His Sculptures are inspired by what he saw during his journey crossing the sea in 2015
By Victória Brotto
from Verona (Italy)
Portuguese version (click here)
A new art appears between the imperious ruins of one of the biggest artistic capitals in the world. Rome, a city that has seen so many Michelangelo’s, Rafael’s, Picassos and Modigliani’s rising, now it makes room for another type of art; an art born in one of the bloodiest sea’s in the planet, the Mediterranean Sea.
The artist Fasasi Abeedeen Tunde, 32, a Nigerian migrant, shows his art in Rome. His Sculptures are inspired by what he saw during his journey crossing the Mediterranean Sea, in August, 2015.
“Despite my desperate journey, my art saved my life”, said Tunde in an interview to MigraMundo. The Nigerian artist uses his hands to shape clay, cement and fiberglass. And the artist with these hands –“ full of life” as he says – had to run away from his hometown Shaki, in Oyo State in the Southwest region, after his house was burned down by one of the local political groups.
Today, the Tunde’s masterpieces have been displayed in Casa della Cultura, Rome, as part of the exhibition “Pittorica Amarte Roma 2017”, run by the Roma Capitale association. Tunde arrived in Italy two years ago and only late last year did his asylum petition was accepted. Tunde is part of a select group of more than 520,000 migrants that survived the mortal journey by boat through the Mediterranean Sea. The route from North Africa to South Italy was called by United Nations “the most deadly route in the world for migrants”.
Abeedeen Tunde is graduate of Fine Art from the Polytechnic University in Ibadan, the capital of the state. He is specialized in sculpture. Fasasi states he always liked to sculpt warriors and images of their local tales, as the famous local warrior “Basorun Ogunmola”. “I did my final project in 2013 on Bosorun Ogunmola, it was the story of the one of the oldest warriors in Ibadan.” But his ‘warrior art’ came to an end in 2015, when he saw a political fraud during the general elections.
“In the year 2014/15, I completed my National Youth service Corps. During my service, it was the 2015 general election in Nigeria. We were told to conduct the election and I was posted in my city, Shaki. On the day of the election, when voting was about to end, some men from political party came around with the bus. Some holding guns and some holding cutlass. They took away the ballot box. I escaped from polling station with some documents”, he tells.
“The armed men of the politicians are still following me as they want of kill me because I hold one important document that was consigned with the election”, he says without specifying what type of documents they are. But he adds, “They knew that I had them and that is why they came and burned my house down. My parents and my bothers also needed to run away.”
So Tunde fled to Libya, where he caught a boat to Italy. His family were not with him, they ran away to another place, which, for security reasons, he doesn’t disclose. “And that is how a whole tragedy overcame my entire life. They burned down my house and all of us had to flee.”
“My art saved my life”
More than 520,000 people also had crossed in that year – according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – Fasasi went from Lybia to the South of Italy, in Messina, Sicily, crossing what the UNHCR spokesman, William Spindler, called “mortal route”. “Doubtlessly, the Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy/Greece is the most mortal route for the immigrants”, said him during a press conference in Geneve, Switzerland, last year.
According to the figures given by Spindler, in the year when Fasasi crossed the sea, 2015, 3,771 migrants died. And in the 2015/2016 period, the number of deaths and missing overcomes six thousand. In this year, according to UN’s last update, 366 people already died in the Mediterranean Sea over these three first months. This means that 122 people die monthly or four migrants die per day. “To date in 2017, an estimated 326 migrants died during their deadly journey on the Mediterranenan’s central route linking Libya to Italy”, informed the International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokesman in Rome, Flavio di Giacomo.
To MigraMundo, the Nigerian Fasasi does not give much detail about his journey to Europe, but just called it as “desperate” – but instead his sculptural masterpieces speak on his behalf. On his Facebook page, the artist shows one of his works in clay, as the sculpture of a man being rescued by a police man. In the description, Tunde writes in Italian: “Getting into a safe place after the all terror of the escape had gone.”
Fasasi is part of the majority of Nigerian people who survived in these deathly boats. According to UN and Red Cross reports, the majority of those who survived from the crossing to Italy are Nigerian (20%), Eritrean (12%) and people from Gambia and Sudan (7% each).
“Painful? Of course it is painful”, answered the artist after being asked if was not too painful to sculpt tragic scenes from his past. “But my art is stronger now”, he adds. “The flight gave me another perspective of life”, he says, after calling the escape from his country “desperate journey”. “Despite my desperate journey, my art saved my life.”
Today, the artist lives in Rome, in Casa Benvenuto’s accommodation. Casa Benvenuto is a NGO that helps refugee and asylum seekers in Rome to learn Italian and to develop their abilities. Three days a week, Fasasi Abeedeen Tunde has Italian classes and the other days he works in the NGO’s artistic studio. He is asked about what would be his sculpture for a perfect future, he says: “It would be a realistic sculpture work that signified life after war.”
Tunde said to Migramundo that he took some time to adapt in Italy. “It takes time to you to relax, to refresh your mind and be alive again.” But, as he jokes at the end of the interview, “no pain, no gain”.
Today, Italy is one of the largest refugee-receivers from North Africa, especially from Nigeria, as is the case of Mr. Abeedeen. “More people arriving in Italy are staying there. As of today, asylum claims have more than doubled in Italy, in comparison to the same period last year,” he added. Over 158,000 people are currently accommodated in reception facilities in Italy”, said the UNCHR spokesman in Geneva.
“To check out Fasasi’s work, you can access his Faceook page here: https://www.facebook.