Many young men and women escape the African Continent in the hopes of finding a better life somewhere else. Many of them end up in Italy; oblivious of the fact that racism continues to be an issue in this European country.
Italians are not the least bit ashamed of demanding publicly that the Africans be sent back to their countries, they believe they have a right to reject other human beings based on trite issues such as skin color.
Two young Gambians, Fata and Yankuba, left their country expecting life to get easier, but instead ended up being the victims of abuse and open racism powerful enough to paralyze the immigration system. Across Europe, about 900,000 asylum seekers are waiting for documents. In Italy, they are held in privately run centers that are funded by the government of Italy and the European Union. The way the centers are run has left the system vulnerable to corruption and exploitation. At these reception centers, the average waiting period is around five years. During that time they are unable to work legally while the owners of the ‘camps’ make millions of euros per year.
Yankuba describes the waiting period as being like a floating bubble– anyone can pinch you and you burst. He was a biochemistry student who fled his country for fear of being arrested. Ironically he lives in a sort of prison because his life is at a standstill.
There’s not much to do while at the ‘camps’; it’s mostly about sleeping and eating. So music becomes a way of escape or a pastime for many of them, as a way to free their minds.
Teranga has become the place and space for these men to heal their collective trauma. Many of them went through unimaginable hardship and abuse. It’s not a normal bar where people just go to hang out, this is literally the place where they process the painful memories of loss that they endured.
The word Teranga means hospitality, respect, and generosity in Wolof.