I lived in Rome, and I was penniless, that moment. I heard there was an Eritrean refugee camp, close to my neighborhood. So I went there, every day, for a month, and spent all my days with these strong, brave people. After that I followed them during a very long trip till the northern border.
I wanted to show their courage, their dignity, their way of smiling and face the misery of leaving their country and loosing everything, their hope. My work was rejected by many magazines, because I didn’t show enough pain and this kind of pictures don’t SELL, that’s what I’ve been said. I was disgusted.
For much time, I felt guilty to follow these people, hoping to SELL the pictures I took them. I was poor, and I needed to eat and pay my rent, but I promised myself that I will never exploit people’s suffering or pain, to earn money, again.
After this project, I discovered wedding photography, and realized it was the thing I wanted to do. But as soon as I’ll be able to, I want to start a new project, and to go on showing these people’s strength, without the need to sell anything.
A long way to go. In Rome, only a break.
Arguing, polemics, complaints. And yet, hundreds of Eritrean migrants arrive at Baobab center, in Cupa street, Rome. They get a shelter, food and clothes, offered by neighborhood citizens. Volunteers work hard to offer acceptable conditions for people who don’t remember what acceptable conditions are. This people is running away from violence and hunger. And unfortunately, in Italy, many don’t know that they aren’t here to stop, they don’t want to settle here, aware that the situation in our country is not so good at the moment. Many don’t know or pretend not to know, pouring out their rage against their arrivals and against who’s helping them.
The real issue is that there is no demonstration, barricade or border closure working. Nor sea or desert. These people decided to leave, to abandon their home, to dismember their families, to go on living – living, not existing in inhuman conditions.
I’ve spent much time at Baobab center. Hundreds of stories and faces, many of them so young. The mildness and dignity of this people is disarming, while they try to tell their stories, if they mutter some English. They need to rest, to smile, to restore a tired and torn body. After travelling for months and risking their lives more than once, they have exhaustion, smile and gratitude. They have the hope to find a simple life, to fulfill a dream, wherever, no matter where.
One Saturday night I caught an Intercity train from Roma-Termini to Bolzano, with two young men and a 8 months pregnant woman, who has been captured and segregated in Libya for three months and was able to escape in the end. Her gaze claims silent respect.
Not even difficulties like this can stop them, even if many of them can’t escape dangers during their trip. Some boys have been texting me, updating me on their moves. Daniel, 21 years old, called from France. And he was laughing, joyfully.
Kidnappings, shipwrecks , C.I.E. (Identification and Expulsion Centers), barricades, insults, demonstrations, hatred and racism, borders closure, indifference and inability to manage the situation. But hope and will for a better life can’t be stopped by anything. Whether we accept it or not, migrants will keep on moving and try to reach better places to live in. Wasting energies against moving life is worthless. Once I’ve been told that Italians must help them because Italy, as a former colonizing country, caused a lot of troubles in Eritrea. But, no. We don’t have to help them to compensate guilt that probably don’t belong to us. It’s not about politics. It’s just because they are human beings. and, just like all human beings, they will keep on trying to find a better life, they will keep on moving.