friendly and everyone is welcomed with traditional Italian warmth. They’re missing out if they don’t come along and partake. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of diversity, they really need to be part of it! And …. It is like being in Italy, being in Australia. And you can know a lot of people from different parts of Italy, or just people who like Italian culture.
In 2007, upon the request of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italian Week was created to celebrate Italy’s exuberance, in the modern context, the culture and way of life which is reflected in many different domains, including art, fashion, gastronomy and manufacturing. All things Italian are showcased to favour their cross-cultural integration providing high quality events and entertainment to the community. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs proposed a reconfiguration and redefinition of Italian festivals, recommending that a high level week-long cultural festival be created in Queensland. Specifically developed to dispel out dated stereotypes regarding Italy and to create a platform for cultural and social cohesion. As an Italian Government initiative, the festival’s conception stemmed from an ideological point of view, which incorporated strong and meaningful collaboration with key Government, institutional and private sector partners. Over the past 8 years, Italian Week has partnered with organisations such as the Queensland Government, Multicultural Affairs, Brisbane City Council, Brisbane Marketing and Ipswich City Council. These partners were selected based on the ability of the collaborator to deliver events which satisfied both hedonistic and utilitarian needs of festival participants, once achieved, the festival shifted its focus to developing ‘emotional engagement’.
Italian Week has grown from strength to strength over the past 8 years. Starting with 2000 visitors in 2007, the festival has grown to accommodate over 15,000 people in 2014. One of the reasons that Italian Week enjoys this success is the creation of emotional engagement each year, which develops loyalty and ambassadors to the festival. Italian Week makes people feel good because it brings the best of Italy to Queensland during the festival in a controlled environment where visitors’ utilitarian and hedonistic needs are fully satisfied as exemplified by the following quote from one respondent; Friendships, lots of memories. Enjoyed the entertainment, the experience as a whole just makes me want to be more engaged with the Italian culture, community, learn more about the country, experience more of the country that I already have just -- yes, it makes you feel sort of warm, there's just a warm cultural or family oriented people and I just love it.
As stated previously, we assume that emotional engagement leads to increase in wellbeing and a festival like the Italian Week evokes emotional responses such as joy, delight, excitement, change of scenery, among others. As cited by some respondents: … Italian food is joyous food; … it’s a lot of fun, I go to celebrate Italian culture with my friends; … it feels like family. Italian Week in Australia brings Italians, Australians with Italian heritage and non-Italians together to experience Italian culture and rituals, often, captivated by the atmosphere created during the Festival. The spontaneous willingness to attend Italian Week leads consumers to be part of a community; the community of Italy’s culture. Participants can be stimulated by hedonic motivations, that is, by the pleasant sensations they experience by eating Italian food, drinking Italian beverages, listening to Italian music or watching Italian movies and performances. They can also be motivated by the need to conform or belong to a community or group. This would imply being part of the Italian community in Australia whether or not they actually have Italian origins.
According to Jameson (2007), the term cultural identity refers to an individual’s sense of self derived from formal or informal membership in groups that transmit and inculcate knowledge, beliefs, values, traditions, and ways of life. The authors suggests that cultural identity is just one part of a larger concept of individual identity, which is decomposed of two parts: objective identity (nationality and country of residence) and subjective identity (a person’s sense of who he or she is as a human being). Thus, a collective identity includes both cultural and social aspects. Cultural identity involves historical perspective whereas social identity is often anchored in a particular moment in time. Cultural identity is an internal state that depends on self-perception. As stated by one respondent: Italians cannot live without our culture especially for foods or clothes. For most of them, it is very important to keep their culture even if you move around.
Often, cultural communities are known as Diasporas. Diaspora is comprised of ever changing representations which provide an imaginary coherence for a net of flexible identities (Hall, 1990). Thanks to globalization, members of Diasporas often have dual attachments, as quoted by one respondent … as children of Italian born parents, we are brought up the Australian/Italian way NOT the pure Italian way. They are home away of home. They live in some place (here) as they have a connection with their cultural roots (there). Briefly said, members of a diaspora draw on cosmopolitanism as an identity resource (Ziemer, 2009).
In the specific case of the study we analyse in this paper, ‘here’ is Australia and ‘there’ is Italy. But the beauty of this Festival is that it bridges the two cultures by bringing both Australia and Italy together to the same place that is ‘here’. Attendees forget about the 16,000 km separating them from the ‘mother country’ and enjoy its best flavours from the city they actually live in. As quoted by one of the respondents … the Italian Week is a special time of the year when Italy comes to Australia.
Italian Week is just a re-enactment or more of a reassurance that there is a culture that can continue to strive and be noticed through its cultural means. The preceding quote from a participant very well illustrates the idea of cultural meaning, experiential meaning, community, identity, integration and long lasting emotional engagement with one culture or between two cultures. It also shows that immigrants do no replace their culture of origin with the host culture, but just bring them together to take the best out of both. One of the secrets of the success of Italian Week is also that is sticks to Italian stereotypes so that attendees won’t be disappointed at the same time as it uncovers much about the Italian culture, which is not limited to pizza and pasta as quoted by one attendee:… “we are more than pizza, and all things ‘Papa Giuseppe’, we have such style and depth to our culture”.