Co-creative drawn story

Lives that (are not) ours. In Fossoli, among suitcases of objects, living books, and biographical shelters.

July: visit to the Fossoli Camp with teacher Emanuela Garimberti and preparation of the project.

From September 15th: students’ work in class with teacher Emanuela Garimberti and educator Marinella Gattei.

October 13th: the students present in class the stories of the six children who passed through the Fossoli Camp and begin the workshop ‘Co-creative Drawn Story’ on the theme of ‘Refuge,’ in collaboration with the Fossoli Foundation and the delegation from Gernika Peace Museum (Iratxe Momoitio and Idoia Orbe Narbaiza).

October 27th: guided tour to the Fossoli Camp and conclusion of the ‘Co-creative Drawn Story’ workshop with video-maker Roberto Zampa.

Date to be determined (April 2024): project presentation with the theatrical company ‘Teatro dell’Argine’.

Secondary School ‘Guido Guinizelli’, Comprehensive Institute 8 Bologna, 2nd E Class, 2023-24. Teacher: Emanuela Garimberti. Educator: Marinella Gattei.

The Co-creative Drawn Story workshop, carried out as part of the European project Rememchild in which the Fossoli Foundation is a partner, aims to recover the experiences and memories of children during European wars, particularly in World War II and the post-war period. Students, divided into groups, explore the memory – and its representation over time – of six children who passed through the Fossoli Camp in different phases of its long history (from 1942 to 1970): Emilia Levi, Elena Colombo, Vittorino Modigliani, Oretta Montanari, Gabriella Carlini, Marino Piuca.

With the precious guidance of the teacher Emanuela Garimberti and the valuable contribution of educator Marinella Gattei, always assisted by the Fossoli Foundation, the students of class 2nd E have delved into sources and information to reconstruct the lives of these six children. For almost a semester, Emilia, Elena, Vittorino, Oretta, Gabriella, and Marino have been present in their school days. They sought a place for them in the classrooms, even naming them in the first-hour roll call. They felt them present and alive.

As the focal point of these six children’s lives was a place, Fossoli, from which each one departs or arrives, we thought that six suitcases would symbolize the narrative, metaphorical of their journey. Inside six cardboard suitcases, the students would collect objects that would support the biographical story.

Opening and closing those suitcases, telling their stories, became a strong, almost theatrical gesture for the students, allowing them to flip through the book of the lives of the six children who passed through Fossoli. But it was also a way for them to participate: each object was collected by the students in their homes, creating a sort of intergenerational passage. The students also constructed a large visual and tactile clock to signal the prevailing emotions at different moments in the story (terror, peace, nostalgia, hope). They searched for sounds, noises, echoes, and songs (train noise, bell ringing, Istrian songs, barking of dogs…) that could serve as the soundtrack for the stories, making the six suitcases “audible.”

Each story was then dedicated to a different genre of writing. Elena’s story, the only Jewish girl to face deportation alone, was told by her father, mother, friend, with the intention of never making her feel alone. For Emilia, the youngest, the students wrote, composed, and sang lullabies so that the night of the story wouldn’t scare her. For Vittorino, they imagined a dialogue beyond time and death, with the sister who fortuitously survived the Holocaust and became an adult. To tell Oretta’s time at Nomadelfia, they gave voice to a “vocation mother” writing a page from an imaginary diary. For Marino, who wanted to see Piran and its sea again, they dedicated the metaphors of a poem about nostalgia. For Gabriella, who loved the school in the San Marco Village, they wrote (and drew) the chronicle of a school day in the form of a comic.

Each story was then thought and told by identifying an “inside” and an “outside,” searching for protective and dangerous factors for each child.

Two stimulus readings were used for reflections. These are two illustrated books seemingly unrelated to the research topic but functional as a trigger for a deeper, more personal feeling.

The illustrated book Fortunatamente by Remy Charlip, which was released in the United States in the mid-1960s and recently brought to Italy by the publisher Orecchio Acerbo. Browsing through the book led the students to think that in every story, even the most tragic, elements of positivity can be found, and that despite the tragedy of history, six children can be remembered as children, with their games, their affections, their hopes.

The students thus created six little books, in the form of “leporello,” in which the six biographies are written with the rhetorical play of repeated and alternated adverbs: fortunately and unfortunately. Each life can be flipped through in its clear and dark pages, but it can also be looked at as a whole by fully opening the leporello and making it a single timeline.

The second book is Rifugi published in Italy by Logos editions, in which the Swiss author and illustrator Emmanuelle Houdart visually celebrates everything that can give us protection and comfort. On this track, the students drew shelters for the six children whose stories they explored. Fossoli, from a harrowing place of departure towards death, becomes a place to rebuild life in the post-war period: from a deportation camp to a village.

The result is a gallery of symbolic drawings in which war and its aftermath encircle and destroy, but cannot erase what each child was, their dreams, desires, and affections. The shelters drawn by the 2nd E students are rafts that saved six lives, preserving their memory.