We are saddened to hear of the sudden death of our friend Giani Banich. He was an important figure in Slow Food International and made a significant contribution to the development of our movement, particularly in his native Croatia. We are pleased to share a letter which his friend Marta Mancini wanted to dedicate to him. All of us in Slow Food support its sentiments.
With his adventurous life, Giani seemed a character out of a picaresque novel. He was no saint and his many experiences did not spare him sorrow and grief. Yet he did not close himself off in cynicism or indifference, but retained traits of both a Peter Pan and a Robin Hood.
He would switch between languages and identities with a knowing smile. A citizen of the world, he disliked borders but knew well the characteristics of different nationalities. Giani was able to see the deeper nature of people he met. Straightforward and big-hearted, he liked to be with ordinary men and women. He was direct, sincere and generous in his passions and friendships.
Always enthusiastic about life, he was constantly thinking up new projects: creating protected marine areas and Slow Islands, opening a restaurant for tasting wild products or organizing events to promote ancient traditions. At Terra Madre 2010 he wanted to dedicate a space to herbs. His Slav persistence managed to overcome entrenched reluctance and bring what were regarded as oddball ideas to fruition, such as the herbarium in Switzerland.
He could recognize beauty and aesthetic appeal, whether in a painting for an art gallery, an island or a pristine forest. He could identify almost with eyes closed the wild herbs and fruits, meadow and woodland flowers and trees of the countries he continually visited: Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France. He accompanied us through the blackened ruins of the last European war to discover untouched natural and human wonders, still maintaining their authenticity and age-old traditions.
Like a modern Don Quixote, imbued with a streak of craziness and driven by a lively imagination, he maintained a “pure” essence. He didn’t hold back: he did all he could for the small producers of his area. His passion and belief in what he was doing were so strong that ideas poured out with the impatience of a child who can’t wait to see their hopes materialize.
When we met him he was keen to show us the Balkans and tell us stories involving his Istria. He was the person who introduced us to the old ladies of Ljubitovica and fishermen of Unije, the ancient olive trees and pristine mountains of Croatia.
We will miss him greatly, his refreshing unpredictability, his eccentric habits (such as always keeping garlic in his pocket, so he could nibble some in the morning “to keep healthy”, or fasting every Monday to detox for 24 hours), his unconventional behavior, authenticity, generosity. Thank you for everything, Giani!
June 21, 2010