[Translation (French-English) : EPALE France]
Author : Hélène Paumier
"Have you souvenirs which you have had to leave behind, and whose loss you regret? "
This was the question which led to the artistic project undertaken by the italian artist Rosella Piccinno. It was during a train journey in Austria, on which hundreds of refugees were on board, that the Italian artist wondered about the starting conditions of these people who were fleeing a life which had become unsustainable. In questioning refugees on the objects they had left behind, through moments of collective sharing, Rossella Piccino wanted to explore the concepts of loss, desire, nostalgia and uprooting implied by departures from their countries of origin.
The Italian artist spent several months with the participants, in order to engage them in a dialogue and build the necessary confidence to tell their story and speak of themselves, in a country which was not their own, and in a language which they had only partly mastered.
The first phase of the project has been to record the testimonials telling the story relating to the object and its importance to the refugees involved in the project. Secondly, participants undertook to reconstruct their lost objects by working with clay, using the ceramic technique which proves to be universal.
Hossein wears a collar, which represents a gift made and given to him by his wife before his departure for Europe. It was lost in the desert between Sudan and Libya. He escaped from Sudan, fleeing ethnic wars. Currently housed at CADA (Reception Centre for Asylum-Seekers) in Arras, he is waiting for a response to his request for political asylum. He has not seen his wife for three years.
Ali made a representation of a book, in remembrance of his education and the training that he feels he has lost. A student of literature at university level, on the advice of a friend he has decided to continue his studies in Iceland. When he arrived, he was forced to abandon his studies, as his bachelor’s degree was not recognised in Iceland.
Fleeing the war in Darfur, Cèdique is a refugee from Sudan. He now lives in the Reception Centre for Asylum-Seekers in Liévin. He made a dog whose feet are on the head of a cow. In Sudan, he was the owner of many animals, including cows and dogs. Cèdique here expresses the lack of his property, his land and the environment that he has been forced to abandon.
Merita, Albanian, shows a broken heart. Beaten when pregnant and then deceived by her husband, she fled her violent husband and the humiliation she was undergoing. Taking refuge with her small daughter at first with her parents, she then decided to flee Albania for fear that her husband would try to take his child away. With this heart she expresses her personal history, her loneliness and the loss of her family.
Reconstructing objects lost by exiles is a way for these people to regain their dignity. Standing up, they present their objects to each other, daring to look at one and then another. This body of work gives a humanist perception of exile.
These refugees themselves have presented their work in the exhibition. It was held in the Banque de Béthune, to highlight these stories in a symbolic place where people normally come to store their wealth. Photographs of the people involved in this project, with the reproductions of their lost objects in their hands are displayed in the vault. It is also an immersion in sound, retracing their discussions on the journey and the search for these objects.
The exhibition is still open today. The manufactured objects have been returned to their creators; those on display are the reproductions which make up the exhibition. A request for it to be disseminated may be made to the Arras Ligue de l’Enseignement.