In theaters, restaurants, libraries, and repair shops across Sicily, Italy, a group of women congregate weekly to tell each other stories. The stories they all share of their cultures, traditions, and their past lives are meant to bond them together as Italian migrants.
The storytelling circle, called Tea Time Tales, is led by a group of migrant women who seek to host an intimate and joyful space for other migrants in Italy. Most of the women are former migrants and have become residents of Sicily, but refugees are often invited to speak and practice their Italian. Whilst talking over coffee and tea, everyone exchanges traditions, recipes, songs, migration experiences, and much more.
The tradition began in 2010 when Emanuela Pistone, the founder of Tea Time Tales, moved to Sicily from Rome to volunteer at migrant help centers. Hearing everyone’s story inspired her to create a space where migrants and refugees were able to share their stories in a safe, non judgemental environment. Tea Time Tales was her way of welcoming migrants into the community and aid in their integration by simply sitting beside them and having a cup of tea.
The goal of Tea Time Tales is to “show the two faces of migration, both in times of crisis and as a natural, human phenomenon common throughout centuries.”
Italy is currently in the midst of a migrant crisis. Since 2013, the country has received an estimated 690,000 immigrants. When a new government was elected in 2018, severe protocols were enacted in order to discourage foreign migration into Italy. The leader of this government, Matteo Salvini, created a cloud of insecurity for migrants and activated an anti-immigrant attitude all across Italy.
Although he was replaced by migration specialist and activist Luciana Lamorgese last month, sentiments surrounding migrants and asylum-seekers remain negative among native Italians. This is especially evident in the country’s high rate of race-based violence, which faced an increase in the turn of 2018.
Migrants across Italy have started walking tours to highlight the contributions made by migrants in various Italian cities. The tours take tourists through migrant communities and neighborhoods to demonstrate that migrants are locals too, in spite of stereotypes and biases. Their goal is to challenge and diminish the “us versus them” narrative that has existed for years in the country.