SALA ALLA PORTA S. AGOSTINO
Via Porta Dipinta, 46 – Bergamo
1-5 luglio 2016

Houdoud al bahr è un percorso nel quale i risultati emersi dal lavoro di ricerca – condotto dal Centro di Ricerca sulla Complessità (Ce.R.Co.) dell’Università degli Studi di Bergamo nell’ambito del Progetto Europeo 7PQ EUBORDERSCAPES – nella regione di frontiera italo/tunisina, fra e nei due spazi urbani di Mazara del Vallo (Trapani) e Mahdia (Tunisia), sono proposti come possibile strumento conoscitivo ed esperienziale.

“Canale” del percorso: un tratto di mar Mediterraneo che separa e unisce nello stesso tempo, e che definisce e collega le due terre e culture di cui i ragazzi delle scuole di Mazara del Vallo, coinvolti nel progetto di ricerca, sono testimoni.

I materiali prodotti e messi in mostra appartengono ai ragazzi intervenuti nella ricerca così come ai visitatori che si lasceranno guidare dalle loro voci e dalle loro tracce, e che si faranno interrogare sul loro significato personale di frontiera e di “casa”. Unica regola da seguire, lungo questo tragitto ideale, simbolico, eppure – in fondo – non poi tanto immaginario, quella del “vietato non toccare” e l’invito a interagire, a muoversi e a muovere. Cosa? I pannelli, i totem, le scatole di cartone, i fogli, le fotografie delle sezioni della mostra, concepite come tappe di un paesaggio da attraversare, luogo e occasione per mettersi in gioco e interrogarsi sui temi che la mostra propone, partendo da essa e per proseguire oltre i suoi confini.

A questo fine, il visitatore, adulto o bambino che sia, potrà – se vorrà – seguire i suggerimenti di attività proposti, da fare in sede per poi proseguire al di fuori di essa. La città di ciascuno potrebbe così diventare sede di un laboratorio a cielo aperto, in cui i lavori di scoperta sono, potenzialmente, sempre “in corso”. A completare il percorso, Note sul borderscape italo-tunisino, una serie di fotografie in bianco e nero che raccontano le due città – come fossero degli appunti o note di viaggio – attraverso i volti e i luoghi che le attraversano e le abitano. In qualità di materiale di studio realizzato sul campo nell’ambito della ricerca, queste fotografie accompagneranno il visitatore lungo il percorso, offrendo ulteriori suggestioni

 

INAUGURAZIONE MOSTRA: Venerdì 1 luglio, ore 18:30

Introducono: Chiara Brambilla, Ce.R.Co., Università degli Studi di Bergamo, Progetto 7PQ EUBORDERSCAPES, Co-ideatrice della mostra; Rita Ceresoli, Educatrice museale, Co-ideatrice e progetto educativo della mostra

Intervengono: Giovanna Brambilla, Responsabile Servizi Educativi GAMEC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, Eugenio Torrese, Direttore Agenzia per l’Integrazione di Bergamo

 

SALA ALLA PORTA S. AGOSTINO
Via Porta Dipinta, 46 – Bergamo
Ideazione: Chiara Brambilla e Rita Ceresoli
Progettazione educativa: Rita Ceresoli / Consulenza antropologica: Chiara Brambilla
Materiale fotografico dello studio Note sul borderscape italo-tunisino: Alessio Angelo

 

For a description of the project (in English), read here.

 

 

We welcome an in-depth reflection about the exhibition and the research behind it by Chiara Brambilla, co-curator. Thank you, Chiara, for this generous report about the methodology followed and the outputs of the research.

 

Notes from an exhibition

The exhibition Houdoud al bahr | I Confini del Mare was held from Friday 1 July to Tuesday 5 July 2016 at Sala alla Porta S. Agostino in Bergamo.
Houdoud al bahr is built upon extensive research conducted by the Centre for Research on Complexity (Ce.R.Co.) of the University of Bergamo within the EU-FP7 EUBORDERSCAPES project in the Italian/Tunisian borderland zooming in on the urban space of Mazara del Vallo in Sicily, and its relations with the city of Mahdia in Tunisia. A documentary film, “Houdoud al bahr | The Mediterranean Frontiers: Mazara – Mahdia” was also made during the course of the research and the film was projected during the exhibition as a part of it (3. Session).

