This is picture is of the place I sleep - 'Casa Del Mondo'. This is the entrance. When you get here, you see the reception. My room is on the second floor here. Is it an OK place to stay? Yeah, it's OK. The standard is OK. Convenient, comfortable. There are no hazards or disturbances. They have some rules and regulations but they are not so rigid. It's convenient for us to accept them.
How does it compare to the shelter at Sermig?
It's better than Sermig because Sermig is the kind of place where you have to come at around nine o'clock at night and you have to leave very early in the morning. At 'Casa Del Mondo' you go there whenever you want to go. The only thing is that on weekdays, from Monday to Friday, you are supposed to leave at eight o'clock so that they can do some cleaning. You can come back anytime between eleven am and twelve o'clock at night. So during the day you are free to come and go as you please. But at Sermig all you can do is sleep there. Everyone's in by ten and by eleven o'clock, it's lights out. Then by six in the morning you are supposed to leave. But at this place the lights go off at eleven thirty after watching the movies. After this time you can not come in late. You can watch movies on TV until eleven, on the Italian stations.
Do you understand Italian television?
I don't understand it but I'm trying to learn it.
How are the people there?
They are OK but I don't really mix with them. I prefer to keep myself to myself because by speaking too much to people you can get a third party passing on what you said and cause trouble.
Do you share your room?
I share a room with some guys from Congo. We don't quarrel. We are not friends. We are not enemies, nothing more. I come home and sleep or read my bible or read any magazine I have in English or I try to learn some Italian.
But you say hello to them?
There's only one I say hello to.
Is it because of the different language?
The language is one thing. When you see a black in the midst of whites, you appreciate him as a black brother, you understand? But when the blacks are together, the Africans are together, there's what we call a tribalism amongst them. You prefer to make friends with somebody who's from your district. Even if you are from the same nationality, you may not be from the same tribe or from the same region. The thing goes in section by section by section. From whites you prefer blacks, from the blacks you prefer your nationality, from nationality you prefer your language or what tribe you are from, from your tribal group you prefer your local areas. So it's always narrower and narrower. But if it happened that I lived in this city and there were only two blacks here, a Sierra Leonian and a Congolese, we would be good friends. An African here told me that here, in Torino, national differences between African don't matter, he feels like all other blacks are his brothers. That's one conception that I strongly doubt. Maybe he's only been here for a short time. Most of your friends are Nigerian. Yeah, because we speak pigeon English. We can all communicate together in pigeon English. I prefer not to talk to people too much. In most places if you see me in the street, I'll be walking alone. That is my way. You seem quite a sociable guy. I am a sociable guy. I feel free with people. If I'm at a gathering, I feel free. People usually like me, that's the truth. I know these Nigerian guys through playing football. I can discuss with them in a common Lingua Franca, pigeon English. It's a broken English. That's why it's hard for you to understand when we all speak together.
It's your accent I think.
It's not the accent.
I don't think it's the actual language itself. Your pronunciation of words is different.
OK. Just imagine if I were to say in pigeon English 'where you dey go?' In the normal English language you would say 'where are you going?' It's a broken English that makes it easier for everyone to speak. It's a kind of general language that even the illiterates can speak. They have difficulty to speak a good and decent English. The broken English is general amongst the English speaking countries of the west African coast. I'm thinking of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia, Guinea, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana. Within each of these countries there are many tribal languages but the English functions as a communicative system between all these.
You were talking about all these tribal separations between Africans in Torino. I'm wondering how that works for you when you meet other people from Sierra Leone because in the war there there were so many different warring factions and what happens if you meet someone here that was fighting against you there?
One thing is that there are not a lot of Sierre Leonians here in Torino. I don't see a black man in the street and ask him 'are you a Sierra Leonean?' there has to be some other contact that brings us together before I ask that question. When I meet a Sierra Leonian I'm cordial with him, nothing more. Actually, depending on the circumstances, depending on which part you're from, the Sierra Leonians, I don't trust. Like the Africans in Eritrea won't trust an Ethiopian and an Ethiopian won't trust an Eritrean. At least there will be a limitation to a friendship. The limitation will be that I remember the war between our people. But the truth is that when you leave the shores of Africa you want to leave behind the conflicts that led you to leave. It's like when children are fighting - don't go beating that boy because he's beating your son. Have confidence in them, they are children, in twenty minutes they'll be friends again. What happened in Africa is bygone. So, once you are here, you can get along together again. It's like that.


