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Rosa Maria Leone graduated in Literature and Philosophy in Naples in 1976 and worked as a teacher in Como and Milan.

After a training course at the Yorik school and the Civic School of the Piccolo Teatro in Milan, she decided to become a puppeteer and began her adventure with the Laboratorio Teatro Mangiafuoco.

She returned to Naples from Milan in 1997 and collaborated with Il teatro delle Guarattelle and the Cooperativa Xenia.

She participates in the Project for the women of Forcella by Marina Rippa.

Attracted by the rural world, she dreams of a shared agriculture and begins to follow the family farm in Lucania.
She created a bridge between Naples and Montemurro.
She collaborates with the Fondi Rustici di Napoli Association, with the Bellivergari Association, and with the Graffiti School Association of Montemurro to create national and international meetings and discussions on art, agriculture, and theater.

She is the author of the book: "Horseradish. From a material good to a relational one".

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Roots - Pasquale di Maso - Multi-layered Graffiti - Montemurro 2022



When we were children, we spent the summer in Montemurro from May to October.

Our parents were keen on us spending busy summers, not in studying, but in the workshops of artisans in our village.

So my brothers frequented the tailor's, the blacksmith's, the carpenter's workshops, and I spent time in the countryside.

In one way or another, we all participated in the events at our farmhouse, cared for by families of farmers with whom we grew up.

So my brothers would go off with the flocks and herds to the mountains, and I, being the youngest, had tasks more closely related to the farmstead.

As girls, we took care of the chickens, lambs, and pigs, harvested fruits and vegetables from the garden, and made jams.

That's how I grew up.


Montemurro Countryside

A rural world I only lived in during the summer, to which I didn't fully belong: after all, I was still a city girl, but the land seeped into my blood nonetheless.

As I grew older, I enjoyed wandering in the woods and participating in selecting which trees to cut.

Sometimes, I stubbornly refused to let certain trees be cut down, but then they would explain to me that, in order for the forest to thrive, it was necessary to remove the ones in distress.

Gradually, I learned the importance of caring for the woods, of their breath, and now we have beautiful, well-maintained coppice forests, teeming with life and growth. I've certainly learned that every tree needs its own space to thrive.

It's crucial for me to recognize that my upbringing is owed not only to my family and school but also to the farmers, lumberjacks, and shepherds I encountered in Montemurro.

And especially to the women who entered my life with their knowledge and dedication to care.

From them, I learned not to waste anything.

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Montemurro Countryside

Fortunately, I had a very liberal mother who loved art and her work, and who never wanted to teach me "women's tasks".

Instead, she taught these things to my brothers, who can do everything, leaving me free to grow and follow my dreams.

I pursued my studies and was able to choose to become first a teacher and then a puppeteer.

I believe my passion has always been the idea of "taking care of something".

Since my mother passed away, I have taken over our family business.

It's a countryside that has remained frozen in time, unchanged for many years, with small-scale productions for family use such as wine and oil.

And then there's the wheat, which, despite everything, we continue to cultivate, mainly thanks to Felice Lardo, who still plows, sows, and harvests.

Of course, the animals are no longer there, but sometimes the neighboring flocks come to graze.

Horseradish is a forgotten plant by everyone but is part of my memory, of my childhood.

In Basilicata, it's used as a seasoning for pasta, it has a spicy taste, and to make "rafanate", which are omelets with breadcrumbs, horseradish, and cheese.

My desire to recover this plant has allowed us, for a certain period, to cultivate and make it known, then our business failed to take off, but this year we should resume harvesting.


Montemurro Countryside

The crucial thing is that for about 20 years, other producers have emerged.

The University of Basilicata has conducted research, and industry associations have promoted courses to encourage the cultivation of horseradish. Today, horseradish is recognized as a typical product of Basilicata.

Why is this important for relationships? Firstly, many people have been involved in the revival of this product.

Horseradish has become a means of communication even with institutions.

We have organized conferences, meetings.

For me, it has become a gateway to getting to know other Lucanian companies, excellent companies, often self-sufficient.

I have had the opportunity to encounter a little-known world, from donkey breeding to snail farming, from raising pigs in their natural state, with a small village built for their well-being, to the companies producing Crusco peppers and Sarconi beans.

These are small, quiet production niches that, despite living in a challenging territory like the Val d'Agri, due to oil extraction, produce in a healthy and conscious manner.

I wrote the horseradish work diary, also inspired by economics professor Pasquale Persico, who also guides us in the adventure of the Montemurro Graffiti School.

In this diary, I recounted the dream of a small agricultural project born, grown, and completed, capable of renewing itself in other forms.


On the left: Cover of the book "Horseradish: From a Common Good to a Relational Good." In the center: The horseradish root. On the right: Horseradish leaves.


In 2003, my father, along with two artist friends, Mimmo Longobardi and Mariolina Amato, decided to gift the community of Montemurro with the knowledge of the graffiti technique, which in Montemurro becomes multi-layered.

The graffiti technique, with scratched colored mortars, is ancient, but my father in 1961, to decorate the wall of a friend's house, wanted to create graffiti with 10 layers of colored mortar.

He hired local labor, had a three-meter by one-and-a-half-meter frame built by the blacksmith, and called on expert masons to spread the mortars.

But the most important thing is that he had identified, in the Deserti district of Montemurro, a Quaternary sand, somewhat similar to marble dust, which he had already experimented with in the 1940s to create frescoes, and for years he had been experimenting with creating colors derived from the various soils of the Val d'Agri.

