Giovanni Buzi (Gianni) died on 17 March 2010 after a long struggle against cancer.
He was a painter, a writer, a teacher, but above all he was a free, creative and loving person.
He was born in Vignanello (province of Viterbe in Italy) on March 10, 1961. At the age of 18 he left and went to study Fine Arts and literature in Rome where he reveled in the vibrant and liberating atmosphere of Italy at that time. He expressed his atheist humanistic spirit by an unfailable interest in all things of the universe. He loved meeting new people, discovering other cultures and unknown sources of beauty. The only thing he couldn’t stand was the arrogance of people in power and submissiveness. He confronted his illness with an extroardinary courage and clear mind. He was loved by all the people who took care of him, both at home or at the hospital. During the few months of remission from September to December 2009 he created hundreds of paintings which will carry on his presence. When he knew for sure that he would not survive he decided to die with dignity and he chose the moment of his departure. He will be remembered through his works of art, his books and all the love he gave us during his whole life.

The cremation took place in Brussels on 23 March 2010

Laurent Vogel, his love and life companion since 1984

Speech by Laurent Vogel during the cremation

Beloved Gianni,

Several weeks ago in hospital, you joked about my ability to speak in public in many languages and in the most different contexts. You had seen me in a miners’ meeting in Peru, in universities, at parties and other public venues. Today, I will try to do you justice and to speak without my voice breaking.

We met eachother a little more than 25 years ago. In August 1984. In a public garden in Rome, on the slopes of the Capitol, opposite the Ghetto and a temple of Vestales.

I was in Rome after living for five years in Latin America. I didn¹t know if I would stay for a few weeks or a few months. We saw eachother again in a little apartment that I had been lent in the area of Borgo. Several days later, you invited me to move in with you. The move was easy. All my belongings could fit into a little canvas suitcase which stank of penicillin. We shared a narrow bed built into the library. To sleep together in a perfect harmony was from the very start far more intimate than all the games of Eros.

At the time, one of the great advantages of gay relationships was that we turned our back resolutely on the family model. We loved eachother, we gave ourselves up to pleasure, we started to share innumerable things without ever asking ourselves if this could last. Our only commitment was to always tell eachother the truth. We were free, without the slightest social pressure to artificially maintain a relationship once it had faded. All was contained in a reciprocal giving that was renewed at every turn. The ephemeral became eternal and lost none of its lightness.

In the last days, your love of beauty was concentrated in your sense of smell. We got drunk on cocktails of perfumes that I prepared with the advice of Corinne and Stefano. on rosewood, myrhh, oils whose unfamiliar and magical names delighted us, ravensara, litsee, ylang ylang, petigrain.

When I met you, you were inhabited by painting, a sensual kind of painting that questioned form and attracted the gaze more than commentary. Three months ago, on the occasion of your last exhibition, your weakened voice asked each visitor to take several minutes of silence to engage in a dialogue with what you foresaw were your last paintings. You had feverishly
painted two or three hundred in three months, in the short truce that your illness granted you. You did not like painting that was done only to generate commentary. You thought that a painter must leave his paintings free, stay silent so that they could speak in their own language to those who gazed upon them. On arrival in Brussels, you had felt the call of writing. You wanted to recreate a world you had left behind. Geographical distance was not the difficulty. You knew, bitterly, that Italy would not stop changing for the worse.

For these last 25 years, we have engaged in an eclectic range of activities. An invisible force gave coherence to what otherwise might have seemed a disjointed mannequin. You were in all that I did, even the technical aspects furthest from art. I think too that I was in all that you did. These were obscure but tenacious affinities that reappeared on the surface of shared friendships, books that we loved one after the other, the same revolt against injustice, travels or a visit to an exhibition. Our opinions could differ on many subjects but they seemed to arise from the same subterranean stream where the quest for the beautiful, for pleasure and for respect for individuals mingled with the desire for another world free from that which prevents human beings from fulfilling and emancipating themselves.

Throughout all your illness, I felt that I was not only going to lose a loved one. I was going to suffer the amputation of an essential part of myself. I know that you delayed the moment of your own death and that you accepted to bear terrible suffering for the only reason that you repeated to me incessantly: « I do not want to leave you. »

Around fifteen years ago, during one of our trips to Mexico, we were in a little town in the South. I had gone to check the bus timetables at the station so that we could decide where to go the following day. We had to rejoin a friend ten days later in Merida. I said to you: if we take this bus, we will be in San Salvador in less than fifteen hours. You remained silent for several minutes. Then you asked me « do you want to go back there for your dead friends or your living ones? » I answered that it was my dead friends who counted most. I would have liked to see again the places that we had been together. A bar, the slopes of Izalco volcano, that little village of the hundred year old tamarind trees, the street where we had meetings, sheltered by a sympathiser. There were no graves to visit: most of my friends had been disappeared, killed through torture, their bodies no doubt thrown to the sea. You stroked my hand and you said to me « I have known you for ten years. You have not been without them for a moment, every intonation of your voice, your work, your dreams, your way of living, reflect all that they gave you. You hardly ever speak to me of them but I have also learned to love them in your reserve and in your silences ».