The city of Mazara del Vallo is located in the south-western part of Sicily (administratively part of the province of Trapani) overlooking the Tunisian coast. Mazara faces Africa across 137 km of the Mediterranean Sea. The city is closer to Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, than it is to the Italian mainland. In this historical and geographical context, Mazara is not only located along the Italian/Tunisian borderscape, being a border town, but it can also be regarded as a borderscape in itself, mirroring the complexity of the Italian/Tunisian borderland in which it is located. Previously established as the primary destination of the first large group of Tunisian migrants towards Italy in the 1970s, Mazara has a special relationship with the Tunisian coastal city of Mahdia. The majority of Tunisian migrants in Mazara come from the city of Mahdia. Mahdia is important for its fish-processing and weaving industries. It is the capital of Mahdia Governorate. Before it became a place of emigration towards Mazara, Mahdia has served as the primary destination for numerous inhabitants of Mazara, who worked in the Tunisian city in fishing and other industries up until the 1950s.
Among the different actors who have been involved in this research, particular attention has been devoted to young people (whose families are originally from Mazara) and young migrants (whose families are originally from nearby Tunisia) who are now living together in Mazara. Listening to young people and embracing their viewpoints on the very borderscape that they inhabit means acknowledging their right to participate in the public sphere; at the same time, it also provides them with democratic responsibility, of which they are deprived, as they are usually excluded from political and administrative life and obliged to carry a sort of “postponed or diminished citizenship” that can be compared, in some ways, to that of migrants.

Photographs and iconographic materials in the exhibition, with the exception of the photos of the study Notes on the Italian/Tunisian borderscape, come from the educational workshop activities undertaken with the young people living in Mazara del Vallo during the course of the research. We have organized workshop activities during 2014 and 2015 in-between Mazara and Mahdia while focusing on two topics: “Landscape as an intercultural mediator” and “Italian/Tunisian border: imaginations, imaginaries and images”.
In Mazara, we have worked with four different age groups of youths: 7-9 years old, attending after-school programs at the House of Hope Community’s place; 9–10 years old, attending fourth/fifth grade (IV-V B) in the junior school “Daniele Ajello”; 11–12 years old, attending first grade (I C) in the junior high school “Paolo Borsellino”; 16–19 years old, attending the after-school program “Voices from the Mediterranean” at the San Vito Foundation’s place. This last group of Tunisian youths have also been involved in educational workshop activities on the same two topics in Mahdia in the summer, when they returned back to Tunisia to visit their parents’ families during the summer holidays.
During the workshop activities, great emphasis was given to aesthetic narrative approaches, considering the relevant role of narratives and narrations – be they written text, oral narrations, or stories told by visual means – for expressing identity processes. Specifically, narrative visual tools were used (drawings, auto-photography, photo elicitation, participatory mapping, and short videos), in addition to a variety of other qualitative research methods, including walking expeditions and shadowing, in order to encourage young people to tell their stories through aesthetic, visual narrative tools that bring their spatial imagination to the foreground while telling us about their peculiar relationship with the borderscape they inhabit. Both the topics and the methods of the educational workshop activities intend to encourage young people to problematize their relationships with the borderland they inhabit. It also enables them to no longer reconceptualise it as a divisive linear geometry, but as a constructed, inhabited, and relational space – as a space of political becoming and therefore as a space of political opportunity.
In auto-photography participants took a predetermined number of photographs using throwaway cameras. The subject was Mazara in its various facets. Here then is Mazara portrayed through its most beautiful place, its most ugly place, the places that young people like, the places that scare them, the places where they meet, and the places where they feel like at home. After printing, these photos were used during photo elicitation while becoming tools for collective stories and discussion. Drawing was also used to represent Mazara according to the same criteria proposed for auto-photography and to express the individual ideas of the “border” and the “frontier” of young people. Besides that, drawing was used to sketch a participatory map of Mazara where imaginary but desired spaces and elements were drawn. The visual methods have been adopted, therefore, understanding them not only as aesthetic tools but also as communicative tools for understanding how space is constructed, perceived, interpreted, and represented by its inhabitants.

