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Thursday, 25 October 2012

EXPO 2015 to look at art of all countries and continents

… Among other things

By Andrew Mulenga

It might be three years ahead, but Italy is already deep into preparations to host the Universal Exposition, a global fair to be staged in the city of Milan in the year 2015.

Old and new artworks that celebrate food in the manner of
Italian painter Vincenzo Campi’s ‘La fruttivendola’ (The Fruit Vendor),
1580, will be displayed in a thematic area called Food In Art
Called "EXPO 2015: feeding the planet, energy for life", it will be a platform for millions of people from all over the world to come together over a six month period to explore and celebrate "the close bond between nutrition, health, sustainable development and cultural tradition".

The event’s display space will be divided into 5 main thematic areas; these being the Children’s Park, Biodiversity Park, Future Food District, Pavilion Zero and what is likely to be one of the most exciting, the Food In Art pavilion.

In a presentation at an International Participants Meeting (IPM) a precursor the exposition in Milan last week, Expo 2015 Director of Thematic Areas Matteo Gatto showed some details on how these areas will be structured. Of the Food In Art pavilion, Gatto said it ''will explore the relationship between man and food as an object of symbolic reflection". In Gatto’s video presentation, acclaimed Italian curator Germano Celant revealed that the pavilion ''will look at the art of all countries and continents''.

The organisers suggest: "The biggest question raised by Food in Art is whether the story of mankind can be examined in terms of food by looking at how it is presented in our cultural heritage. How can contemporary artists show the great concern we have about those important themes that are presented through symbolism and allegory at Expo? These are some of the questions to which each of us can suggest our own personal answers".

A member of the Italian Federation of Flag-flyers waves the
Zambian flag in the streets of Milan during the openining
of the Expo Milan 2015 IPM last week
The pavilion will feature contemporary works as well as old works such as those featured in "Feeding Milan, the history and Landscape of food in the city" a 164-page Expo volume book by Lucia Bisi.

Zambia has confirmed participation in the Expo 2015 and has since appointed a commission for the event as is the custom, comprising Zambia’s Ambassador to Italy, Frank Mutubila as the country’s Commissioner Genera, while his deputy is Zambia Development Agency director Glyne Michelo.

As exciting as the thought of Zambian artists having the opportunity to display their work or perform on a global platform over a six month period might be. There is no need for excitement at this stage, as these are early days and representing Zambia through the arts may not be part of our EXPO 2015 commission’s plan.

In communication from First Secretary Commerce and Trade Terrence Sichombo on behalf of ambassador Mutubila, he states that: "So far, we have a technical working committee comprising the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, and the Embassy of Zambia in Rome. After this meeting (IPM), the national planning committee will be constituted and it will include all relevant stakeholders."

(L-R) ZDA information officer Obby Banda, ZDA director Glyne Michelo
and First Secretary (Economic & Trade) in Italy Trevor Sichombo during
the participant’s meeting in Milan last week
The embassy confirms that Zambia is expected to participate in the EXPO through the "Cluster exhibition model", where its stand will be situated, although the country is yet to sign the participation contract. The cluster in which Zambia shall exhibit is still being discussed and once a national planning committee is formed, it shall among its roles, identify exhibits and other items that will be representative of Zambia, in line with the theme of the EXPO 2015.

The embassy explains that although the national preparatory committee for the event is yet to be formed, tentative stakeholders have already been identified. "Judging from the theme of the Expo 2015, we can indicate that stakeholders in the agriculture, energy, water, commerce, media and health will be among the stakeholders to adequately cover the theme. The designing of the stand for Zambia has not yet been decided as this particular matter will be covered in the participating contract. You may wish to know that Zambia is still consulting stakeholders in Zambia before signing the contract".

Looking at the tentative list of stakeholders provided by the embassy, it is easy to see that neither tourism nor the arts are being considered for the expo at this stage, despite their immense potential as inducement for foreign holiday-makers, scholars, adventurers and others. Particularly now that Zambia has a vibrant minister of tourism and arts in Sylvia Masebo, it would be wise to get her involved. Doing so will help showcase what Zambia has to offer in terms of tourism as well as arts and culture.

But as the Zambian EXPO commission have put it, a committee is still being put together and also this may be due to the nature of Zambia’s exhibition space at the event. Exhibiting in a cluster system may entail that as a country Zambia is likely to exhibit specific products such as agricultural produce in shared pavilions alongside other countries. A few of the various clusters include fruit and legumes, spices, cereals, arid zones and tubers and coffee. Some countries have opted to exhibit in the clusters as opposed to having stand-alone pavilions that will display a holistic depiction of a nation.

Nevertheless, having had the opportunity to attend meetings and roundtables held for journalists and cultural experts from the African continent alongside the IPM in Milan, it was interesting to listen to the organizers admit that Europeans knew very little about Africa apart from the negative portrayal of the continent they see in their media. They encouraged African journalists and cultural experts to bring out the positive side of Africa at the event. But of course this is not entirely in the hands of the media and the experts; it is dependent on each country’s appointed EXPO commission.

As the theme suggests, the EXPO is primarily concerned about food, and, an organisation conducting the roundtables and workshops for EXPO Milano reiterate this fact in their concept for this year’s IPM.

"2015 is a key year. It will mark the deadline of the UN Millennium Development Goals, approved in 2000 by the UN General Assembly, where 189 heads of State and Governments, and representatives of 23 International Organizations announced their commitment to halve hunger and poverty," reads the concept paper in a part "Many experts believe that 2015 will sign the failure of these goals and that millions of Africans will have to face food insecurity in the near future. But more recent success in the fight against poverty and increasing economic growth are a positive sign for change in African citizens’ lives and for the continent’s image."

The somewhat intimidated Italians pick up the baton of EXPO Milano 2015 from the Chinese who hosted the last World Exposition, the highly successful Shanghai 2010 two years ago.

"The Shanghai Expo has been, in terms of numbers, investment and participation, the most imposing Expo in history. It was a great event that will be remembered not only for the millions of visitors, but also for the spectacular effort to build mega pavilions, for the huge infrastructure put in place and the enormous organizational effort. The whole country was mobilized by the highest ranks of the central government to the people of shanghai: China managed the expo with extraordinary pride"

"Picking up the baton from Shanghai is therefore a great challenge. It’s a fascinating challenge, not for Milan, but for the whole of Italy," reads the introduction by Diana Bracco, President of Expo 2015 SpA in a publication entitled ‘Expo Universal Expositions from Port-Au-Prince 1949 to Shanghai 2010’.

One can only sympathize with Bracco and team, because they undertake this task as the Eurozone debt crisis does not seem to wane and according to media reports, the global grain and dairy prices are currently soaring.

As if that is not enough, some of the ‘bigger’ players on the global scene are yet to confirm participation in the Expo and are still not showing signs they will. However, over 105 nations have done so but only four of the eight event’s main sponsors are on board at this stage.

And in her address at the IPM, Bracco, told the delegates that "EXPO 2015: feeding the planet, energy for life" has a deeper meaning connected to women. She said women are the givers of life and it is they who feed the planet, so they should play an active role at the exposition and turn up in numbers. - Courtesy: Post Newspaper (Zambia)

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