Today, Gianni, it’s your presence that I want to preserve. We who are atheists know that we can survive, that immortality is there provided that we enjoyed life to its fullest and took action to ensure that all human beings could do the same. What we created, the love that we gave, the revolts, the struggles, the laughs and the tears create an infinite chain. I still believe in what is deepest in me that one day there will be a time other than the ordinary. As Boris Vian said:
« Futile to fix now
The details of all that
One certainty endures: one day
There will be something other than the day. »

Eight centuries earlier, Mamonides had said the same. Scrupulously, he was careful to specify in his twelfth principle « though it may arrive late ».

I don’t know by what route, but I know that you will help me to go forward. And I hope that Gianni will help you all in your way and in your rhythm towards that time when there will be another day than the day.



Eliane Vogel-Polsky’s tribute

Since Gianni’s operation, I kept a diary of our meetings, our conversations and our moments of great trust and love.
I would like to share a fragment with you, which dates from May 2009.

‘You know’, he said to me, ‘I try to think of beautiful things, to visualise them. Last summer when we were in Catalonia, we went on excursion. On the way, we walked to a very beautiful park and we reached an absolutely extraordinary place. It’s difficult to explain why, but suddenly I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape. I’ve travelled a lot and seen countries and areas that were spectacular and even awe-inspiring, and yet here, I found myself immersed in nature, a type of nature which could appear simple, almost ordinary, one which would hold nothing of note for tourists.
But I was bewitched by the astonishing feeling of being united to this place by a vital link which felt like a predestination, a foreboding : You belong to this landscape and this landscape belongs to you.
“ Let’s stop” I said to Laurent, “This place is magical”. On the right, there were three small pine trees.’ He drew them in the air, with his emaciated hand. ‘Behind them, a running river in which small trouts were jumping, mingling with the shadows playing on the water. The music of the river enchanted me. On the left, there was a source, more like a waterfall, as it fell on the rocks it resounded in the pure air and echoed the babbling of the river.
I was conscious at the same time of the ordinary character of the place and of being transported by a small miracle. What I was seeing, what I was hearing, what I was feeling: all appeared perfect to me.
The symphony of the river and the source moved in such a harmonious sphere that it surpassed the music of Mozart.
I got drunk on the deep singing of nature.’ His hand took up the invisible baton of an orchestra conductor and his voice sank under the memory of the experience, which had visibly overcome him.

‘And you know, this image of serenity, of plenitude, has come to me repeatedly while I have gone through this terrible trial, while I was suffering on my hospital bed, trying to grasp the extent of the illness that was eating away at me.

When anxiety grasped me by the throat, by the heart, by my insides, when appalling nightmares haunted me, the magical landscape always appeared before my eyes to soothe me. There, in this hospital bed, in the post-operative room, on the trolley pulled by the porters, when nothing was visible except for the piss-yellow ceilings of the long corridors, in the operating block, this image always reappears like an incantation to life, like a warm ray of sun.

So I want you to know that I have asked Laurent something important: “ I want you to go back there to the big Park and scatter my ashes in the stream, that they mingle in the singing water and run down to the sea”.’

Jean Vogel's Speech

It was impossible to know Gianni without loving him.
I won’t list here his human qualities, nor will I remind you of his undeniable power of seduction.

Something which first struck me about Gianni, something which I had never come across before in anyone else: a sensitive intelligence, an intelligence of the senses which threw him into an endless exploration of colours, of faces, of bodies, of perfumes, of tastes.

One might say that this is the case for many artists – but Gianni was not an artist like others, or, which is to say almost the same thing, he was not only an artist.

Most people have abandoned, or misplaced and forgotten, the treasure chest of secrets of their childhood, or else that chest only contains a few remains frozen in time – dislocated dolls, eviscerated teddy bears – clandestine travellers in their journey across adulthood.

All his life, Gianni never stopped enriching that chest with new treasures, taking their inventory, embellishing them and offering them up to be admired by those who wanted to see them.

It is impossible to compile a catalogue of what he had collected: opaque pebbles, semi-precious stones, black masks, silks from the East, odd trinkets, petrified scarabs….Thank God, though, no stuffed animals…

He had picked up these objects of passion in successive waves.
And it was also in successive waves that he worked, that he produced his paintings, his drawings, his books. His work was like a succession of explorations, infinitely relaunched explorations of a genre of art, of a way of doing, of a type, of a face, in tens or even hundreds of re-imagined and re-done variations.

Far from being in search of the unique and perfect work, Gianni painted or wrote as if the only response to the inexhaustible variety of the world must be the inexhaustible profusion of art.

This double exploration of the world and of his art echoed without any doubt an exploration of himself. In an interview that he gave me in 2005, he said “we are the ones who do not look at ourselves enough, who don’t want to discover certain things in ourselves. There is for example our animal part [of course, he could also have spoken of our vegetable part or our mineral part] which interests me greatly, because even the spirit, even reason are a sort of organ which has slightly overdeveloped, or badly developed, or perhaps not enough, like an atrophied limb of human beings’.

