Rather than inside the Museum, it was decided to set up the video installation in a container next to the building. The exhibit uses a highly immersive sound and image experience to bring the visitor into the drama of migrant people’s journey on the Mediterranean sea routes. The container visit takes place at the end of Emigration museum experience to mark the continuity between the migratory flows of our countrymen and those of the peoples of today and tomorrow who will continue to move towards new frontiers.
The 8 sections in the eight-minute MARE MADRE video installation.
We began our timeline at 8 August 1991 when the merchant ship Vlora arrived at Bari from the harbour of Durazzo, packed with about twenty thousand refugees from Albania. It was the largest ever landing of refugees in Italy.
Often, to reach the sea and the hope of a better life away from war and poverty, migrants must pass through the desert – yet another barrier. Travelling inside containers or on makeshift vehicles in appalling, cramped conditions, without water and in extreme weather conditions, the struggle for survival at times ends in death among the dunes.
Detention camps in Libya
And when the sea seems near, the journey comes to a halt. Migrants find themselves the victims of criminal networks of smugglers, intermediaries and corrupt police who buy and sell their human cargo as slaves. Tip-offs to the police often means their journey ends in arrest and imprisonment in Libyan prisons, where people are routinely subjected to violence and abuse, given the absence of any real control by the international organisations. The only way out of these places is through cash payment. Numerous accounts testify to the violence meted out in the camps
The sea is the part of the migrants' journey most familiar to us. The crossing is often done on makeshift vessels with few supplies and inadequate drinking water. This final leg of the journey is fraught with risk: the boats, overloaded with their human cargo, float adrift and often simply sink. The more fortunate ones are intercepted by the Coast Guard, which comes to their aid and escorts them to the nearest port.
The arrival of the disembarked migrants becomes a media event as the camera crews and press descend upon the port area.
Identification and expulsion
For many migrants the journey comes to a halt yet again. The alienation of empty time marks the monotonous wait in the Identification and Expulsion Centres. The uncertainty of the future and the precariousness of the conditions in the centre make for a long, slow passage of time while the cogs of bureaucratic machinery eventually decides the fate of each person.
Work and life in Italy
Once in Italy, the problem of finding work often means submitting to the networks organisations intent on exploiting farm workers. Migrants forced to work twelve hours a day for a few euros and without any protection of human rights live in degrading conditions on the edges of the crop fields.
Testimony and remembrance
Eye-witness accounts of those who have experienced this journey offer an opportunity to illuminate the complex and multiple reasons that push people to abandon their homeland. But they also offer a chance to recount and remember the ordeal of a journey that, undertaken in the name of hope for a better life, denies and tramples on human dignity.
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