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10 April 2010 - 27 June 2010, Castelgrande - Bellinzona

The Journey of Emma Nodari

The temporary exhibition "Il viaggio di Emma Nodari. 25'000 Km sotto il cielo d'Africa" (The Journey of Emma Nodari. 25000 Kilometres Under the African Sky) is the result of a cultural and scientific research project, promoted by the Museo delle Culture (MCL), the Archivio di Stato e dalla Biblioteca cantonale di Bellinzona, the city of Bellinzona and Bellinzona Tourismo. This project, which was developed over a period of four years and carried out in collaboration with l'Associazione Archivi Riuniti delle Donne Ticino, la Congregazione dei Sacerdoti del Sacro Cuore (Dehoniani),Franklin College Switzerland, la Radio Televisione della Svizzera Italiana, The Swiss Italian Tourism and Hotel Management School and The University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, assembles the works and documents collected by Alfredo Nodari and his daughter Emma in their “Collezione d’opere e del Fondo documentario” (Nodari Fund and Collection).

Foto gallery

The Collection

The collection contains 841 works of art and material culture, two large river boats, 5200 photographs, 51 video documentaries and over sixty hours of recordings on audio cassettes and tape reels which were collected during a series of journeys in Africa (especially in the Upper Congo) between the 1950s and the 1960s.

Alfred and Emma Nodari started their nine-month voyage in August 1953. Their goal was to reach the Belgian Congo with a two-seater Chevrolet, with the license plate number “TI 11093”. Guided by an authentic but amateurish passion for ethnography, father and daughter aimed to document with written, recorded and photographic evidence the cultural reality of the various African regions, and to interpret some of what they considered to be the most profound “mysteries” of Africa.

The Exhibition

The path through the exhibition has been designed as a sort of “narration through words, images and objects” and winds through the two halls of the Castelgrande castle. The first hall introduces and contextualizes the Nodari Collection. By means of paper documents, maps, letters, travel diaries and pictures, this first space helps the visitor to enter into worlds, times and cultures that are very different from our own reality, and to grasp the function, meaning and value of the items exhibited in the main hall. The latter has one long central case that runs from one end of the hall to the other and displays 250 items of the Nodari Collection. These are divided into six categories corresponding to the various cultural regions that Alfred and Emma visited during their travels. Among exhibits such as rare ceremonial weapons and a significant selection of Pygmy hand-beaten and painted bark cloths, are 21 black and white photographs taken by Emma Nodari. 

The temporary exhibition is accompanied by a series of pedagogical activities and four conferences which intended to extend the topics in question to a wider public interest. 

The pedagogical activities are intended for schools and provide different topics for Kindergarten and primary schools (activities such as "Alla scoperta dell'Africa" and "Esploriamo l'Africa con Emma"), for middle schools (“In viaggio attraverso l'Africa di Emma”), and for secondary schools ("L'Africa tra mito e realtà" or a guided tour through the exhibition entitled "L'avventura di Emma"). The various activities are described and can be reserved on the website of the Centro Didattico Cantonale (Tel. +41.(0)91.8146311, e-mail

The conferences will take place on the 8th and 29th of April, and on the 6th and 20th of May, at 8.30 p.m. at the Cantonal Library in Bellinzona. The respective speakers will be Stefano Faravelli, Sandra Petrignani, Marco Aime, Jean-René Huleu and Marie-Odile Delacour. 

The exhibition, which was organized with the support of PKB Privatbank AG, Swisslos, the Città di Lugano, Fondazione Castelli di Bellinzona and the Fondazione ing. Pasquale Lucchini di Lugano, is complemented by a catalogue edited by the MCL researcher Günther Giovannoni.

La Collezione Nodari. Catalogo delle opere

edited by Günther Giovannoni
Edizioni Mazzotta, Milano 2010, 139 pp.
Chf. 60.-
ISBN 978-88-202-1948-2