This is in Porta Nuova train station. It's where I first arrived in Torino. Porta Nuova's a very big and beautiful place with a lot of strange things that I'd never seen before You see people coming in and out here. You would never find a train station like this in Sierre Leone. This is a beautiful train station. You wouldn't find so many railway lines and platforms in the Freetown train station. Just one railway line and one platform.
What were your impressions of Torino when you came out?
Well I expected so much from Italy and Europe generally. I had a dream of coming to Europe or Canada, maybe to go to Britain, or another English speaking country. I was very disappointed when I came here, I was expecting a beautiful place, you know, Torino, but when I came, the place was like a normal African city. If you have time, you should go outside Torino, there's lots to see outside Torino.
Did you arrive here when you came to Torino?
I came to Italy on a ship to Genoa, then by train to Torino. If I were to come without being forced to leave my country, I would have liked to take a flight and pay my ticket to come. But because the circumstances that led me to come, because of the war, because of the problems I had with the govenment and the rebel forces, I had to, I had to find a way to escape. So I was smuggled into a ship, a vessel, and I spent some time on the ship. I spent more than two months on the ship. I was just happy to survive, to escape from Sierra Leone and I was surprised one night when they said 'come down, come down, it's time to go'. When I came down I was cold, my legs were weak. We arrived in Genoa but when I came down, I didn't know where I was. Someone said 'take this way', then told others to take another way, 'you've got to run, you've got to run'. There were people running in the dark in front of me. There were about 16 of us, but we all had to scatter and run in different directions. We were dirty and smelling and with no money. We thought we were going to die. We had to go to the streets, we had not eaten for some time, we were weak. We didn't know where we are. All we knew was that we were somewhere outside of Africa, outside of Sierra Leone - fine. We didn't want to ask but then I found someone who could speak English and I asked 'where are we?'. He told us 'Genoa, in Italy'. I said OK. I met a Nigerian there who told me that it will be difficult for you here, so maybe if you go to Torino, there are a lot of blacks there, from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Senegal, Congo. So he gave me money to pay for the train ticket to come here.
Is there a good relationship between people from Nigeria and Sierra Leone?
Yeah, because of the English language, because they were a British colony. So I came here and I had to register I told them i'm a refugee and I need assistance.
Were they sympathetic?
They were sympathetic but they couldn't give me a place to sleep immediately. I slept under vehicles, under the engines of cars.
Was this in the winter?
Not particularly, it was summer but at night it was still cold. So, I'd go under the engines of every car because it's warm, you know.
And in the moring when the car owner comes and starts to drive...?
Before the morning, I'm already awake, because you don't really sleep. You open your eyes regularly. Maybe you can sleep for one hour but you open your eyes when you hear a noise. Maybe you hear a dog barking, people making a noise. When it's 5 o'clock, I'm already awake. I get up. Did you know that you were coming to Italy when you got on the ship? I was really surprised because i'd never been on a ship in my life and I didn't know how long it would take, but I had in my mind that we were headed for Australia. That was a false imagination. Anyway, it turns out that it's Italy and I don't want to go back. I don't want to go back to my country for now. I don't want to because of the humiliation. I lost people, my brother, my friends, it's a