Interview with Zoe

Last year you joined the Erasmus program for young European entrepreneurs by choosing our organization, our city, in an almost surreal context for pandemic reasons. Tell us about this experience. Both strengths and weaknesses.

True. In the opening month of an unpredictable global pandemic year, I took my backpack and moved to the Italian South, with expenses covered for 3 months by the Erasmus For Young Entrepreneurs program. I was very excited about the opportunity to boost Immaginaria’s work. I felt that I would be a great fit to support their attempt to make social art in their community and abroad, since I also have good experience on relevant topics and had different tools to add. And I think Immaginaria had a similar feeling about me, if I recall the open hearts and arms. But then Covid came and said us to lower our expectations and stop hugging each other all the time. In that moment, creativity took over and we started to work both together and on our own to make effective plans for social engagement initiatives. It was a great time to get involved more with the local community. And interesting projects that could actually exist in a Covid and a post-Covid era started slowly to occur.

Evaluating your experience, do you recommend the same experience to young entrepreneurs? Why?

I tend to see things as a whole. So, for me, this Erasmus project was not just a working experience. Neither just an out-of-my-comfort-zone living moment away from a big city. It was an opportunity that I created for myself by applying to this program. It was a good timing when Immaginaria, this creative organization with an active working local and international experience, decided to open its doors and take me in. It was a bliss that the locals were interested enough to know me and share their thoughts, interests or lives with me. All these combined shaped my experience.

I think Erasmus in any of its many contexts reflects a safe environment for making social changes together in Europe. But I think any change needs time, self-confidence and acceptance to happen. So, I recommend the experience, not only to young entrepreneurs who want to explore Immaginaria, but to all the creative people who want to visit Motta and Benevento with open mind and warm heart. Because I have spotted a safe space available for social artistic expiriments and I would love to share it.

Here in Benevento and specifically in Motta you got to know a suburban reality that tries to create shared and participatory generative processes. Looking at our reality, do you have any suggestions, considerations that you wish to return to us?

Because of Covid and closed borders, these three months became six in a glimpse. And even brought some tears of frustration to me while leaving, since I had so many plans for this big social engagement initiative, inspired by all the things we wanted to share with Immaginaria. Apart from my ego and from a professional viewpoint, Benevento has some interesting elements that with a contemporary cultural twist could attract international youth. For me at least, strega is not only a drink, but a symbol of feminism and nature.

Noone can deny that Benevento is the economic and social center of the area. But Motta has a civic school ready to host alternative initiatives, in exchange a small contribution just to be sustainable. Motta has a lot of empty houses that could host international projects and local ideas in affordable ways. Motta has a lovely nature and it is in just a bicycle distance from the city. There are many creative people who live in the area, or live away but have roots with the community, that think and act alternatively. I don’t believe though it is enough to judge the mainstream. I find more enjoyable to do my things, speak fearlessly my mind, listen the others, accept any differences and move forward. And whoever wants follows, since a clean heart seems important in any social change. From my understanding, all these changes could bring a cool vibe to the area, keep the youth around and even give small-scaled financial chances to the locals. But in order for all these to happen, community along with the local organizations could ask themselves in peace: Why? Or… Why not?

What did you bring home?

First I have to admit what I brought from home to Benevento: some expectations and perceptions about life, people and places that I didn’t know I had. And it proved to be a good place to reboot. From the start, I realized that Benevento’s weather is not exactly the most Italian Southern I could find. And I was sleeping like a cat whenever and wherever I had the chance due to humidity. And what was happening with the language? Sometimes I was even wondering if this is really Italian; especially during aperitivo time. How many times per week are we going to have carbs on our plate? And why don’t they respect Sean Connery’s voice letting it be like it is? As an Athenian, I unconsciously started missing the obvious urban choices: the galore of cool bars, the cultural hubs around the corner, the easy interaction with the contemporary art trends. Really, I found myself even craving for a block party. And on top of everything I had to experience a lockdown too.

I was lucky enough to live in a house with good energy, good people and good animals. And yes, these three usually go together. Apparently due to the law of attraction, same environment we had also in the office. So, pretty soon, I discovered Libreria, L Orto, Labus and the Lanthimian connection with cinematic Kinetta that gave me a sweet smile. And I connected with lovely, interesting, funny people. Sometimes the jokes were on me, especially when I was misusing or confusing words, or had a weird reaction to the local humor totally unable to understand why this could be considered as funny. Gradually I started saying vabbó, mó, bó and other sounds, drinking mostly Falanghina instead of tap water that actually is my official proposal until they fix the water system, and drinking coffee in the soup bowl. I fell in love with Janaras, La Dormiente, Taburno, Sabato and the spontaneous pick nicks in nature and the cold swimming spots. And caciocavallo. Mama mia!

I was even making myself clearer in Immaginaria’s meetings and community assembles, in my own Italian dialect though; and people could make more sense of me. Or at least I think they did… And if I listen really carefully, I am pretty confident that I can still hear the lovely sounds and sweet laughters and the melodies around our typical Italian tables. All these and many more I took with me when I let myself flow and make free space for new experiences. And a recipe for a pretty amazing Tiramisù!