Arte Migrante Como – Wandering Art Como


“Arte Migrante è un progetto nato a Bologna qualche anno fa e già esportato con successo a Modena, Torino, Palermo e Reggio.
La nostra proposta è molto semplice: passare una serata in compagnia delle persone che vivono nella nostra stessa città, ma che solitamente ignoriamo.
Appoggiandosi alla fitta rete di associazioni presente a Como, dai volontari di Legami, la Caritas, le mense dei poveri, centri diurni e i dormitori, sono stati coinvolti numerosi senzatetto e migranti di diversi paesi.
Siamo convinti infatti che “puoi diventare amico di una persona solo sedendoti a terra e cominciando a parlarle” come recita un proverbio Malawi.
Durante queste serate, dopo una cena comune, ognuno è libero di condividere qualcosa di sé, una storia, una canzone, una riflessione, una danza.
Questo avviene in un clima di uguaglianza dove non c’è un volontario che aiuta qualcun altro, ma solo persone che vogliono conoscersi e creare relazioni di reciprocità.
In una società dove spesso prevalgono spesso la diffidenza e l’egoismo, creare rapporti di amicizia con chi ci è prossimo e diverso è forse l’unica strada per poter credere davvero nell’integrazione.”

“Art Migrante is a project born in Bologna a few years ago and already successfully exported in Modena, Turin, Palermo and Reggio.
Our proposal is very simple: spend an evening in the company of people who live in the same city, but who we usually ignore.
Leaning to the dense network of associations present in Como, by the Legami volunteers, Caritas, the soup kitchens, day care centers and dormitories, many homeless people and migrants from different countries have been involved.
We are convinced that “you can become a friend of a person just by sitting down and starting to talk” as goes the Malawi proverb.
During these evenings, after a communal dinner, everyone is free to share something about themselves, a story, a song, a reflection, a dance.
This takes place in an atmosphere of equality where there is not only a volunteer who helps someone else, but people who want to meet and create relationships of reciprocity.
In a society where very often distrust and selfishness prevails, creating friendships with those who are near and different is perhaps the only way to really be able to really believe in integration.”


Take a look at the website link below to get an idea about Arte Migrante. It is in Italian, but the idea is clear through the use of video and the explanation above.


Let me tell you about how I came across Arte Migrante in Como.

One evening, I was bored and decided to browse the local events here in Como, Italy. I took some time to go through the typical bar nights, art exhibitions, and performances. As I was just coming to the conclusion that there was nothing happening at all in this sleepy town, something caught my eye. Serata di arte migrante. Translated by Google this came out as migrant art evening. I thought this seemed interesting even though the translation wasn’t really helpful in explaining what it was all about. My Italian is good, but I still didn’t fully understand what they did in these evenings. So I decided to attend, taking with me my art: the didgeridoo I had played for over 25 years. An instrument you don’t see every day in Italy and even less in Como. I hoped they would appreciate it. I was quite nervous about the idea of playing in front of people, but decided to confront my fears.

I walked into the room and immediately felt this wonderful atmosphere. People talking excitedly, others sitting nervously and chatting in their native language, and some organisers it seemed who were setting up a food area. I headed over to them and greeted them.

A young guy introduced himself and thanked me for coming, remarking on the large black bag I was carrying with curiosity. I explained what it was and immediately I saw his fascination. I felt much more relaxed at this stage and as I answered his questions, I felt a greater sense of acceptance and value for my participation.

The evening began with a song that was traditional for the evening, which a large number knew the words to, while others looked on nervously, including myself. After the song the organiser I saw at the beginning explained the idea and pointed to a board where there were some names. I saw my name up there and soon realised that this was for people to share their art, their story, or simply dance for the group. At that moment I was called to play. I was so nervous.

Once I got through my little performance I was welcomed with an energetic applause. The appreciation I felt for sharing my art was invaluable, which I reflected with each person who took the courage to stand up and share a part of themselves, their culture, their story about how they came to be here in this town. However, what was so heart-warming was the feeling of acceptance without prejudice in the room. Everyone listened intently to what each person had to say, hanging on each word. There were people from Mali in Africa, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Romania, and Pakistan to name a few.

The evening also consisted of a ritual where each person brought something to eat or drink. This was obviously a sensitive issue as there were some cultures here who didn’t eat certain types of meat, and also alcohol was not introduced as it just wasn’t that type of party. The food was mostly home-made, though occasionally someone would bring a traditional cake or type of food. Someone even had the generous idea of stopping at a pizza restaurant and picking up a couple of large pizzas. It was obvious that everyone here had a heart of gold.

As the evening continued the solidarity and wonderful sense of unity increased. The traditional dancing by one Pakistani man brought a wonderful smile to everyone’s face and an energetic applause giving the dancer an ecstatic feeling of joy.

Another man told the group of his feelings on how he left his family to come here. His life in Italy started with sleeping outside for some time. Even though he had only positive words for the Italians and how he was treated on his arrival, as well as throughout the time he was sleeping outside. He thanked the Italian people for the clothes he now wore and the food he was given each day. All he wanted now is to give something back to them by finding a job here.

One thing I noticed is that almost every single person who stood up and spoke to the group said their Italian was poor. One individual mentioned that he had been here for almost a year, though his Italian was very basic. This led to me think on how it was that nobody in the community was helping them to improve their Italian. So, this brought about the idea of introducing the idea of learning a song in Italian and maybe also in English in future sessions. Some people also read poetry in English and Italian which was received well by all present.

It was time to end the evening and for some to return to their houses and others to return to the dormitory where they were staying. We all said goodbye and thanked each other for the wonderful evening. It had been a truly magical experience that everyone should attend.

The one thing I learnt from this evening was that it takes nothing to stop for a moment and spend time with the people who live in our town. This is not just the local residents, but everyone here. For they are an important part of this town. Often people are judged on their appearance, their presence in a foreign land, and their existence there. However, in this place that was all left outside. We accept each other with a smile and a nod, welcoming their presence and showing interest in who they are and where they come from.

Above all, the most significant part of this group was that without the people who participated it would be nothing. The organisers were always highly appreciative of the participation and made it clear of this fact each time they closed the event. They are all a strong influence to the community.


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Thanks for reading.

© Dominic Christopher Elliston and 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Christopher Elliston and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.