pathetic story, you know. I don't know where my family are now. They were displaced. The whole family household was raided. It was raised down, no trace. I was a wanted person. I was a member of CDF, Civil Defence Force. It was mainly made up of students and workers. The government forces, ECOMOG told us to hand in arms to them so I went with some others, but was captured by the rebel forces. I was caught by the rebels saying I was an informant giving information to the government forces. The rebels arrested me and placed me in a camp. I managed to break loose from the jail, I escaped. By the time I got home, they told me that even the government forces were coming looking for me too because they said I had given the arms to the rebels. I knew that they would just give me a trial in a kangaroo court and probably hang me so I had to leave.
What did you do in Sierre Leone?
I was studying business administration and marketing.
When you were on the boat, was there food?
We ate remnants. Left overs of bread and food from the guys on the boat.
Did you look different when you arrived?
I hadn't shaved, my eye sockets were deep, I was haggared, clothes tattared.
You're looking well now, nice clothes.
Yes, better. I try my best at all costs. I came to Europe to work hard.
But you can't work can you?
No, I get a little money from these people here (La Tenda, Via Botero) and from my football team, when I score goals. For food, I have to rely on my friends. I find food to eat in my girlfriend's house, but she's not always around. The kind of income, the kind of wages I get from the foreign office are miserable, it's not enough. I used to get given vouchers to eat, but they stopped giving me the vouchers. How am I to survive? I'm not working. How am I to survive?
Do you get paid for football?
Not really. If I score goals. If I don't score goals, I assist in goals. I don't know if you know this guy Edgar Davids?
I play like him, I have his strength and stamina. I can play football well. So most people who attend they say 'take this, take this, take this'. Do you feel OK here in Italy now or do you miss Sierre Leone? One thing from my life is that I don't like to regret anything. If I've done anything when I was sane, because I'm sane and my brains are OK, I wasn't mad, I don't regret it. From my country, I miss friends, but I don't have any regrets for anything I've done or for leaving my country. That's life and life is full of different flows. I believe everything in this world has to be dynamic. You have to be so dynamic as you have to face changes. The changes at times go with destiny, like if you expect something and get nothing, it's destiny. If you expect nothing and get something, it's destiny. So when I move ahead, it's like a flight, a kind of destiny in my life that I have to move with. So anything I see, I take it. I think I'm suited to that. I always dream. At the moment, my dream is to go to Canada or America. It's a dream from when I was a kid. When I was in Firenze, I met some Americans. They told me that America is a friendly place. What is it about America that makes you want to go there? When you are a kid, there are certain things you read or see and they build an image that is hard to break. The main place i'd like to go is Canada, America would be a substitute. I took time to go to the computer to see where the economics are going in the world and Canada, Sweden and Switzerland. The economy is going up every day, every day, every day. Sweden, what I heard is that the majority of them speak English. I want to go to school to study the international art trade. I want to be an art businessman. I want to do business with Africa. It will not be easy if I can't be there so I want to learn more about how to use computers and new technology for business and then I will try as best as I can to open a kind of advertising agency for selling artworks. I will take my time and I will save carefully. I'm not in haste.


