Founded in 2012, Radio Ghetto, Voci Libere (Radio Ghetto, Free Voices) is a project of ‘participated communication’, a radio that aims to give a voice to the dwellers of the Gran Ghetto in Rignano, near Foggia (Apulia, Italy). The Ghetto is a shantytown that houses hundreds - and even thousands, during the Summer season - of migrants mostly coming from West Africa. They are heavily exploited by tomato plantations' owners, enslaved through a system called ‘caporalato’, which is enforced by the local mafia. This is just one of many examples of Agromafia, a widespread form of modern day slavery that has been on the rise within the Global North.
Through the radio broadcasts, the harvesters at the Gran Ghetto are able to share their experiences and talk about their inhumane living conditions, in order to expose their struggles and warn other migrants. Building from the tomato pickers' desire not to be photographed or filmed, the video avoids a mimetic visual representation in order to concentrate on the radio recordings. Thus, it combines text and Google Earth and Streetview images in order to highlight the radio's power to cross borders and connect the centre to the periphery, while also looking for traces of the migrants in the rural landscape of southern Italy.
Radio Ghetto Relay aims to expand the reach of the harvester's voices through translation into English and Polish (click here for the Polish version). If English, was chosen because of its international status, Polish was chosen for a series of present and past relations. Firstly, because in 2006 a representative of the Polish government visited Italy in search of 100 agricultural workers who went missing in Southern Italy while harvesting tomatoes, thus triggering an official inquiry into the problem of 'caporalato', although it had been a common practice since the late 1980s. Secondly, Poland ranked 24th on 167 countries within the Global Slavery Index of 2016, with an estimated 180,000 people victims of slavery on a population of 39 millions. Indeed many Eastern European and Asian migrants are exploited on plantations, while, on the other hand, thousands of Poles are trafficked to the UK, the Netherlands and Italy where they are exploited as agricultural labor.
Through a collaboration with A-i-R Wro (Wroclaw, Poland) in the context of Wroclaw European Capital of Culture 2016, these issue was explored and further problematise through workshops with young people and a publication. Radio Ghetto Relay was developed in conversation with Marco Stefanelli from Radio Ghetto Voci Libere:www.radioghettovocilibere.wordpress.com
Alessandra Ferrini is a visual artist, independent research and educator based in London. She is the Co-Founder
and Co-Director of Mnemoscape.
Alessandra Ferrini, Radio Ghetto Relay, 2016