I grew up on a dairy farm in northern Italy when it was still common practice to collect the wild produce of the land. Springtime was all about dandelions, nettle and lovertin (hop bush young shoots), summer was about mulberries and blackberries, autumn was the time of chestnuts, hazelnuts and a host of edible mushrooms.
I learned this ancient craft of gathering from the fields and woods while caring for resources in Piedmontese, my mother tongue. I am one of the last generation in my family to carry this language.
When I moved to Australia in the mid 90s I spent many years working in orchards and garden centres. I soon learned that my knowledge was a rare practice in modern societies and I sensed in the people around me a longing to rekindle their untapped connection to nature. Indigenous knowledge loss and a disproportionate mistrust for wild produce, gave way for a country of disconnected living. We no longer know the names of the plants living on our doorsteps; we distrust and dismiss some of the most important food and medicine plants that have always walked with us as our co-evolutionary species.
I then followed my passion for the arts and graduated with a Bachelors degree. As part of a performance art class where I had the opportunity to make films, contribute to festivals and present my own unique artworks, I found the platform to highlight the misuse and waste of these ‘weeds’ by land managers. I saw many of the plants I valued being wasted. The knowledge I had brought with me, began to emerge through these stories, returning botanical literacy and therefor reconnecting communities.
The dandelions, nettles, mulberries and edible mushrooms of my childhood are also here in this country, alongside some incredible native produce.
To tell the story of plants is my passion and by now I run public and private workshops every week. In 2017-18 I offered in excess of 150 workshops and events, talking personally with over 3000 people.
I collaborate extensively with chefs, herbalists, environmentalists and cultural workers promoting new understanding of what the environment has to offer. I love to enable conversations around belonging, sustainability and agency, while eating food. The old stories and flavours offering an alternative for people to re-engage with their neighbourhoods and ecologies.
As a contemporary artist some of my exhibitions and commissions have included Foodfight (a C3West commission in partnership with the MCA and Liverpool Council, Sydney, 2016); The Rocks Windmill (2013, workshops and public sculpture); Wild Stories (two years of workshops and a solo show, Casula Powerhouse Art Centre, 2012); and State of the Arts (group exhibition, Italian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011).
As a change maker I collaborate with a cluster of developers, web producers, foragers and horticulturalists to create Wild Food Map a community to identify public domain food and medicine plants living in the landscape. Following from that I am now working to create a market place for wild produce, Wildfood Store, connecting farmers and chefs while providing an avenue for up-cycling byproduct of agricultural practices: weeds.
There is more to the story, there always is. Come for a walk, listen to my story and share yours so that we can all rejoice in awe of the wonderful narratives of nature.
Diego has been featured in a substantial amount of media including articles in Collective Hub, Marie Claire, GQ Australia, LonelyPlanet, SMH, ABC Radio and TV and SBS Radio and TV.
Recent clients include: City of Sydney, Randwick Council, Marrickville Council, Leichhardt Council, Innerwest Council, Liverpool Council, Blacktown Council, Western Sydney Parkland Trust, Sydney Foreshore Authority, Bundanon Trust, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney