l’oro in bocca (gold in the mouth)

Performative installation, curated by Pietro Gaglianò within “I cercatori d’oro” site-specific residency and workshop, for the Tuscany region project “Toscanaincontemporanea” 2017 [ in collaboration with CapoTrave-Kilowatt, Anghiari Dance Hub, Monterchi Council (AR)], Italy

This art piece was conceived within the pedagogical project “The Gold Seekers” (i cercatori d’oro); a week long residency and workshop focused on relational art for 4 under-35 artists based in Tuscany. I guided the workshop and the project with the goal of having all of us producing a relational art piece by the end of the week. Our focus was the little medieval village that welcomed us, Monterchi. My aim was to offer the inhabitants an attempt to see themselves through a different perspective from what is written in touristic travel guides. My intent was looking for the hidden gold, made of relationships and unseen dynamics that constitute the social fabric of a town. After a whole week of investigation of the place, centred around interviewing as many inhabitants possible, I identified a “black hole”. All the villagers I talked to mentioned many different issues, in terms of generational differences, political fights, historical disagreements, as well as a long list of proud habits and famous cultural heritage. But no one mentioned the existence of 7 asylum seekers, coming from different areas of Africa and based in the village. Only after asking, I understood that their presence was not really welcomed or wanted.

After meeting with the asylum seekers I became friends with Harouna, from Mali. We spent time talking about our lives and I realized that he was missing the most relevant social ritual based on his culture: making tea the traditional way, as it’s done in the Sahara desert. The teapot and the glasses were too expensive for him, he has a lot of problems in finding a job because no one trusts people in his condition. I asked him if, upon finding what we needed, he could teach me that ritual and he accepted. I then realized that my art piece was there, in front of my eyes. I offered him the (payed)job of making tea his way the whole afternoon, for one inhabitant at a time and me. I occupied an abandoned house, I put blankets on the floor, I found everything needed for a tea in the desert and I allowed each visitor, for 10 minutes only, to enjoy and discover the hidden gold in their village; a different culture and a ritual made to welcome the diverse and face their own mistrust. The place was in complete darkness and Harouna was switching the light on every time a new visitor passed that doorframe.

credits: Harouna Samake, Ariele Savini,
Silvia Mencaroni
Matteo Coluccia, Marco Mercati
photography: Elisa Nocentini