Inspiration From The Bel Paese
Let’s start at the very beginning — not long ago and yet generations old. My journey into connecting with my ancestors and their homelands deepened significantly about two years ago. For me, committing to ancestry work has looked like more talk and conjuring of memories with living relatives, asking more questions, growing a family tree by digging for buried puzzle pieces, and reflecting on what details I do have to better understand the complex humans who came before me. While excited to learn about all branches of my genetic history, my paternal mother’s side in particular has forever called me and is where I am choosing to begin.
Immigrating from the Bel Paese, the beautiful country lands of Italy, in the early 1900’s, my great grandparents instilled my California raised family with culture. Like many immigrants in North America at the time, my ancestors were victims of assimilation and yet still the magic from their homeland survived generations. Great grandparents, even great-great grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and cousins all lived within blocks of one another if not in the same houses. My great grandmother taught my grandmother and my mother and my aunt how to cook. They tell me stories of her kitchen drawer dedicated to holding loose flour for baking and making pasta, and of my great grandfather being the designated Parmesan grater. Their daughter, my grandmother now gone, was a treasure to me and modeled a deep love for music, good food in good company, and steeping one’s life in beauty — all things, that now I realize are quite naturally Italian. Although she never made it to the place her family was from, she carried so much of its best qualities within her.
I cultivate my relationship with all of them through my creativity — in the kitchen, in the garden, in my home, through music, by experiencing simple pleasures. Because some of my access to information about my ancestors is limited, in an effort to know them more intimately I have been studying their language. It is profoundly empowering to speak from my lips the words my ancestors spoke, to light incense for them at my altar every evening and greet them with Buonasera miei antenati [good evening, my ancestors].
They appear through my work with Hina Luna in the forms of color palette, the imagery I carve for block printing, and the names I give to new pieces. They inspire resourcefulness through my efforts to use pre-loved linens for some of my textile work. They teach me the value of community and solidarity and collective care. They have shown me the joy of living life beautifully.
Although it is only until recently that I have recognized my ancestors influence on who I am and how I move in this world, their impact has indeed been great and constant and makes up the foundational roots of Hina Luna. And now that I see and feel the thread connecting me to them, I say my thanks by creating and curating beautiful things that both serve and inspire conversation with spirit; things for your body, altar, and home that may even support you in connecting to your own ancestors.
Where do you see signs of your ancestors in your own life?
What attributes did you inherit from them that bring joy to your life?