“The Sons of Others”: A path in pictures
Marcella Rodino - 07/10/2008
It is an eight months long path that led to achieve the photo exhibit “The Sons of Others”. This project, straddling research and art, was promoted by the Fondazione Agnelli to include 11 faces of young “new Italians”, coming from Albania, Morocco, China, Romania and Peru. The sons of immigrants, the so-called second generations, will play an important role in the future of Turin, as in all of Italy’s major cities. It’s a question of numbers: today one newborn out of three has at least one foreign parent. Whenever immigrants and the host society reach integration, second generations always take the decisive step. They live in the Italian and European society, and in most cases they wish to build their future here, and imagine it will be different and better than their parents’.
They feel like Italian citizens and want to become as such, though they don’t want to repudiate or cut off their ties with their origins. A panel of the exhibit reads: “Yesterday, in Milan, a guy started laughing: ‘but where did you get that Piedmontese accent?’”. Or more: “I don’t care if my ideal girl is Italian or Chinese. But my father is obsessed”.
In a constant pursuit for stability, young people are considered immigrants even when they’re born in Italy, and have an age that doesn’t offer much. The “sons of others” have at least one asset: an exceptional yearning for action and achievement. This contagious energy can transform itself into a valuable resource for Italy. Besides, the outcome of this story is not to take for granted. And it doesn’t only depend on them. These are the reasons that led the Fondazione Giovanni Agnelli to promote a photographic research on the everyday life of the sons of immigrants in Turin, which wrapped up with an exhibition from 4 August to 21 September in the heart of Turin, in the open space of the most central square of this town, piazza San Carlo.
The project, realized by Ilaria Turba, a young emergent photographer from Milan, was developed around the concept of building a mutual relationship of trust between the observer and the observed. The protagonists chose the paths and spaces that represent “their” town. “I generally work straddling art and the social – explains Ilaria Turba – with the idea of creating projects that can fasten the artistic operation and the public message. I like to work around people’s imagination, and tackle those that lack icons, symbols and try to plant a seed of doubt”.
The Fondazione Agnelli has been studying the world of migrations since several years and in 2006 it offered an important research on school and young immigrants. “The Fondazione has always been interested in immigration”, states the researcher of the Foundation Stefano Molina. In 2005 and 2006, we started a work on schools, by submitting 900 questionnaires that gave a picture of how these adolescents spend their time and live space, on their everyday life, their habits”. Initially the photo exhibit was conceived as a corollary of the research, a sort of rendering of the results to the City. But the meeting with Ilaria Turba convinced the Foundation to promote an interest and independent project: getting to know some ten youngsters and let them lead the way in a photographic course through the city as they live it.
Faces repeat themselves in the exhibit: they move in the city, to be met again. We get the impression that they carry a strong personal history with them. “It’s not a lyrical story because there’s no need to enter their private life, but to strongly communicate an image, a sign, something strong”. “I chose youngsters that are very different one from the other, – resumes Ilaria Turba – selected through the Office of Foreign Minors of the Town of Turin, rather than through associations that mind some cultures of origin. I met some of them on the streets, by walking around town”.
The first step was to explain the project to them. Some of them accepted just to appear in public, to be there. For others the passion for the project was stronger. “The idea was to project some individualities, presented as such – recounts Turba – within the urban life. The persons were “selected” in a different way and together, we followed a path through the city. We chose the places together. At the end they produced a real map exposed in the exhibit, a sort of legend of what the work was like”.
By looking at it, we perceive how this occurrence is widespread. The locations, the most conventional corners of the town, the most classical ones, but also the streets of their neighbourhood, the house where they live, the park where they meet with their friends or the clubs they go to at night. “Some of their poses communicate the way they live the city physically, explains the photographer. Other images include them as smaller figures. In these case the image seems to represent the landscape, it’s something that anyone can see from a car window or by crossing a square, and in the middle there’s a young man who can be of foreign origin, or a second generation citizen.
Among the pictures exposed, some suggestive panels appear, with a compilation of significant quotes of the protagonists and a set of data, writings drawn from literature to provide non didactic information to the viewer. Just to turn some lights on. “The entire operation is not didactic – concludes Ilaria Turba – it’s a very strong suggestion, a very open message which should be welcomed”.
Translated from Italian by Nada Ghorayeb
This article is part of the lengthy project “Meeting the Other” led by Babelmed and financed by the European Commission. To read more articles or contents linked to intercultural issues please visit: www.babelmedfestival.net