Asylum seekers painting during the Abecedario workshop | Credit: In Migrazione
Asylum seekers painting during the Abecedario workshop | Credit: In Migrazione

In the Italian language course "Abecedario" by the In Migrazione cooperative in Rome, art becomes a tool for literacy for refugees in the Italian capital.

 ROME - Jackson Pollock's action painting becomes a tool for literacy and communication for refugees in a reception centre in Rome, thanks to the course "Abecedario", organized by the cooperative In Migrazione in the Italian capital. 

As part of training activities at the centre for refugees and asylum seekers, Casa Benvenuto, games, music, dance and art are used to facilitate language learning, above all for those who are illiterate and just learning how to read and write. 

A school that becomes a community 

Abecedario began in September and will end in June 2018. Lapo Vannini, one of the course's instructors from the In Migrazione cooperative, told ANSA the course is connected to the Casa Benvenuto migrant reception centre, but other foreigners living in the area also participate. "This year, in particular, we welcomed people who needed literacy training, people who don't know how to read or write," Vannini said. 

He said Abecedario focuses on activies "that involve the whole person". "We know that refugees and asylum seekers have a different life experience and are in a period of 'suspension', where they lack their place of identity," he said. "We're trying to build a school that means community, with expressive workshops, so that language comes through working with the hands". 

Action painting for learning Italian 

The art workshop inspired by the painting techniques of American artist Jackson Pollock is part of these activities. "We always draw, but it's challenging," Vannini said. "This activity allows for free expression through color". During the workshop, the young men were divided into two groups and worked together. Italian was passed through informal communication in conversations. 

The activity "went really well; some surprised us because we thought that some didn't want to participate and instead they were taken with it". After the practical portion, the refugees learned the names of colors, while the writing portion is only at the end of the process. "Our goal is to create well-being in these people who don't have other spaces in which they can express themselves," Vannini said. 

"In teaching language, if someone isn't doing well you can tell because they don't manage to learn. Given that we work with people who have high existential discomfort, the goal of the expressive activities is to put them in the condition to say: there's something beautiful for me here, and from this can come the motivation to stay, to leave again or to rebuild one's own life path". 

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