On 13 February the Farnesina will host the launching of the book and web documentary entitled “Italians in Belgium”. It forms part of a larger project: "Italians in Europe - European integration seen through the eyes of Italians abroad”, which tells the present and past stories of Italian communities living in key European countries.It is composed of several photography books, multimedia web documentaries and traditional reports included in the National Geographic magazine. The project stems from “Italians and the UK”, a book and web documentary published in July 2016 (www.italiansandtheuk.it).
“Italians in Belgium” is the first chapter of the new series, to be followed soon by "Italians in Germany”. At a time when the future of Europe is at a crossroads, a first-hand account of present and past stories of Italian migrants, can shed a light on the process of European integration which is still in progress. Belgium is a particularly important example, as the Italian community in the largest foreign community in the country. Unlike more recent Italian migration flows, Italians have been living in Belgium since the beginning of the past century, reaching the peaks of a mass exodus in the 50s, when in ten years more than half a million people migrated to Belgium, a country of six million inhabitants. Italian are still very numerous today. It is the overlapping of past and present that makes the history of Italians in Belgium stand out very. It follows the difficult path of empowerment, going from working in mines and factories, to holding positions in European institutions , research centres, businesses in Belgium - the crossroads of Europe. "Italians in Belgium" tells the stories of miners, trade unionists and blue-collar workers, alongside with professors from the College of Europe, diamond traders, acrobats and ghost painters. The publication tells a migration story which connects the past to the future, not only in Italy but across Europe. New immigrants, especially from Northern Africa, today reside in the very neighbourhoods where the first Italian migrants used to live. And it is the Italians who teach the lesson they learnt about integration so many years earlier.
The project has the cooperation of the Archivio Diaristico Nazionale, which holds a large collection of thousands of diaries written by Italian nationals, from the 18th century to date: a physician exploring the Belgian Congo in the year 1900; a miner who is also a boxer; a seducer and an adventurer. Tales of tragedies, as well, as a direct account of the tragedy of Marcinelle narrated by the brother of a missing miner. They are just some examples of the stories guarded in the archives, which recount the lives of "Italians in Belgium".
The project combines the traditional storytelling style with an innovative narration. The book, published by Peliti Associati, includes texts and photographs and is complemented by a web documentary. A multimedia portal explored and three different themes, namely Fragments from Italy, Migrants in the Mirror, and the Future of Europe. The history of Italians in Belgium unfolds through pictures, video clips and mini-documentaries. This storytelling style breaks through the barriers of journalism, offering a traditional web-based narrative, supported by the National Geographic media partnership.
Remarks will be made by the following speakers:Min. Plen. Luigi Maria VIGNALI, Director General of Italians Abroad and Migration Policies, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Birgit STEVENS, Minister Counsellor of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Italy. Dr. Marco CATTANEO, Director of National Geographic Italia, Lorenzo COLANTONI, author, texts and videos, Riccardo VENTURI, author, photography Moderator: Nicola MARANESI, Archivio Diaristico Nazionale