M y name is Deka, I am 22 years old and I am a black and Muslim young woman, so I expect I will not have an easy life. I know I will have to fight, but this only means that every victory will taste sweeter. Being a Muslim makes me richer. I am not the ‘typical Muslim woman’ one might expect. I study photography and I am very keen on video making, so I would like to start a project on the Somali diaspora. My two identities are difficult to reconcile, and I occasionally feel stuck between two different cultures. Somali education has enriched me, but traveling to Somalia is still a dream. Kids who are now in their 20s have no idea of what Somalia used to be in the 1970s and 1980s. My father told me all I know about it—he told me of his student years, he described his life in the college dorm and he told me Somalia used to be a very open country.
Deka Mohamed Osman - Somalia
I was born in Kano, in northern Nigeria, though my family comes from the south of the country. I speak English, Italian, Arabic, Hausa, Yoruba, and Urdu. After I turned 18 I left Nigeria for Italy, and I have now been living in Bologna for 20 years. I would not change for any other city in the world. I arrived in Bologna because some of my relatives lived here, but I really think what brought me here was fate—nothing happens by chance. My grandfather had four wives and had 20 children by them. My three children instead were born in Italy and grew here, but later moved to the U.K. That was their fate—moving is part of our family’s history. In Bologna we created an association named El Ihsan, ‘The Lighthouse,’ that has 60 members. Our association became a contractor of the Bologna municipal administration, so our members are now working in maintenance jobs such as clearing and restoring former squats, pruning trees, and collecting waste.
Abdulrahman Nasiru Ajani - Nigeria
M y name is Ayoub Moussaid, I am 29 years old and I have been living in Italy since 2003. Here I work and I am engaged in volunteer activities with an informal group called Cuneo Città Aperta [‘Cuneo, Open City’] and another called Arte Migrante [‘Migrant Art’]. Though I studied to become a surveyor, I hold a blue-collar job with a Cuneo company. I come from Morocco and my integration into Italian society had its ups and downs. However, lately I have become actively involved in issues concerning refugees and in particular their integration and discrimination. For the past 10 years I have also been involved in theatre. I have participated in a number of performances with drama groups and with some of my friends, and I conduct a theater workshop that the local parish church runs for junior high school students. These kids are coming from a number of different countries and they know how to fight for their goals. They are just fantastic.
Ayoub Moussaid - Marocco
I am 27, I am of Tunisian origins and I was born in Mazara del Vallo, Sicily. When I got married after courting this Italian girl for 10 years, we each decided to keep our culture and faith, so we had our daughter Martina christened and our son Gabriel Hassen circumcised in a sort of Arab baptism. We were married in church but with an interfaith ritual. Next to our bed we keep the Qur’an on one side and the Virgin with Child on the other. I am self-employed and have owned a transportation company for 9 years, whereas my wife owns a bakery.
Jihed Bouchnak - Tunisia