From the 3 to the 19th of April 2017 Transit Tales viaja a París.
It is 2 o’clock in the afternoon of Monday, April 10. We started the second week of the workshop that Severine Sajous started a few days ago with a group of 15 women who voluntarily signed up for the photography workshop organized at the Asylum Center of Paris in Ivry-sur-Seine.
I join today and the rest will be added during the week. We are in a classroom, in one of the modules next to the medical center. They arrive, we greet each other with laughter and affection; They are finding their place to sit. Among the various din a3 with printed photos that we bring, they look for theirs, which each one has been taking and sending to Severine by mail or whatsapp. It’s a relaxed moment, we all have work to do: cut, paste, download the photos on the computer, draw, write … They fill the logbook, their personal album. Tool that helps us to energize the workshop and that they will stay once finished.
Avsema is telling us something in Oromo, his tongue, to Helen and Brani, all three from Eritrea. I ask Brani if she can translate it for us. She says that “On one of the Libyan roads – the section through which they have to pass on their way to Europe – they were stopped by a group of men from the Daesh (she specifies that they are the ones who cut heads).
She, although a Christian, wore the hijab to go unnoticed in Muslim territory. One of the members of the Islamic group asked her if she was Muslim and she said yes and then asked her to uncover her head. She did it and he told her she was very pretty. Then he asked if he had the Koran hidden in his chest and she said yes. It was not the Koran, it was the Bible and a Muslim woman would never have discovered her head in front of a man. “That was the story Avsema told about the mistake she had made.
I asked her what happened next and she told me that they asked for money and she had to ask her family to follow her road to Europe.
It’s 6 in the afternoon and some have already left. Others stay until the end, we clear the table and we leave. We greet each other effusively, every day a little more.
Upon leaving we found Fev and Sabah sitting in a corner next to the office building. They have not come to the workshop and we asked them why. Fev’s look says it all. There is anger, fear, impotence. But also gratitude to us for the simple fact of asking and worrying about her. He tells us that they have been denied permission to claim asylum in France. The days following this conversation they pick up the works with more enthusiasm.
The next day we go to Paris to see an exhibition; La Quatrieme image. We are very lucky to meet Raed, director of the festival, who also explains how it came about and what the theme of this edition is. He is also a photographer, he is from Palestine, he has been in France for many years and recently he has been given a residence permit.
Dina asks her many questions and later shares with us her desire to become a photographer.
Dina’s logbook We are filling the personal logbooks with stories, photos and colors until the last day, when reinforcements arrive: Julie Brun together with Severine are part of the collective Jungleye, created in Calais in October 2015 and knows very well how to integrate in a group quickly. On Friday we decided to hold a party open to the 600 people who are currently in the center. Not all will come but Severine, Julie and I will be at the tables to continue working on the logbooks and making collages with whoever is encouraged.
Sabah, also from Eritrea, has dressed up for the occasion and is also the one who brings the atmosphere to life with his music from East Africa (according to Fev).
The last reinforcements have also arrived: Ben and Julie, from Oiseaux Sans Tête, a multidisciplinary organization from Brussels and partners of the Transit Tales project together with Jungleye, Eyfa and CFD.
OST proposes to create a Studio, in which a green background is played in front of one another and at the same time they decide ‘where they would like to be’. With some post-production in less than ten minutes they will have a copy of that photo in the desired place.
The party ends with success and excitement. We go and they do not let us go. The children who have been accompanying us all day follow us with the car in motion. The workshop in Ivry-sur-Seine is finished, but the participants will also be part of the action that we will carry out in the Place de la Nation with all the guests coming from different parts of Europe.