"When a new era begins
a procession of youths will lead a great symphony
that will reverberate from one end of the universe to the other.
Friends, sing, dance and rejoice together!"Daisaku Ikeda
Mercantia always arrives during each year's days of plenty, because it's the Mercantia festival itself that makes them so plentiful! On soft midsummer nights, the squares and streets of the medieval town of Certaldo overflow with theater troupes, street artists, contemporary art, artisans, installations, people, and great food!
If we look at human history from an anthropological perspective, days of plenty came out of rituals to ward off famine in all its guises. People have always stayed brave by awaiting these days. In farming culture, there are special days of weddings and feasts, and then the ritual days in which pork meat was prepared — days with plenty to eat, making sausages that would feed entire families for a year.
Days of plenty are Christmas and other religious and pagan holidays, and many images of heaven are of such plenty. Each religion has its chosen day of the week for celebration — Sunday for some, Saturday or Friday for others. Then there's Pinocchio's week, the most plentiful of all because though it has six Thursdays and one Sunday, school is out on Thursday! Contemporary society has had its go at turning the whole year into days of plenty with its unbridled consumerism and excess of goods, but that hasn't worked and now we are paying the price. There is no light without shadow, no good without evil. Only by understanding this relationship can we understand the meaning of days of plenty.
It takes plenty to make a festival and indeed Mercantia's artistic events are so plentiful and diverse that they cannot fit in a single evening. One of our festival's secrets is letting all of our guests experience the excitement of being regaled by a plethora of fun and events to leave them happy and full. Like wedding banquets with more food than we could ever finish "pigging out" on, it is the plenitude itself that creates the festive atmosphere. Like in Giacomo Leopardi's "Saturday Evening in the Village," the week is made up of seven days, six working days and just one much-awaited holiday. Anything that stretches too far over time loses its charm and specialness; even Mercantia would be boring if it happened year round.
Mercantia is...hugs and kisses, somersaults and jests, arts and crafts, cheerful historic walls, light hearts, a festival of springtime and plenty, the dancing sun...
Intense organizational effort goes into making these five days all about plenty for the Mercantia festival from July 13 to July 17, 2016. The plentiful performances and arts and crafts filling the town's streets are great not only in number, but in excellence as well. Imagining the shows to come, I started by considering one of the first groups: Riccardo Tesi and his Banda Italiana, also in the first and second Mercantia festivals. This year will be a crowning achievement for their career. Then we have the Neapolitan group Ars Nova, and the humor of the Duo Bucolico. Each of these groups has plenty to give and delights in showing off. I first take stock of my mood and what I want to take in for the first time or see again. Mercantia is a festival of meetings and a ritual where many companies come back again and again. On the theme of plenitude, all the inside spaces are already filled and we will "spill over," perhaps to Poggio del Boccaccio as well as Poggio Cavallo like last year, considering the great success that the festival has had with an ever curious public. Back this year: Secret Gardens in Certaldo's austere corners — in underground or special spaces with performances at the peak of experimentation.
All this goes for the street bands, too: Zastava Orkestar and Badabimbumband! One of most abundant images of the full festival is the energy and joy that they emit. These are some of the festival's most seen and photographed shows — and we have a true abundance of photographers (good and bad alike!).
Twenty-nine Mercantia festivals, chances for being happy and cheerful, all events overflowing with the desire to give their abundance, making it a big success that keeps on growing and changing — and so we keep on planning and organizing... with the wind on our faces and the sun in our hands...