All right, so the reality is this: I am writing this on March 4, 2011. Also, I am no longer in Rome, but sitting in the comfort of my studio-like room in the house I share here in the U.S. However, better late than never, right?
People-watching is one of my favourite pastimes. I am also starting to believe that it is the national sport of Italy (yes, yes, I know… there is football/soccer) as Romans, regardless of sex, seem to naturally engage in the stare-you-down-as-I-pass-you-in-the-street activity. Also, both Romans and tourists alike enjoy sitting outside cafes and restaurants, in order to take in the events and activities of passersby. This is without wonder as there is so much to see, smell, hear, listen, and touch in Rome, whether it is the beautiful art prints being sold in the Piazza Navona, or the Bangladeshi street venders asking tourists to try out any one of the many gel-filled objects only for 1 Euro.
During my stay, I have definitely engaged in my share of people-watching, which has provided me with moments of both humour and contemplation. What I wanted to address in this post, however, are the talented people, who are fixtures on the streets of Rome, whom we sometimes rush by as tourists, because they are simple “street performers,” or “street vendors.”
Campo dei Fiori – Sasha
I remember the first time I saw Sasha Aleksovski perform. It was an early evening and I was on my way home. At that time, I did not have the opportunity to stop and stay for his entire performance, but I made a mental note to look out for him. Luckily, I found him one afternoon, and was able to take some pictures of him, and learn more about his work.
Sasha is a performance artist. Upon first glance, one might merely think him to be a mime, i.e. until he truly begins to move. The fact is, Sasha is an extraordinary dancer with a both grace and a fluidity that enchant the observer. The storytelling quality of his movements create a sense of empathy… And even if it is for a brief moment, one cannot help but to stop and pay attention to the story Sasha tells through the expression of movement.
Sasha Aleksovski was born in Skopje, Macedonia, and studied painting and sculpture. He lived in London for three years, where he studied mime and dance theatre. He began studying butoh dance in 1996 in Rome. He continues to perform both in public and onstage in and around Rome. You can find him on Facebook.com or email@example.com.
Trastevere – Alex
While making a trek around the city of Rome, it is fairly easy to find your share of watercolour prints, copies of famous paintings, and a host of other image-based art, especially in the tourist-filled areas such as the Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Navona.
Everyday I would take a walk through Trastevere, and it was on late weekend afternoon that I met Alexandre Veron. Actually, to be quite truthful, I met his photography before I met him as Alex actually sat some distance away from his beautiful work.
Alex is a black and white photographer, who takes images of Rome’s everyday life. He does not set-up situations, or gets models; he simply photographs what he sees… and what he sees and photographs is wonderous. I wish I had taken a picture of his pictures. Perhaps, however, a stroll through Trastevere… or emailing him might work too. Either way, look him up as he is quite a gifted emerging photographer.
Alexandre Veron is a French photographer currently based in Rome, Italy. You contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Campo dei Fiori – Taras
Meeting Taras was one of those odd occurrences… like lightning striking the same place/person twice. It was quite a cold and dreary Sunday, and one of those days when Rome and I were not the best of friends. I was walking back from my usual stroll to the Piazza di Spagna. On this day, I stopped to listen to the band that played daily in the Piazza Navona, and then made my way to Campo dei Fiori.
I had not really observed many musicians playing in the Campo dei Fiori area since my arrival. Then again, I rarely came out at night, and perhaps that is when they often played. Thus, it was a surprise when the sound of music fell upon my ears as I entered the marketplace.
There, sitting on a small stool, sat Taras Bokan playing guitar. Moreover, on what was truly a grey day, he wore the brightest and most wonderful smile that matched well musical abilities. Also, close-by stood Sasha Aleksovski, the above-mentioned performance artist, who told gave me some information about Taras. From this conversation with Sasha, I had the distinct impression that there was a strong community bond amongst street performers, which I could only imagine would be beneficial due to the emotionally grueling nature of the work – It truly is not easy putting one’s self on display for the world and asking simultaneously to be compensated for one’s creativity. Each day is a financial uncertainty for those performers, who do not have other means of livelihood.
Taras Bokan, apparently, is amongst the fortunate, and has been able to utilize his musical talents in different arenas.
Taras is a multi-talented individual, who is not only a musician, but also a composer (and is quite a gifted artist also).
Taras is a Russian musician and composer based in Rome, Italy. Visit – http://www.myspace.com/chitaras
With Italy’s unemployment close to 9% and also its lure for artists of all kinds, it shouldn’t be unusual or shocking to see many talented, established and emerging artists utilizing the public space as a forum to display their creativity… and most importantly, to earn a living. Yes, the ancient buildings are important, and the art of old too. What I am suggesting is to move pass any biases, and take a serious look at the offerings of those who make up modern-day Rome, i.e. the street musicians, performers (and I am not talking about the ones wearing gladiator gear), and artists – These people are helping to build the new image of Rome, and should be equally treasured.