Drawing dialogues on Bolognina

Once upon a time, just across the central Station, there was quite a large district of town called Bolognina (yes, it translates exactly “Little Bologna”: how sweet is that?). Mainly inhabited by the working class and quietly out of the radar, it gained some popularity in the Nineties after becoming synonymous with the official death of the Italian Communist Party (PCI). In November 1989, in front of local veterans of the Italian Resistency in a council hall of that very suburban district, PCI’s then secretary Achille Occhetto kind of announced (kind of unexpectedly, and not without causing discontent) the end of the Communist experience. The party’s forces merged into PDS (Left Democratic Party), and this was just the first of a series of many metamorphoses to follow. This moment came to be known as La Svolta della Bolognina (“Bolognina’s turn”) and our workers’ area’s name was used from then on as a metaphor for the workers’ party transitioning into something else, no quite clearly what.

Cut to today. Oddly enough, over the latest years, Bolognina has also been rhyming with “gentrification”, with a couple of pretty streets closest to the historical centre starting to host trendy bars and restaurants (Fermento, Yuzuya, Bianco Farina, Trattoria di Via Serra) and landmarks of the music and alternative scene like Locomotiv and Kinotto. This, it goes without saying, has also caused some complaints: generally about “loss of authenticity”, and particularly following the suppression of more creative and dynamic realities like the self-managed social centre XM24 (evicted on summer 2019, but you can still see many XM24 flags exposed on private windows all over town) and a squatted building known as “Ex Telecom” that was evicted in 2015 to be replaced by a high end student hostel. However, there is more to Bolognina than the universal querelle between “decay” and “decorum”, and Bolognina itself is much bigger, and far more layered, than its two or three initial streets usually mentioned on the papers.

One of the most interesting and vibrantly authentic experiences is actually taking place right now, with the painting of 10 electricity booths all around the area currently known as “Trilogia Navile” (with Navile being the broader official district that contains Bolognina). Following a faster-than-lighting artists’ call that was launched just a month before by Associazione Serendippo, the brainchild of wunderfrau Etta Polico, who has been envisioning and supporting street art interventions over the past twelve years, 11 artists were selected to turn the booths into visual metaphors of an ideal conversation between home and neighborhood, between inside and outside, in an area that doesn’t shine for architectural landmarks or notable monuments.

The idea behind this operation, called “DisegnareDialoghi” (“painting dialogues”) is coherent with Serendippo’s philosophy: to use contemporary and street art to start a conversation, create urban participation, light up marginality and go beyond the obvious, especially in terms of what we call art and, particularly, how (and where) we define our city.

Thanks to the participation of an association working for the employment of the newest citizens, Associazione Nausicaa, a group of asylum seekers has been working on the practical realization and painting of the artworks, while also having been part of the selection committee along with representatives of local residents and shop keepers (other partners were l’Associazione Interculturale Universo, Associazione Mythos and Comitato Vivere Mercato Navile).

And as a spontaneous, independent operation, DisegnareDialoghi has also launched a crowdfunding to receive some financial support (here to donate). In the meantime, should you like to go and observe the works in progress like a real umarells (a fun concept: check it up here), or just explore a part of the city that is as rich as it isn’t predictable, just go to Bolognina -as long as walks are permitted- and look for those electrical booths being all colored and pimped up: if this isn’t a time that needs a bit of brightening colors, then I don’t know what is.

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