Accepted Paper:

“You have to be a draughtsman to be an ethnographer!” The legacy of Giuseppe Šebesta and the Trentino Folklife Museum.  


Giovanni Kezich (Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina )
Antonella Mott (Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina)

Paper short abstract:

Giuseppe Šebesta (1919-2005) is the one modern founding father of Italian ethnographic museography, which he exercised particularly in the Alpine area. He was also an accomplished artist, and some interesting cross-fertilization between art and ethnography can be usefully detected in his work.

Paper long abstract:

Distinguished Italian museographer Giuseppe “Bepo” Šebesta (Trento, 1919-2005), also in his time a cinematic documentarist, chemical analyist, designer, painter, potter, puppetteer, novelist, folklorist and ethnographer, is generally credited with having started a revolution in the Italian field of ethnographic museums, on the grounds of an unprecedented emphasis given to the analytical study of indigenous technology. In Sebesta’s ethnography, the ability to draw has thus an explicitly pivotal place, which he personally experimented in the course of important field campaigns such as that leading to the publication of the ASLEF, the linguistic atlas of Friuli by G.B. Pellegrini (1972), and the setting of the new “Trentino Folklife Museum” of San Michele all’Adige (1968). In the 50th anniversary of this important ethnographic institution (1968-2018), a general reappraisal of Sebesta’s method, which drew inspiration from both his close Bohemian forebears as well as from his contemporary Italian fellow artists of the futurist persuasion, such as Fortunato Depero, seems to be a worthy exercise. This will in fact bring to light an important episode, on a properly European scale, of a practical interaction between visual arts and ethnographic representation in the context of the making of a large, distinguished new museum. The presentation will offer a summary view of Šebesta’s work as artist, field ethnographer and museographer, against the specific cultural background of the north-eastern Italian borderland, and the ongoing debate on the purported role of ethnographic museums in the representing of national and local identities in the glocal world.

Panel P002
Art as Ethnography/Ethnography as Art