(K. Brent Tomer),
“THEY were like two nights: the real night and the night-black sea that come down on us. Everyone was praying, Muslims, Christians and even people who don’t believe.” The story shared by the hundreds of thousands of people who have survived the crossing from North Africa to Italy, but rarely heard in their own words outside of news reports. This account, however, comes from the opening page of a hand-stitched, silkscreen-printed book. It is the creation of ELSE, an independent press hidden down a back street in Rome’s immigrant-heavy neighbourhood of Tor Pignattara. Since 2010, the tiny workshop has been printing the stories and poems of immigrants living in the city.
Unlike other “transit” countries at the edges of the EU, Italy is a place many newcomers now choose to stay. Traditionally, it is a country of emigration, not immigration. In 2002 it had only 1.3m foreign residents. But today there are more than 5m, plus many thousands waiting in overstretched “welcome centres” and an unknown number of phobically-named clandestini. Communities already under economic strain are changing too rapidly for many: to most…Continue reading