The bridge of Via Libia gets us closer. Cantieri Meticci tells its story, from past to future.
The bridge of Via Libia [Libya street] is a few hundred meters from the Tange towers, the legislative and administrative headquarter of the Emilia-Romagna Region, and from the Fiera exhibition centre, the commercial heart of the city – this is an area of transit towards orbital road, motorway, shopping malls, just a step away from the university area and from the center of Bologna. The bridge of Via Libia runs along the eastern edge of the so-called ‘Cirenaica’ [Cyrenaica], a district that is rich in History and stories: much of its urban fabric was built in the Twenties, in the past century, when Italy launched its ruinous colonial adventure. At the Cirenaica, places’ names once echoed the exotic names of the cities conquered by Italy on the other side of the sea: Via Tripoli, Via Bengasi, Via Zuara. At the end of WWII, in order to forget the fascist colonial legacy, the streets of this neighbourhood changed their face, so their names. They were named after patriots and heros who died for the liberation of Bologna: Paolo Fabbri, Giuseppe Bentivogli, Massenzio Masia, to mention some of them. Only ‘Via Libia’ has remained as it was, as something that, suppressed, nevertheless comes back from afar.
When we asked Abraham to show us an important place from his personal map of the city, he had no doubts: "The bridge of Via Libia", answered; "Actually, under the bridge of Via Libia". Abraham comes from Eritrea, the name of a country that reminds us another Italian colonial adventure to be forgotten. He arrived in Lampedusa about five years ago, at the end of a long and difficult journey. In order to escape the permanent compulsory military service existing in his country, he illegally crossed the border, reaching South Sudan, and from there he kept moving – he crossed the desert, ended up in the Libyan prisons, and made a not easy crossing of the Mediterranean Sea.
Once Abraham arrived in Bologna, he kept fighting for the freedom of his people. After obtaining the refugee status, Abraham started supporting the migrants who keep coming to Bologna every year. The bridge of Via Libia is a symbolic place for him. "Many people arrived here, especially boys, even very young boys, and we did not know how to give them some shelter from the cold weather”, he tells us. "Many of them had spent months in Libya. They were used to hide while waiting for an opportunity to leave the country. The space available under the bridge of Via Libia represented a safe place for them, where they could sleep, take refuge, and organise themselves in a small informal community". At the beginning, this was a type of shelter for migrants. Nowadays, the space under the bridge of Via Libia has become a place for active and bottom-up solidarity thanks to the voluntary work of many old and new citizens.
Abraham Tesfai has been a member of Cantieri Meticci since 2015. As an actor, he participated in “Gli Acrobati” [The Acrobats] and “L’arte della fuga” [The Art of Escape]. He actively collaborates in the “Quartieri Teatrali” [Theatrical Neighbourhoods] project, which develops artistic workshops across the various neighbourhoods of the city of Bologna.
Interview, video and pictures – Alessia Del Bianco