Day after day hundreds of men and women from countries like Afganistan, Kurdistan, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudán, Senegal and Nigeria mainly, escape Sub-Saharan Africa through the coasts of Libya towards Europe. The cause of that difficult situation is due to the internal conflicts in their countries of origin, that along with poverty, torture, persecution, insecurity and hunger have been endemic for centuries in that continent.
Libya, because of its strategic location is an obligatory in-transit country in order to reach their destinations. One of them is Italy, which they access through Lampedusa, the largest of the Pelagie Islands, a small italian archipelago of volcanic Islands in the Sicily Channel, also in the Mediterranean Sea.
After crossing the route of death in which they can die in the desert of in the Mediterranean waters, they arrive in Rome by train with the bagagge of their own story. It is the city where they expect their dreams to come true. In its emblematic streets, stations, bridges and surroundings they stay in tents and they cover with cardboard or old blankets. In Rome also exist mafia, illegality and dispair.
The most fortunate go to shelters, like these 14 africans on whom my story is based . They arrived to the Italian Refugee Council (CIR in italian) an organization that offered them political asylum and that works hand in hand with the European Union and the United Nations as well.
Along with them, two Colombians, Nube Sandoval and Bernardo Rey of the Cenit Theater have been working for ten years directing the project "Theater as a Bridge " that, according to Sandoval's words, is the "use of theater as an instrument for rehabilitation and reconciliation. Is getting close to them, overcome the language barrier first, and then start to re-build their story, dignify it, and heal their profound wounds little by little".
During the last of the six months of teachings they receive with Sandoval and Rey, I witnessed the daily work they carry out gathered in a wooden house over a platform anchored in the Tiber river. To that place arrived Cris Mokonsi, Al Hassan, Dossou Kodjo, Lyly Kiniema, Niemo Malosa, Fabrice Phripo, Nadine Muhangra, Francisca Mok Wangika, Sylla Maimouna, Therese Gohore, Adam Zampou and Myriam Mabu, to quietly and sensible work with their bagagge full of tragedies.
In this place by the riverside donanted by Rome's Town Hall, they found a warm home, and started to move their body, hands and mind with the music derived from their songs and drums.
They did not know each other, as they came from different countries and shelters. During all that time between the theater , the music, and the elaboration of hands made in plaster in which they wrote their memories and that seemed to scream for help, they began cooking Gabriel Garcia Márquez's " The Handsomest Drowned Man In the World", in which their own stories were coming to life.
The adaptation took place in the Mediterranean, that sea of sweet name and passive look, that in recent times has become the cemetery of many of their fellow citizens. It was called Mare Monstrum, from the latin Mare Nostrum which was the name of the Mediterranean during the Roman Empire. Its actors, as in the best of days, were commited to the work.
The Premiere took place on june 26, 2014 at the Aranciera di San Sisto Theater, the "Day for Support to Victims of torture in the World" so declared by the United Nations. A special day in which this group, for the first time in a long time and in the middle of applause bid farewell with a beautiful smile. They were a family already. It was a tribute to their own stories of life.
And then, one by one, posed for me. It was a great experience!