Discover the museum's exhibitions

05 April 2012 - 10 June 2012, Heleneum - Lugano

Alberi (Trees)

Year after year, the Dèibambini project explores the profound reasons for children’s creativity, and is conducted in collaboration with the Municipal Education Institute of Lugano.

Foto gallery

The exhibition

Children from two preschools (Viganello-Albonago and Gemmo) and from three primary schools in Lugano (Berbengo, Gerra and Bozzoreda) worked together on this seventh edition. Guided by their teachers and didactical experts of the Museo delle Culture (MCL), they studied the theme of trees. Trees may be considered as a tangible expression of nature, as values pertaining to symbolic universes and as silent and faithful companions of our life. The local Museum of Natural History joined the project with a series of activities for all of the classes. The museum held an introductive seminar in September and introduced the themes of this creative and pedagogical project. Several researchers contributed to the seminar: Giulia Bellentani and Céline Coderey (scientific collaborators of the MCL), Pia Giorgetti Franscini (responsible for Cultural Mediation of the local Museum of Natural History), Paolo Maiullari (MCL researcher), Marco Musillo (scientific collaborator of the MCL), Valeria Nidola (expert on children’s literature) and Cesare Poppi (anthropologist). The classes frequently visited the museum and worked on relevant activities in class during a period of six months. The children observed trees in their own natural contexts and explored and ‘discovered’ their various functions. They fondly studied the different forms they adopt not only in nature, but also in our language, in visual representations and in the symbols of various cultures.

Playing with the image of the ‘Albero Amico’ (‘friendly tree’), the children became more and more familiar with the universe of plants, provoking the emergence of desires, needs, fears and feelings. These were then transformed into the creation of a tree painting (primary school) and two great tree-sculptures full of gifts (preschool). This plant universe is the home of beings who sink their roots into the earth, effortlessly gaining nourishment through the mineral environment filled with water, growing with the heat of the sun and reaching for the sky year after year. In comparison, children do not have roots and can move unrelentingly through the world’s disorder, always looking for a new dimension. The forest of magical trees that filled the ground floor rooms of the Heleneum stemmed from the seeds of creativity and fantasy. By climbing up the trunk and venturing into the foliage of their own inner lives, each child was encouraged to access his or her own imaginative space, which is within their reach to be grasped and savoured like a delicious fruit. 

The temporary exhibition presents the children's work, as well as three masterpieces of ethnic art from the museum's collection. The children gradually discovered the peculiarities and richness of the traditions of various peoples, who had (and in some cases still have) a profound and ancestral relationship with trees. A few examples: the Sapunduis a ceremonial pole from Borneo, representing ‘the one who never forgot to be a tree’; the final section of two great carved poles which used to vertically cross the ‘house of humans’ (Sepik region); and the hourglass drum (em), otherwise known as tifa, of the Asmat (New Guinea) who identify the human as the Fundamental Tree. Images and drawings contextualize the children's work in their educational journey.

The exhibition catalogue was edited by the MCL/Città di Lugano. It presents pictures of the young artists’ creations and their own comments, as well as essays by Fabrizio Badiali, Francesco Paolo Campione, Alice Croci Torti, Pia Giorgetti Franscini, Silvia Paradela and Giulio Zaccarelli. It also contains a dossier for an in-depth examination of the museum’s works by Paolo Maiullari. The museum offers free pedagogical workshops (by appointment) for preschool and primary school children. Secondary and junior high schools can participate in guided tours for an in-depth examination of this project's anthropological themes. This offer is free for all schools in the Ticino region.


a cura di Alice Croci Torti
Edizioni MCL / Città di Lugano, Lugano 2012,
128 pp.
Dèibambini 7
CHF 20
ISBN 978-88-7777-051-6