Washed away onto the shores of the island, migrants from Africa keep arriving to Lampedusa, a small island just off the coast of Sicily. This year, the situation is exceptionally critical, threatening to surpass the record of 2011, when 62.000 migrants arrived in Italy. Since January of 2014 alone, over 21.000 migrants arrived to the coast of the little Sicilian isle, hoping to find better future in Europe.
On Sunday, May 18, an installation entitled Draunara by Italian documentary director Federica Cellini, was inaugurated at Castello di Rivoli near Turin, one of the most prominent contemporary art museums in the country. The piece is an elaborate conceptual work, telling the story of the migrating path of Africans, who were compelled to leave their home out of number of reasons – poverty, hunger, social injustice, war…
The Unstoppable Tempest
Draunara takes its name from the local term for a storm that swoops over the island coming from the sea. The author of the piece draws a parallel between the tempest and the overwhelming number of people arriving from the same direction. Although the arrivals are much higher than the population of the islet, which is only around 5.000, the locals are devoted to helping the unfortunate migrants welcoming them on the shore, offering water, blankets or medical help. Still, the very small Lampedusa is quite overwhelmed with the human intake.
The inspiration for the installation came to Federica Cellini after she witnessed the arrivals herself. Feeling deeply moved by the situation, she took a series of photographs with her mobile phone on the spot, capturing the very moment of the disembarkation. Men she photographed are covered with metallic thermal blankets, which emit the golden light and shimmering nuances, transposing the entire scene into a surreal realm. The difficulty of the situation proves itself too heavy, packed with history of each and every one of the coming.
Photographs taken make the base narrative of Draunara installation, while the complementing level of the story is told through the sounds that follow each of the photographs, unfolding the tale of the migrants’ life-changing voyage from the heart of Africa.
The Difficult Voyage
In order to live through the experience, the viewer must follow the story from the beginning, stopping at each snapshot, emulating the Via Crucis of the moving expatriates. The photographs are viewed through tiny holes, resembling the 18th century vue d’optique print displaying device from France, while the sound continues playing in a loop. Immersing himself into the narrative, the viewer cannot help but feel distressed, touched by concentration of thousands of singular stories, thousands of unique hardships. The entire experience is emphasized by the fact the installation is set within a large metal cargo container, making the observer feel like human cargo, just like the people he is looking at once were.
The faces, lives depicted by the Draunara are the faces and lives of the lucky ones who survive the agonizing journey, through the desert and the sea, often without food or enough water to live on.
Draunara was presented as a part of #18 @rivolicast and the Night of the Museums, along with a documentary by Simone Salvemini and Costas Varotsos, and a video-piece by Elisabetta Benassi.
“In my work, the stories are those guiding me in selecting the ideal instrument to respond to that creative rush, which has always been accompanying me”. Therefore, her career path is marged by videos, photography, documentaries and reportages. She is the recipient of several international awards and one of the interpreters of the social distress in some of the most troubled places such as Palestine, Liban, or Africa. She wrote and hosted different TV programs, such as Citizen Report and In Nuovi Mille, and realized many collaborations with prestigious Italian magazines.