Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Why Legato?

The title of the exhibition is "Legato".

Why Legato? It is an interesting word. In music, legato is playing smoothly, but not necessarily slurring the notes together. In Italian it means "tied together". In one of my favourite songs, Non Ti Scordar Di Me, (Don't Forget Me) it is used as an adverb, and becomes "legata" as it refers to "la vita" life, which is feminine. "Tied" can have negative implications, but linked, intertwined, joined does have appeal. The strands of a rope are intertwined, giving it strength. When I first asked an Italian friend to translate the song for me he explained the word "legato" in those terms, the parts of a rope intertwined, joined together. In the context of the song that image is quite beautiful. Your life, and mine, entwined. And so it is with Italy and New Zealand.

The musical definition resonates with me. Notes are played close together, but with careful fingering are not lost in one another. Maybe that is how our cultures should be. Each has a space, there is no supremacy, but together they make beautiful music.

Italy and New Zealand are truly tied together, with so many friendships formed between families during WWII and maintained after the war. Now, two generations later, the grandchildren of the Kiwi soldiers are returning to Italy to visit these families, and young Italians are moving to New Zealand. Every year hundreds of New Zealanders visit the graves of their countrymen who remained here.

The horror of war has passed into memory, but the friendships are alive and vibrant. Nationally this connection may feel stronger in New Zealand where almost every family has a direct link to Italy, whereas in Italy there are many areas where other nations played a similar role and have these same ties. The New Zealand Division was heavily engaged in the fighting on the Gustav Line and so has a lasting place in the history of Cassino.

Legato, tied. The legacy of war is part of our common heritage. Now it is our task to make a lasting peace the focus of that heritage.

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