Matera 2019

Wuyeh and Savane are both tailors. Wuyeh is a young Gambian boy who arrived in Italy when he was a child, after moving from place to place for two years. Savane, instead, had to escape from the Ivory Coast because he made suits for an important politician and at the outbreak of the war, his name was on the list of the people to be persecuted. Trèsor was enrolled in the faculty of architecture and managed a building company in the Congo that employed 20 citizens. He left his country with his children and his wife who died at sea during their journey. Tessy is a Senegalese single mother and Mohammad is a Pakistani boy who escaped from the Taliban, who wanted to kill him because he was involved in rescue activities during big disasters on behalf of an NGO.

These are just a few stories that the Silent Academy tells through everyone’s skills and abilities within a project relying on the values of equality, integration and contamination among different cultures. Nowadays, immigration is one of the key issues in National and European debates whilst elsewhere walls are being built and bridges are being destroyed. Matera 2019 and Il Sicomoro,  which is a social cooperative set up in 2002 to give voice to “Silent people”, respond with a message of inclusion starting from the awareness that talents are everywhere in the world.

Matera 2019 Silent Academy enhances the migrants’ artisan skills within hosting communities. It has set up a school of craft skills to foster the acknowledgement of professions of those people who escape from war and famine as well as to acknowledge the professional experiences acquired in their countries of origin, which they skillfully use within their new homes.

The workshops are held by a migrant teacher and a local expert, who together with participants gather skills and traditions to make products with a new identity. Savane and Wuyeh are the tailors of the sewing workshops, Trèsor will be one of the experts in decoration and plastic design, Mohammad  works Matera’s tufa stone and Tessy has participated in a fashion parade along the streets of the city. She wore a golden dress made with the fabric of an isothermal blanket, which is the same type of blanket that migrants put on when they arrive ashore. This golden dress was made by the Ivorian tailor Ibrahim and the artist BR1 from Turin.

Following a co-creation and capacity building process, the Silent Academy made its debut from last June to July. It organized 20 days of public art and social craftmasnhip during which collective works were made together with foreigners and local people coming from different towns of Basilicata: Rionero in Vulture, Nova Siri, San Chirico Raparo and Matera. It was a journey through the places, the histories of the towns and the people living in them, regardless of their skin colour.

In 2019 a long series of workshops opened to all the holders of the Matera 2019 Passport and involved 230 temporary citizens. On 20 March the first performance titled Sotto lo stesso manto (Under the Same Cloak) will be staged. The clothes made by the fashion designer Eloi Sessou will be worn for a collective performance curated by Mariano Bauduin, which takes inspiration from an ancient icon of the town of Matera, “la Madonna del Terzo Settore”.

A modern “symphonic poem” specially composed by Bauduin and performed by the wind Orchestra from Grottole and by "Corale per San Giovanni" from Naples will celebrate diversity searching its harmony, from the “tamurriata” (translator’s note:the dance on the drum, typical folk dance of Campania) for the Virgin Mary, to a revised orchestration of “Missa Luba”, created in Afro-American form.

This event is inspired by a big seventeenth-century painting (la Madonna del Gonfalone) which hangs at the back of the church. The painting depicts the Virgin Mary wearing a special cloak, who is the Matera icon belonging to the fraternity which bear the same name. This painting shows the brothers on one side and on the other the “entrusted” -  the poor and the forgotten. They are all under the same cloak and the fraternity helps and “entrusts” them to the “Mother”.

An installation evoking the scenic action will be set up in the Church of Santa Maria of Costantinople, within the complex of the Museo Diocesano (Diocesan Museum), where it will be possible to admire the original painting the event took inspiration from until 24 March.

This event will start the restoration of the big painting of "Madonna del Gonfalone", which will be funded by the social cooperative Il Sicomoro.

Information about the project, the events organised by Silent Academy and the ways you can participate in the next workshops are available on both the Matera 2019 website and on the Il Sicomoro website in the project-related sections.

Silent Academy tries to tell a different story about immigration -  a new story made up of opportunities rather than resentment, of humanity rather than divisions. Culture belongs to everybody. This is what Silent Academy wants to tell us.