Refugees are no tourists


 Bildergalerie                       A report by Tanja Radmüller (4B Sprachengymnasium)

On Wednesday, 26th November 2014 the photographer  and four refugees from West Africa - Amadou Balde-Bori and Aliou Demba-Dia from Senegal, Ousmane Sidibé from the Ivory Coast and Djibril Diallo from Mali - came to our school to show and tell us about their photo project “Sehen und gesehen werden – Vedere ed essere visti” started in 2011 with the inhabitants of the Fischerhaus in Vintl, one of the South Tyrolean center for refugees established in connection with the programme "Emergenza Nord Africa 2011".

In this photo project the photographer Georg Hofer accompanied the refugees and inhabitants of the “Fischerhaus” (Vintl) in their exploration of South Tyrol and documented together with them in pictures and small texts their approach to and their interaction with this new different reality. Their journey of exploration through the lens of the camera is an attempt to make sense of the new environment, to enter in interaction with it and with the local people.

By doing so, they also tried to actively define their role in this new and unfamiliar world. In order to explore different aspects of South Tyrol the refugees from Vintl together with Georg Hofer visited and explored a variety of places and location: villages, towns and valleys, the Ötzi-Museum, some factories and apple co-operations…South Tyrol in winter in winter - an awesome experience!

“The first time I saw the wonderful snow, falling down from the sky, I thought a miracle happens.”

Amadou Balde-Bori and Aliou Demba-Dia from Senegal, Ousmane Sidibé from the Ivory Coast and Djibril Diallo from Mali are just some of many African people who have to flee from their home country due to war and poverty, looking for safety and new life elsewhere.

“I fled because I saw the sad truth.”

Migrants and refugees, who often have no choice, start out with little hope and don’t know what the future will hold. On a boat with hundreds of other refugees, they don’t know where they’ll end up. "On such boats the conditions are terrible: there is no food or water." our guests told us. Despite the fact that Amadou, Aliou, Ousmane and Djibril arrived safely in South Tyrol, they all claim that living in a foreign strange country where everything (the people, the culture/s, traditions, the language/s…) seems different at first the is not easy at all.

There is a second part to this exhibition – Ways to Vintl. For this part of the exhibition the photographer Georg Hofer started out in February 2013 to retrace and document the refugees' journey from their places of origin to the Fischer Haus in Vintl (South Tyrol). Thus he went to West Africa and visited some of the Fischerhaus people’s families and tried to find out more about their motives and reasons for emigrating.

As Georg Hofer underlined the objectives of the project and exhibition are to give information about and make people aware of the everyday life of a refugee and its difficulties. The photos anaccompanying texts in the exhibition are an invitation to dialogue and interaction leading on both sides. By walking through the exhibition, by looking at the photos and reading some of the texts you get to know quite a lot about the refugees.

In our discussion groups Amadou, Aliou, Ousmane and Djibril - all four reserved but very friendly - agreed to talk about their childhood, their family, their home country, the reasons for their fleeing, their journey to Italy and finally their arrival at Fischerhaus in Vintl. They also shared their impressions of South Tyrol and South Tyrolean and their problems at finding a job with us. However, for all four it was very hard to talk about their difficult past.

“Talking about my family is like thrusting a knife into my heart.”

Nadja Schuster, an expert on legal questions concerning refugees and the asylum procedures in Italy and the EU, explained some relevant legal terms such as the difference between foreigner, migrant and refugee and gave as some interesting background information and data on asylum policy and procedure in Italy and the EU.

This interesting intercultural exchange was concluded with a buffet prepared by the students - a nice gesture appreciated by guests, students and teachers alike.

The project “Sehen und Gesehen werden – Vedere ed essere visti” is a very good opportunity to get an insight into the difficult life of refugees and to make us appreciate our lives and all the things which we often take for granted and are not even aware of.