The graffiti depicted a circus, but inside it contained the sand and colors of the various soils of the Val d'Agri. The red of Moliterno, the ochre of Tramutola.

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"The Circus" - Giuseppe Antonello Leone - 1965 - Multi-layered graffiti, Private Collection of Notary Ricotti

The connection with the land becomes real and becomes art. And why the link with horseradish? Because of the Quaternary sand.

Horseradish grows well in sandy soils, so our production has benefited from those sandy soils.

Art and agriculture have merged by taking into consideration a territory, living it, getting to know it.

And around this, we have managed to bring together young people, perhaps few, because here, as our young people grow up, they are forced to go and study in other cities, and then they stay in the cities that welcome them.


"Ovo Matematicus" - Giuseppe Antonello Leone - 2003 - Multi-layered graffiti, Montemurro

In any case, every summer they return to Montemurro, where the school of multi-layered graffiti was born, and for about 20 years now, the village has welcomed artists who, by residing here, leave their works. They learn the technique and create graffiti panels, which then remain in the village and decorate it.

Between art and agriculture, an interesting meeting has been created also through the organization of guided tours both in the horseradish fields and in the graffiti territory.

In 2015, the theme for creating the graffiti was "Contemporary Rural", and in 2022 the theme was "Men and Earth, Visions of Becoming".

My brother Bruno has been performing shows in the countryside since the beginning of his work, both in the courtyard and in the alleys of the village.

With my friends, I have organized various puppet-building workshops, and then, traveling from village to village with the Mangiafuoco Theater Workshop, we have performed our shows in the 1980s and 1990s.

We have crossed the threshold of remote villages in the Lucanian mountains.

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"The Speaking Hands" - Franco Silvestro - 2020 - Multi-layered graffiti, Montemurro

But let's talk about the Piccolo Teatro.

In our countryside, there are two small natural amphitheaters, I'm referring to geological amphitheaters, one larger and the other smaller, places that are well suited for outdoor performances.

Montemurro, for our family, is a meeting place. It's worth mentioning that besides me and Bruno, who are involved in Puppet Theater, there's also my brother Silvio, who tells animated stories with his drawings, and his wife Giuliana Pettinari, who has brought to life the Teatrino di Bebette. So, whenever we can, every summer, we gather in Montemurro - brothers, sisters-in-law, and nephews - since we are all scattered around the world, and we share a small dream: to use these amphitheaters to create outdoor theaters.



"Contemporary Zapata" - Gerardo del Castillo - 2015 - Multi-layered graffiti, Montemurro

Last year, during the spring assembly of UNIMA, we inaugurated the small outdoor theater as Casa Guarattelle, dedicating the event to UNIMA with the children of Montemurro, inviting various friends to perform.

There were Fioravante Rea, Company Aiello with Angelo Aiello and Rachel Icenogl, APS Tanto per Gioco Association with Angelo Miraglia and Alessandra Verusio, Federica Martina, Sergio Santalucia.

We planted almond trees to delineate the theater space, with the idea of organizing performances there in the future.


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Montemurro's Piccolo Teatro all'Aperto - World Puppetry Day - UNIMA Italy 2023

In Basilicata, all of us have been involved in putting on performances with the ABS (Basilicata Spettacoli Association). Over the years, Basilicata has remained a region very attentive to cultural and environmental events.

Many associations are eager to organize theatrical events linked to the land.

What I hope for is to continue hosting artist residencies to showcase our territory, and I am very pleased with the proposal to hold the next UNIMA Assembly in Lecce, a wonderful city with a great tradition of paper mache artisans.

I believe that getting to know the territories of our country is very important; every place has a little story to tell and share.

World Puppetry Day - Montemurro, UNIMA Italy 2023


Currently, I am optimistic. I see many groups of young people getting involved in this art, and lately, from my position in Naples at Casa Guarattelle, I see a growing audience of young people becoming passionate about this theater.

It's incredible to see young people in their twenties and thirties passionately following Guarattelle shows, and some of them timidly express the desire to learn the art of Puppet Theater.

This attitude seems widespread throughout Italy, and I must say that many initiatives of UNIMA Italy are heading in this direction.

I find the opportunity offered by the "Semenzaio" project very interesting, and I find the newsletters informing everyone about the various activities equally interesting.

I sense excitement; over the years, I've seen ups and downs, sometimes we complain, but fortunately, festivals continue despite the often indifferent attitude of local institutions.

Puppeteers are tenacious, and I hope that this strength will also be passed on to the new generations, who objectively must face a world very different from the one we experienced.

Many things have changed, from technology to the speed of information. Today, I see much official theater looking to Puppet Theater.

Techniques merge with communication: bold scenography takes inspiration from Puppet Theater, different languages ​​interact, from Opera to Prose Theater, puppets, marionettes, puppets, shadows are present and express the full force of communicating with objects, with images.

Puppet theater has a strong connection to the world of art, and I believe this awareness is very present in the new generations, who experiment with new ways of communication using familiar means, always modern and contemporary, capable of living and telling the present time.

New companies often do not come from artistic families, but they recognize the masters, learn from previous generations, and know how to dialogue with tradition, experimentation, and technology.

I am hopeful for the future of Puppet Theater.

Video Story of the Inauguration of Casa Guarattelle - Naples - April 2019



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