The artist should not celebrate but tell.

I tried to explain something that had to do with a forced exodus, something understandable to all peoples. For this reason, I wanted the door to be as far away as possible from the town and as close as possible to the water and, therefore, to Africa.

Mimmo Palladino

Lampedusa is the southernmost point of Italy and the southernmost point of the island, the tip of Cavallo Bianco, has always been a gateway. A long, and often dangerous, waterway leads directly to the coast of Libya. On that route, over the centuries, stories of women and men, languages and cultures, armies and pirates have passed. That road has never stopped. Since June 28, 2008, a door marks the two directions. It is the work of the Italian artist Mimmo Paladino, almost five meters high and three meters wide. It is the door to Europe, but also a window onto Africa, in an exchange of perspectives that range from the infinite sea to a small island, a safe haven between two worlds and often between two different lives.

Thanks to the covering made entirely of ceramic, the door absorbs and reflects both sunlight and moonlight, becoming a sort of lighthouse seen from the sea. For those arriving from Africa, this is the first part of the land visible after seeing only water for hours on end, often on-board barges or rubber dinghies too narrow to stand on, and too crumbling to stay alive. It becomes a sort of promise, like the vision of the Statue of Liberty in New York, for the many migrants – many of them Sicilian – who arrived in the United States in search of a new life.

The door of Lampedusa was created in memory of all the migrants whose journeys could not be fulfilled, who died and were lost at sea, of whom in some cases we information about, and in other cases not even sightings, for all their broken stories, for all the stories of parents left without children and orphaned children, of lost loves, lost hopes, broken promises and realized fears.

The door is in itself a symbol of passage, it divides a here from a there, it allows to cross and to separate. In common symbolism, opening a door is the action that begins a new chapter in one’s life, a moment of rebirth, the possibility of salvation from all that one is forced to leave behind, the hope of a better tomorrow. And always alive is the hope of going through that door again, to reconnect with one’s roots, imagining that the choice of today, tomorrow, will grant a return.

A choice dictated by courage and despair: courage to face a new country, an unknown culture, the total absence of ties with respect to the place; despair because one realizes that nobody can live in those conditions, neither for oneself, nor for the children who will arrive or have arrived.

Podcast: History of Lampedusa - 1^ episode

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