Diawara B. on disappointments and support

Diawara B. talks about the shocking experiences he made after his arrival in a reception camp in Sicily and the support he received on his way to school.

“Quando sono arrivato qua, mi aspettavo tanto: È l’Europa, è il mondo in cui il diritto dell’uomo è riconosciuto. Pensavo che avrei avuto pace, avrei sviluppato le mie idee e avrei avuto il diritto di studio. Però purtroppo sono rimasto deluso, perché quando sono arrivato all’inizio ci hanno messo in una forma di gabbia, accerchiato con i militari. Un ragazzo minorenne tu lo fermi un una gabbia, una prigione e non ha nemmeno il diritto di respirare l’aria pura!

Io ho fatto 20 giorni dentro. Non potevamo uscire neanche fuori. Alla fine ho dovuto incitare gli altri ragazzi a ribellarci, perché noi non siamo venuti per stare dentro qua, ma perché questo è un posto dove il nostro diritto deve essere riconosciuto, che è stato negato nel nostro paese.

Poi dopo questa rivolta siamo stati trasferiti in altri centri, io sono stato trasferito a Sicili, nel mediterraneo hub. Li hanno visto che io avevo una voglia incessante di studiare e mi hanno detto “ti cerchiamo un posto migliore dove potrai mettere i tuoi talenti in gioco, dove potrai studiare e fare grandi cose.”

Poi mi hanno spedito a Palermo, mi ricordo ancora, era il 4.12.2016, mi hanno spedito all’istituto valdese, alla casa dei Mirti, e ho cominciato subito ad andare a scuola. Sono arrivato il venerdì pomeriggio e lunedì ho cominciato a studiare.

Quando ho iniziato lo studio ero molto felice, era questo che volevo. Ho cominciato a vedere le cose da una prospettiva diversa. Il mio challenge era imparare la lingua in modo veloce per poter parlare con la gente. La comunità dov’ero, mi ha dato gli strumenti per mettermi in gioco, si sono fidati di me! Ho fatto la terza media, i miei studi del mio paese non sono riconosciuti. Poi il liceo scientifico, e questo grazie al centro e anche alla città. Tante persone mi hanno sostenuto. „Sei un ragazzo intelligente che vuol fare tante cose positive, noi ti aiutiamo!“. Studiavo in due scuole contemporaneamente. Ho cominciato a fare attività teatrale, ho lavorato in una produzione dove ho fatto l’attore protagonista.

Intervista con Diawara B. a Palermo, il 12 giugno 2019

“When I came here I expected so much: It’s Europe, it’s the world in which human rights are existent and respected. I thought I’d have peace, could develop my ideas and have the right to study. But unfortunately, I was disappointed because when I arrived they took us to a sort of cage, which was surrounded by military. A minor in a cage, a prison, lacking even the right to breathe clean air. I spent 20 days in there.

We couldn’t even go outside.

In the end, I incited the other boys to resist, because we didn’t come here to be imprisoned, but because this is a place where our rights are respected, rights that don’t exist in our countries.

After the uprising, we were put into other centers, I was brought to Scicli. They saw that I wanted to study and told me, “We will look for the best suitable place where you can use your talents. Where you can learn and achieve much. They sent me to Palermo, I still remember, it was the 4th of December 2016, they sent me to Casa Mirti of the Waldensians. I immediately went to school: I arrived on Friday afternoon and on Monday I started school.

When I started studying I was very happy, that was what I wanted. I started to see things from a different perspective. My challenge was to learn the language quickly so that I could speak to people. The community I was in gave me the tools to get involved, they trusted me. I finished eighth grade, but my studies in my country are not recognized. Then I was able to go to a scientific high school, and that is thanks to the Waldensian centre and also to the city. Many people supported me. ‘You’re a smart kid who wants to do good, we’ll help you!’ I studied in two schools at the same time. I started acting, I worked in a theatre production where I played the leading actor.”

Interview with Diawara B., 12 June 2019, Palermo

Diawara told his story at the Giocherenda Workshop. He comes from Mali and left his family when he was almost 15 years old to work in Algeria. He stayed one year and seven months, working and putting money aside to start a business in Mali. When the situation in Mali worsened and he was treated worse and worse in Algeria – “they treated me like a monkey, like Bilal, a former slave who was ransomed by the Prophet Muhammad” – in late summer 2016 he will sail to Sicily daring. He came as a minor and since then lives in Italy. After a stay in a reception center in Sicily, where he was detained for more than three weeks, he came in December 2016 to Palermo in a roundabout way. Today he goes to an international high school and hopes to graduate to study.

Due to the so-called Security Decree of October 2018, he has recently lost his residence status, which puts him from day to day in a very precarious situation, which could at worst be accompanied by a ban on being unable to go to school.

How were the films and fragments in Palermo made?

Diawara B. and Diallo S. from Giocherenda held a three-day workshop with six participants in Palermo: Glory M., Fatima D., Ismail A., Kadijatu J., Marrie S. and Mustapha F. Mixing different approaches and games, the group exchanged personal experiences and shared them in the black box in front of the camera. Furthermore, Fatima D., Ismail A. and Mustapha F. consented to being portrayed in short films by the We Refugees Archive film crew beyond the workshop. The portraits deal with their lives in the city.

Giocherenda is a professional organization led by, for and with young refugees in Palermo that offers storytelling games. Its aim is not to help refugees and support them, but the opposite: refugees bring locals together for the sake of exchanging their experiences with refugees.

The word Giocherenda stems from the Fula language Pular, primarily spoken in Guinea, and connotes solidarity, interdependence and strength generated from people getting together. Phonetically, it resembles the Italian word “giocare” (to play), which inspired the collective to develop games for the sake of producing narratives and personal memories.

Refugees’ perspectives

In the interviews, the film crew consciously abstained from screenplays and standardized questions. Instead, the refugees directed the course of the interview and discussed only those topics they were willing to speak about. With We Refugee Archive’s mission in mind, the participants’ personal experiences in Palermo and their visions for the near future was the rough focal point. Thus, experiences during and personal trajectories of forced migration to Europe were shared and discussed at the individual’s own will and not required nor elicited on demand.

Interview with Diawara B., 12 June 2019, Palermo

Interviewer: Francesca Bertin
Camera: Max Sänger
Production: Francesca Bertin

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