Yakub and other stories

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Crossing the sea as if we were children. Yakub and other stories.

When we first met Yakub, we were working on "Il Violino del Titanic" [Titanic’s violin], the first production by Cantieri Meticci. The show, which was born in 2013 from a reflection about the metaphorical sinking of our world, was inspired by the poem "The wreck of Titanic" by the German philosopher Hans Magnus Enzensberger. As we felt we were all on the same boat, trying to float on an unsteady raft that, nevertheless, was inexplicably effective – as art actually is in any of its expressions, the cornerstone of "Il Violino del Titanic" was more or less beyond such a feeling. Indeed, we aimed to bring forth the idea of ​​creating something bigger and more stable [of a single play]: [what we had in mind was] an independent theatre company that was able of widespread political actions across the city of Bologna. Especially because, in those years, migration and marginalisation had increasingly become an urgent topic and they both needed effective and grassroots actions.

As a very young host of a shelter for unaccompanied minors, Yakub had just arrived in Bologna from Lampedusa when he joined the group of asylum seekers who attended theatre workshops such as “Compagnia dei Rifugiati” [the Refugee Company], one of the many projects organised by the Teatro dell'Argine association, in San Lazzaro di Savena, Bologna. Pietro Floridia, who today is Cantieri Meticci’s artistic director, had carried on and led those workshops for years. Like many others before him, Yakub joined the group when these activities had already been running for months. These workshops doors were in fact always open for newcomers, in an attempt to include all the people who wanted to participate in such activities, as Cantieri Meticci strongly believes that [finding] a network of relationships since the beginning of their stay can represent a very effective support for newcomers.


When we first met him, Yakub spoke very little Italian; nevertheless, he enthusiastically welcomed our proposal to participate in “Il Violino del Titanic", which perhaps made him recall themes and memories from his past and his journey from Mali to Italy. Initially he was involved in choral scenes; then, as his linguistic skills gradually improved, his role in the story of the famous transatlantic was strengthened, performance after performance.

In October 2014 Yakub came with us to Lampedusa, where Cantieri Meticci took part in the first edition of Sabìr, the festival about culture and citizenship in the Mediterranean region organized by Arci with the artistic direction of Ascanio Celestini. The representation of “Il Violino del Titanic" has experienced there one of its most intense moments, exactly one year after the shipwreck that caused the death of more than 380 victims, a few miles from the shore of the Italian Rabbits Island.

There, on that very shore, we asked Yakub to tell us the story of his journey towards Italy, a ‘story in the frame’, which has become the monologue that we can hear in the video-interview here.

Interview, video and pictures – Alessia Del Bianco