The exhibition presents research results on the Italian/Tunisian borderland as possible experiential learning tools. “Channel” to the exhibition route is a stretch of open sea that divides and connects at the same time the two cultures and countries of young people attending school in Mazara del Vallo, who have been involved in the research project as key informants.
The exhibition presents different types of audio-visual materials that belong to both the young people who participated in the research and to the visitors who will allow themselves to be led by young people’s voices and traces and who will wonder about their own ideas of the border and “home”.
The only rule that needs to be followed on this ideal, symbolic but not so imaginary route is “forbidden not to touch” as well as the invitation to interact, to move oneself and to move different objects. But what are these objects? They are panels, totems, cardboard boxes, papers, and photos of the exhibition sessions that are conceived as major landmarks in a landscape that should be experienced to get in the game and to start wondering about the themes of the exhibition while keeping this thinking beyond the very borders of the exhibition. For this purpose, visitors, be they adults or children, can follow – if they want – the suggestions for activities to be done at the exhibition and to be continued beyond its walls. The city of each visitor could become, in this way, an open-air laboratory where a “work in progress” will potentially never ends.
A photo series of black and white images entitled “Notes on the Italian/Tunisian borderscape” completes the exhibition route.

Figura 2  Figura 3

These photos should be regarded as travel notes that tell us about the two cities of Mazara del Vallo and Mahdia through their places and the faces of the people who inhabit them or passed through them. As a part of materials produced during the course of the research, these photos will drive visitors along the exhibition route giving them additional suggestions and valuable records.

THE FOUR SESSIONS OF THE EXHIBITION
1. BETWEEN LAND AND SEA | The city where I live
2. BEYOND THE LINE | What are borders?
3. HOUDOUD AL BAHR. BEYOND THE BORDERS OF THE SEA | The documentary film
4. INHABITING THE MEDITERRANEAN | The city where I live: how do I want it to be?

1. Session – BETWEEN LAND AND SEA: You can go from here, navigating this sea made of roads to be crossed and allowing yourself to be led by the viewpoint of the young people who live in Mazara del Vallo and tell you about their city through their photos and drawings. Whether it’s beautiful or ugly, it’s scary, disturbing or hospitable, it is in any case “land”. Behind each of the twenty cards that compose this symbolic sea, you can find a photo or a drawing representing a fragment of the city and a fragment of memory that make you practice reading and carefully observing like in a memory game. Turning the cards, you will discover that the photos and the drawings intertwine, refer to each other, and complement one another. You can contribute yourself to the story thereby creating new stories and associations between one or more cards. As you venture into the city of Mazara, it will leave the shape of unknown maremagnum becoming familiar to you. Besides that, Mazara will be a map that you can use to orient yourself in new ways in the city where you live.

Figura 4  Figura 5

2. Session – BEYOND THE LINE: The journey now brings you in front of a “border” to be crossed. Imagine yourself getting through the empty spaces of the dashed line that twists and turns in front of you along the Channel of Sicily. Make your own symbolic path between a totem and the other. As the border is neither a static line nor a geometrical sign, so the panels in front of you do not form a wall. Rather, they tell you about the border as a mobile, fluid space that is constituted and traversed by human relationships. Moving through the totems, you can also learn about the research work carried out by the Centre for Research on Complexity of the University of Bergamo in-between Mazara del Vallo and Mahdia within the 7FP EUBORDERSCAPES Project. On the panels you can find short texts and images that tell you about this European Project as well as the activities undertaken with young people living in Mazara del Vallo during the course of the research. Some of the youths are of Italian origin and some others are of Tunisian origin.

Figura 6  Figura 7

3. Session – HOUDOUD AL BAHR. BEYOND THE BORDERS OF THE SEA: There’s now a new “land” waiting for you. You can discover this new “land” through the documentary film Houdoud al bahr (the film can be seen -full and short version- online; for further information about the film click here). Stop here to meet and “follow” young people living in Mazara del Vallo. Some of them are pictured during the travel towards their “place of origin”, that is, the city of Mahdia in Tunisia. This city – where their parents were born and where, in some cases, they were born as well – is no longer a day-to-day presence in their lives, yet it is still loaded with emotional significance and is a place full of memories.

4. Session – INHABITING THE MEDITERRANEAN: In this last session, the daily life of young people is waiting for you. You are in the land that is inhabited today by young people from Mazara as well as in the future land that is imagined by them. It is a land “to come” that has been chosen as the place where they would like to establish their “home”. In this sense, this land, which is observed, constructed, and imagined with new eyes, is a very land of opportunities that not only is a promised land but it also is a chosen land to be inhabited. This land is, in a sense, your “land” as well, that is, the land where you live today and where you will choose to live tomorrow.

July 2016 – Chiara Brambilla

Figura 8  Figura 9

 

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