His big sad carcass still dominates the waters of the port of the Arsenal, more than a year after the end of the Venice Biennale, in 2019. He should have found Sicily before the end of 2020 and, in the small town of Augusta, in the province of Syracuse, integrate a garden dedicated to the memory of the children, women and men who died at sea while trying to reach Europe. But his complicated fate will have wanted otherwise.
Known today as Barca Nostra, this fishing vessel, originally a simple Egyptian trawler, had, in a second life, been used to transport migrants. Its sinking between the Libyan and Italian coasts, on the night of April 18-19, 2015, with more than 800 people on board, made it sadly famous. Twenty-eight people survived the disaster, and since then this date has remained a symbol of a failing European migration policy.
“Remnant of a human tragedy”
The day after the tragedy, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi promised to get the boat back: “We have a duty to give these people a burial and to show Europe that we must not close our eyes. “ The following year, in 2016, while its Tunisian captain was sentenced to eighteen years in prison for “trafficking in human beings” by the court in Catania, Italy committed millions of euros, in an unprecedented gesture. , to fish the vessel.
Thanks to the intervention of 200 forensic doctors from all over Italy, a long investigation began to identify the hundreds of corpses who remained prisoners of this tomb. It is there, in this military base in the port of Melilli, neighboring the municipality of Augusta, north of Syracuse, that Barca Nostra should have finished its race. But that was counting without the intervention of the Swiss artist Christoph Büchel, who, he said in a press release, imagined transforming this “Vestige of a human tragedy”, this “Monument of contemporary migration”, in “Cultural property” on the occasion of the 58e Venice Biennale.
Others before him had the project to make this boat a symbol. Matteo Renzi had for a time considered sending it to Brussels to install it in front of the headquarters of the European Commission. There had also been talk of creating a museum of human rights in Milan around the wreck. But finally, in 2019, Christoph Büchel comes forward.
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