Through his work, certainly, but also through his words and his presence, Gianni wanted to touch others, to establish a resonance with them. He also said ‘One can touch someone without actually touching them, we can touch with our eyes, with music. With frequencies, with wave lengths, I would like to touch those sensitive places which enter into vibration in me at the moment that I do things’.

In the song of another Laurent, Laurent of Medicis, his Tuscan compatriot of five centuries ago, it is said
‘Quant’ e bella giovanezza
Que se fuggia tuttavia!’

‘How beautiful is youth
Which escapes so quickly!’

The too short life of Gianni is like a defiance of the terrible truth contained in that verse.
He didn’t allow that beauty of youth to escape him, he had the know-how and the knowledge to preserve his youth and that beauty until his last days.

The secret of invincible youth, that secret that Gianni possessed, is not the one of Faust, it is not located in glory or in knowledge.

It’s the secret of generosity.
Gianni was first and foremost a generous man, and young and beautiful because he was generous.

That was what I experienced during all those years that I had the happiness of being able to be his brother.

I will never forget him.



Yiddish tango Friling

To listen, click here: friling

Ikh blondzhe in geto, Fun gesl tsu gesl, Un ken nisht gefinen keyn ort; Nishto iz mayn liber, Vi trogt men ariber? Mentshn, zogt khotsh a vort! Es laykht af mayn heym itst, Der himl der bloyer-- Vos zhe hob ikh its derfun? Ikh shtey vi a betler, Bay yetvidn toyer, Un betl a bisele zun.

Friling, nem tsu mayn troyer, Un breng mayn libstn, Mayn trayen tsurik. Friling, af dayne fligl bloye, O, nem mayn harts mit, Un gib es op mayn glik. …

Ikh gey tsu der arbet, Farbay undzer shtibl, In troyer--der toyer farmakht. Der tog a tsehelter, Di blumen--farvelkte, Zey vyanen, far zey iz oykh nakht. Far nakht af tsurikvegs, Es noyet der troyer, Ot do hostu, libster, gevart. Ot do inem shotn, Nokh kentik dayn trot iz, Flegst kushn mikh liblekh un tsart …

S’iz hay yor der friling, Gor fri ongekumen, Tseblit hot zikh benkshaft nokh dir. Ikh ze dikh vi itster, Balodn mit blumen, A freydiker geystu tsu mir. Di zun hot fargosn, Dem gortn mit shtraln, Tseshprotst hot di erd zikh in grin. Mayn trayer, mayn libster, Vu bistu farfaln? Du geyst nisht aroys fun mayn zin.

I wander the ghetto, From alley to alley, And cannot find any rest. My beloved is no more-- How can I bear it? People, say something, anything! The blue sky, Lights up my house, But what good does it do? I stand like a beggar, In every gateway, And beg for a little sun. …

Springtime, take away my sorrow, And bring my beloved, My dear one to me. Springtime, on your wings of blue, Take my heart with you, And bring my happiness back to me.

Grieving, I go to work, Past our home. The door is shut. A sunlit day, the flowers, fading, They weep—for them too it is night. In the evening, on returning, Sorrow gnaws at me. Here, my love, you used to wait. Right here, in the shadows, I still hear your footrall, And remember how tenderly, You used to kiss me.

This year, springtime, Has arrived so early, My longing for you has burst into bloom. I see you, as though you were here, Laden with flowers, Joyfully coming towards me. The sun has showered, The garden with its rays, The earth has sprouted with green. My dearest, my beloved, Where have you vanished? You are never out of my thoughts.


Raoui (The Narrator) by Souad Massi

To listen, click here

Text (in Algerian dialectal Arabic)

ya Raoui hki hkaya, mada bik tkoun riwaya
hkili ala ness zmen, hkili ala elf lila w lila ,
ala lounja bent l ghoula, w ala wlid soltane

hajitak majitak, dini bid men 'had denya
hajitak majitak, koul wahad menna f kalbou hkaya
koul wahad menna f kalbou hkaya

hki w nsa belli hna kbar
dir fi ballak kili rana sghar, w nemnou koul hkaya
hkilna ala l jenna hkilna ala nar
w ala tir li omro a tar , fahamna maana denya

hajitak majitak, dini bid men had denya
hajitak majiiitak,koul wahad menna f kalbou hkaya
koul wahad menna f kalbou hkaya

ya Raoui kima hkawlak, matzid matnakass men andak, kayan li chfaw alabalak
hki w nassina men had zman
khallina f kan ya makan, kan ya makan

hajitak majitak, dina bid mhad denia
hajitak majitak, koul wahad menna f kalbou hkaya
koul wahad menna f kalbou hkaya

English translation

Narrator, tell us a story
may be a long one
tell us about the people of all ages
tell me about One Thousand and One Nights
about Linga the daughter of Ghoul (literally demon)
and about the Sultan's son

Start telling us the story
we'll be in another far world
Start telling us the story
Each one of us has a story in his heart

Tell us and forget that we are adults
In your mind, consider us young
Tell us about paradise. tell us about hell
about a bird that never flew
teach us about the meanings of life

Narrator, tell us just like they've told you
No more, no less
your thoughts are apparent to us
narrate just to make us forget our world
Let's focus on once upon a time

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