by Mark Babatunde, at 09:08 am, June 06, 2017, World

In Italy, Theater Becomes Refuge for these Young African Migrants

A group of young African migrants in Italy have found a way to engage with their new community using theatre.

Talented young African migrants now resettled in the village of San Chirico Raparo, a poor isolated town up in the Basilicata mountain range, are using performance theatre to connect with the town’s people. The National writes that one of their presentations is a version of the classic Greek tale, Jason and the Argonauts, which chronicles the adventures of a band of heroes and their leader Jason who travel the seas in a ship called the Argo on a quest for the golden fleece.

The stage productions are managed by Teatro delle Albe, an Italian theatre company. Alessandro Argnani and Emanuele Valenti, directors at Teatro delle Albe tell the National that the ancient sea voyages of the Argonauts in many ways closely mirrors the perilous journeys the migrants undertook to reach Italy’s shores.

Fueled by a mix of poverty, lack of opportunities and civil strife, many young Africans continue to flee their own country, and flock into Europe, many of them with dreams of starting a new life.

According to the United Nations refugee agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in 2016 alone more than 3,000 migrants were either confirmed dead or missing in their efforts to cross the Mediterranean into Europe often by boat, rubber dinghies and other small overcrowded vessels.

Many of the migrants say theatre has provided them with an opportunity to bond with young Italians and express their artistic side in a new environment. And for Ali, a 19-year-old immigrant from the Gambia, theatre has given him a voice while also serving as a form of therapy.

“Theatre is an instrument I can use to get rid of the bad feelings in my head, the bad memories; I want to see theatre not just in Italy but back home in Gambia,” he says.

Ali arrived Italy in 2015 from his native Gambia after trekking the Sahara to get to Libya. He then crossed the Mediterranean in a boat to reach Italy. In the course of the journey, his brother died at sea, and then months later, word reached him that his mother had died in the Republic of Niger.

Papis Baji, 18, another immigrant from the Gambia who is also resident in San Chirico Raparo said he enjoys working with his friends on the theatre production.

“In the play I am the one who drives the boat the Argonauts are on, and this reminds me of the boat journey I made; we used a boat to come here.”

In al,  there are about 30 youngsters involved in the production (both migrants and native Italians). And the project’s directors say the presentation is unique because there are no main characters and the production has also incorporated elements of African music and dance.

The theater actors are now rehearsing and getting ready for their big performance, coming up in June 2019, in Matera, the European Capital of Culture.

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