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CulturePhoto Feature

The Sbandieratori e Musici di Faenza.

Meet the 'Italian Flag Throwers', with their terrific traditional costumes, and learn how traditions strengthen culture and community in times of tragedy.

Aug 15, 2023

Words: Lauren Murphy

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Disaster. Faenza, in central Italy, is experiencing its worst floods in over 100 years. Lives lost, homes destroyed and thousands left homeless.

The Sbandieratori e Musici di Faenza, known colloquially in Australia as the ‘Italian flag throwers’, should be rehearsing for the annual Niballo Palio di Faenza, instead, they work tirelessly clearing mud and debris from their city. Beloved traditional flags slump, soaked and muddied against dumpsters, many unsalvageable.

When the drum beat stops and the flags rest in stillness, a softness comes across their faces and I begin to see and learn about them as individuals

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In February, I had the absolute pleasure of hosting the Sbandieratori e Musici di Faenza for lunch and a portrait session at my studio. I was enthralled the first time I met the group at the Mirboo North Italian Festa and wanted to capture them in an environment that contrasted their energetic public performances.

The troupe's intricate costumes are made in bold colours in soft velvet. Wearing them, the troupe move as if old Italian masters' paintings have come to life. They are regal, proud and carry their duty with honour.

When the drum beat stops and the flags rest in stillness, a softness comes across their faces and I begin to see and learn about them as individuals. How they came to be in the Sbandieratori; what their day jobs are and how, underneath the historic costumes, they are modern people with similar lives to you and me.

Traditions, especially those hundreds (or thousands) of years old, often strengthen culture and community. When disaster strikes, comfort can be found in familiar visuals, such as these costumes and flags. They rouse the desire to start again, to persevere, to continue these storylines.

These century-old threads and delicately tailored costumes signify what triumphs have passed, but it is the passion exuded by the people who wear them that creates new energy and excitement, giving the old new life.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 27

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