A photo essay by Silvia Orri

Lampedusa’s remarkably small dimensions contrast sharply with its wide range of situations, beliefs, social and economic dynamics, challenges and assets. The different facets of Lampedusa struggle to engage directly, often avoiding eye contact and refraining from meaningful conversation or attempts at mutual understanding.

In Lampedusa, it is essential to look for unconventional paths, beyond the typical narratives and slogans. While exploring the island, you are likely to come across ‘PortoM’, an initiative conceived and carried out by the ‘Askavusa’ association. Its subtitle is: “Engaging in political memory within the community. Presenting objects of migrants”. Some of the association’s missions are aimed at exposing obfuscation, revealing truth, dismantling pretence, evading justification and admitting responsibility.

Askavusa has chosen to display a curated collection of objects that once belonged to migrants, many of which were salvaged from the island’s former landfill site. These objects are no longer mere waste, but serve as historical artefacts and poignant testimonies. This exhibition is a powerful antidote to forgetfulness, cultivating a sombre yet essential form of remembrance. By presenting this tangible and human reality, the Association forces us to confront our own feelings of inadequacy and privilege.

What other treasures does Lampedusa hide among its transformed landscapes and rejuvenated objects? What remains hidden from the traditional tourist brochures? The cemetery, an important place. It deserves to be explored, to be visited and to be contemplated. The cemetery of Lampedusa is the final resting place of the anonymous victims of drowning, people whose hopes, expectations and points of view should ideally be inherited by their successors. From the waters of Lampedusa come questions, uncertainties and riddles. Let’s bring them to the surface, let’s not suppress them and, above all, let’s analyse the reactions both within and without.

Amidst the changed landscapes and revitalised artefacts, what other hidden treasures does Lampedusa hold that don’t make it into the typical tourist guides? The cemetery is a solemn testimony. It deserves to be explored, visited and contemplated. In the cemetery of Lampedusa rest the anonymous souls lost at sea, whose dreams, aspirations and visions, we hope, will be carried on by future generations. From the depths of Lampedusa’s waters emerge questions, uncertainties and complexities. We should bring them to the fore, we should not suppress them and, most importantly, we should scrutinise the answers to them both inside and outside of ourselves.

Photos were taken in Lampedusa in August 2023