A photo montage of the Mediterranean Sea and map, where hundreds of migrants have gone missing already in 2022 | Photo: Mothers' Words project
A photo montage of the Mediterranean Sea and map, where hundreds of migrants have gone missing already in 2022 | Photo: Mothers' Words project

Tunisian mothers whose children went missing when trying to cross the Mediterranean will gather on June 18 to tell their stories, as part of the Migrant Stories project by the Italian poet Laura Fusco.

The International itinerant poetry project, Migrant Stories, created by the Italian poet Laura Fusco, is preparing for a performance. On June 18, at 6 PM on Kelibia beach in Tunisia, an all-female peformance will read out "Mother's Words," the stories of women whose children went missing in the Mediterranean, in order to create a symbolic bridge of verses, sounds, and testimonies between the Tunisian and Italian coasts.

Some of the performance will take place on land, and some from the other side of the sea, on the beach at Kelibia, a Phoenician port across the sea from the Italian island of Pantelleria.

Focus on poetry and the voices of mothers whose children went missing

The protagonists of this Italian-Tunisian performance will be the voices of Jalila, Samia, Awatef and Hajer Ore, mixed with a sound installation designed to travel across the Mediterranean in French and Arabic.

The mothers themselves, will meet on the beach to listen together to the sound installation from which the title of the project derives and, like in an ancient Greek chorus, will tell their stories and read in French some verses from the "Canto dell'Esilio" (Song of the Exile), a poem from the Limbo di Fusco collection that the poet dedicated to the tragedy of Senegalese mothers that rebel against the departure of their children.

Stories and music

The mixture of stories and voices of women recorded live - put to music and mixed by the musician Marazzi - are intertwined with and placed over the sounds of waves. The project is intended to bring together mothers from different countries, all trying to rewrite history and resist the pain and tragedy of exile, and the death of those who left, as well as those who loved them and who are still alive.

The collaboration of Tunisian mothers was made possible thanks to Patrizia Peinetti and Carovane Migranti (Migrant Caravans), which acted as a mediator and took care of the contacts between them, their participation, and the event on the Tunisian side.

For a long time, said Peinetti, "we have been working with associations of Tunisian mothers whose children went missing in an attempt to get to Europe. We went in a caravan to meet with them in Tunisia and to collect their stories. We put them in contact with Central American mothers who lost their children in their journeys towards the US. And starting this year, we have formed a self-help group to alleviate their pain, transforming it into resistance and a denunciation against the silence of states and society, and to re-write history. We are also building an Italian-Tunisian network for support of both a legal and psychological nature for the families."

Giving voice to human rights

The poet and film director Fusco thinks that finding ways to rewrite history is important. Fusco has been called "one of the most visionary and original voices of oral poetry in Italy" and has been translated in the US and Canada.

Long convinced of the power of words and sensitive to the issues of women and mothers, she has build upon her first project in this Migrant Stories series, "Words 4 a World," with this new phase in an attempt to give a voice to the mothers' tragedy and to draw attention to what is going on in the Mediterranean.

In the past, Fusco has worked with human rights organizations like Amnesty International and the Italian anti-mafia association Libera. She has also focused heavily on international intiatives fighting for womens' rights and those who are victims of conflict and violence. Environmental causes are also close to her heart.

Fusco sees her work as giving migrant women a voice. "I wanted to get poems out of protected spaces in which one normally reads or listens to them, and make them echo in the places and conditions of those who went missing in that sea [the Mediterranean], or who lost loved ones," explains Fusco.

This project, thinks the poet, "speaks of women's determination to transform pain and to resist, and that in itself becomes a symbol of life."


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