Italians have long been famous for their coffee but it wasn't until the 1950s that the first espresso coffee machine was introduced into Lismore. The one metre-tall art deco coffee machine now stands in the Lismore Regional Gallery as testament to the major contribution the Italian community has made to the culture of the local area.
Next to it stands an original 1950s menu offering Italian style food and drink, signifying the beginning of a love affair with all things Italian. These historical memorabilia are part of an art exhibition which interprets the migration story of the local Italian community, created by artist and SCU lecturer Leonie Lane.
Leonie has long been interested in combining her love of history with art and has used her creative skills to interpret the stories of local Italian families into a series of digital prints that spring to life as you walk around the gallery. All of the artworks have been created from the photographs, personal memories and historical collections of local Italian families and a soundscape of voices complements the pictures by telling the stories of days gone by.
As you walk around the gallery looking at the silhouettes of Italian migrants and subsequent generations of their families you can see why the exhibition is called Bananas, Business and Bocce: The Lismore Italians.
A bocce set sits on the floor in front of images of the game being played, next to prints of musicians and feasting. A pair of women's shoes in a glass case are from Lismore's first department store and a reminder that dancing was a big part of many Italian celebrations. One wall is covered in memories of Italian merchants in the area and another is dedicated to telling the story of the role Italians played in the production of bananas and food in the area, complete with rusty farm equipment.
"Here is a bean hoe which has been created from an old mattock," Leonie said. "During the earlier settlement days, there was little money to spend and things were recycled, adapted and passed on in the family. Kero tins were reused as buckets and pots and stencils were cut out by hand and used to stencil banana or tomato labels on wooden boxes."
Viewers are also invited to interact with an Italian settlement map by placing stickers on locations they can recognise.
"When I was working on the Wilsons River Walk project, I met Ellie Gava, who told me that the Italian community had been saving up for years to create an Italian memorial to recognise and celebrate the social achievements of the Italian community in the local area," Leonie said. "It inspired me to see how we could make it happen and now this exhibition has fed into the creation of the new Lismore Italian Memorial mural in Spinks Park."
The memorial mosaic mural has been created by artist Scott Harrower and incorporates Venetian glass and Italian marble. It will be unveiled at the art exhibition opening on Friday, July 27 at 12.30pm, by Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell. A conversation and wine tasting with the artist will also be held on August 9, from 5.30-6.30pm. The exhibition will be on show until August 26.