Chez MOI (ongoing project)
June 2016 / ongoing
The housing occupation of Ex Moi, in Turin, began between the end of March and the beginning of April 2013 in the buildings of the Olympic Village that hosted the athletes during the 2006 Winter Games and were subsequently left unused. Today, Ex Moi is home to approximately 1,400 refugees from 28 different African countries. Many of them fled Libya when the civil war broke out in 2011. When the Italian government abruptly discontinued the Piano Emergenza Nord Africa (the Emergency North Africa programme which had been set up to manage the increasing number of migrants arriving in Italy by sea), these people found themselves on the streets, with no prospect for the future and no chance of leaving the country.
Since then, the Ex Moi community has managed to create the conditions for living in dignity. The residents have set up makeshift kitchens where everyone is welcome to eat. There are several small stores, a barber-shop, a bike repair shop, a tailor shop, a gym, a small legal office, a medical advice centre, an informal school and a job centre. But the buildings are equipped only with electricity and cold water, each resident has a mattress and little more. Ex Moi is a city within a city, a place where life is based on self-subsistence and mutual help, a purgatory where people live pursuing a job and a legal regularization that is often difficult to obtain.
I got to Ex Moi as a photographer and, after a while, I became a member of the “Comitato Solidarietà Rifugiati e Migranti”, a group of volunteers supporting the occupation. In over a year, my way of experiencing this place has changed much. It has become waiting patiently for something to be said, for something to be seen. Or simply passing time doing nothing, wandering about the occupied buildings and chatting with the residents. For most of the time I spend in this new home, my ears and lungs fill up with stories. With long life stories. And they are nearly all messy, tragic, human, broken, often endlessly sad. There is a greatness, an immense prayer, in each and every word I have listened to so far. A determination that is beyond my comprehension. Death, struggle for survival, unlimited capacity to endure an exhausting wait. For the first time in my life, in this crumbling, forgotten city, I have personally met the protagonists of all the words I have read and of all the images I have seen so far regarding migrants. When I close my eyes, standing there in the central yard, I do not feel bewilderment nor fear. Rather, an overwhelming longing for normality.