This is the Porta Palazzo market. You don't see the market in the afternoon, it's there in the morning and when you pass it in the afternoon, the market is not existing. It's strange because if this were Freetown, the market would be here from morning until night. Here, maybe your stall or shop is open between 9am and 1pm, the hours are set. There you can work all through the day, you can sell all through the night, if you are tired, you can go home. Somebody can sell on the streets and if a law enforcement officer comes and says 'leave here', he'll reply 'I haven't got enough money for me to eat, so what do you expect?' And the marketplace would be so dirty, but here by early afternoon, they pack it all away and by the evening everything is clean as if the market had never existed in that place. But in Freetown, the market is fixed there, everything is built there, it's a permanent structure, not a disposible structure. So that's why I took this, to show it because you wouldn't believe there was a market here when there's empty space.


This is the bus stop. I Sierre Leone, you would not find a bus stop like this. All you have to so is just tell the bus driver, 'stop!' because you are near to your house, and he'll stop. They have routes, just like this puma bus, has it's own routes. The bus tells that it's going to Bingy. So if you want to get off somewhere on that route to Bingy, all you have to do is tell the bus driver to stop and he'll stop.


This is the pullman. We don't have a pullman like this in Sierre Leone. Here, the pullman is a government owned bus service but in my place, the busses are run by private individuals. Bigger busses like this are used for long distance journeys, not for city movement. It's for places long distances apart, like 100km. If you want to travel about the city in Freetown, how would you travel? You have to take the small busses like vans. If you are driving out of town then you have to take the big busses. The biggest difference is the organisation between Torino and Freetown. Here the transport is organised. In Freetown, the commercial vehicles are owned by private individuals. When you board the cars or bus you pay for it immediately. It's privatised so you can just come up one day buy a car then place your car on the street. Before the war, you had to go the licencing office to commercialise your vehicle to get the plate number, but after the war, it doesn't matter. If you are a regular worker, you work in the civil service, or you work in a factory, you close by 4 O'clock and can't work in the evening so you can supplement your time by doing some fast work, commercial services, carrying people up and down. That's the travel system, you know. Generally though, the income you receive is not enough - if you're living in Africa or a place where you have about six or seven children. About eight or nine people staying in a room. The big room would be a sitting room, at night that's where the children would sleep, then the younger ones would stay with their parents. So in a situation like this, things are bound to get spoiled. Then most people get involved with some kind of illegal business, illegitimate business. Trying to steal diamonds, going to the mine to look for diamonds, things like that. But here you can see, everything's well organised. Here everybody has to go to school. The literacy level here is about 95%, if I'm not mistaken. In Africa or Freetown, where I come from to be precise, the literacy level is about 10 or 15%. Those who were supposed to go to school now couldn't because of the war. Then it comes to the stage where there are those who are 16 or 18 years old who would have to go back to primary one. The primary school has a tradition of learning, that way you learn how to read, how to write and if you miss it, it's gone. It takes much longer if you have to go back and learn these things when you're older. When you don't have your tribe or country to help you. Substantial help. So life is tough when you don't have assistance.



These trash baskets don't get used in my country. There's only a few places that have them, but not this type. They're not common. You take your rubbish to a a Government Reserved Area, a GRA. You can't really see streets as clean as this. Where there are trash buckets like this, they will be filled up, there'll be rubbish on the ground. The refuse cleaners will not come and pick everything up. The street cleaners will not make the streets as clean or as beautiful as this. The main difference between my home town, Freetown and Torino is that Torino is more organised. There are rules and regulations. Where I live in Sierre Leone is Freetown, the capital, it's not so organised. Here when they see a red light, a car will stop and wait. When it sees the red light it stops, when it sees the green light, it goes. In my place, even when they see a red light, a car will move. Then if a man or a traffic warden tries to stand in front and tell the car to stop, and the car doesn't want to stop, the traffic warden has to run. Those are the organised human beings in the civil service. Those who want to abide by the rules. But, everyone's always in haste, saying 'move, move, move, you are delaying me', hustling and bustling, like that. Because of the war, one of the effects of the war is that nearly everybody is aggressive. Somebody who gets that aggressive, he's a potential killer. He has the will to do anything he wants to do and moreover, some are ready. Maybe a deserter from the military, from the government side or the rebel side. There are no peaceful places that I can go. Before the war and after the war there are no places like here where you can go to the park and relax. Even during the day there's going to be a few ugly criminals looking for people to attack. So if you go there, you are doing so at your own risk, at your own peril. So you have to go home and sleep.


We don't have trams. So I had never taken the tram until I came here. We don't have trams. I saw a tram for the first time in my life. I had only seen them in American movies. I had never seen a tram in my life, face to face. I get monthly tickets from 'La Tenda'. Because of my asylum claim, I can't afford to have any problems. Have you ever been harassed about your papers? Actually, I've never been harassed to produce a document. I don't practice anything illegal so I have a kind of confidence, which means that even when I'm asked for a document and I go to present a document, I'm confident in it. It belongs to me and it's not somebody else's document. At least I'm a little bit happier. My greatest happiness will come on the day when I'm given the full residence permit, when I'm given full asylum status. Are you ever afraid of racial harassment? I've never had a problem, but I've seen there are some places where there are some racial harassment. Yesterday I was on the tram and the little control man was telling some other guys that he's a racist. If someone harasses you out of racism, he has a weakness. If he's in a car, I'll take his car registration number, if he's a worker, I would take his name and I would take him to the last limit. As long as I seen it happen and I was right. Cos i'm a law abiding citizen. I know my rights. Would you know where to go to get some help? I'd go to the foreigners office. I trust them, they are helpful, they try to help immigrants, but the truth is you talk about surviving this country, it's very, very tough. I try as much as I can.


This is the beautiful Piazza Castello. The light on Piazza Castello is just like that. You see people sunbathing. The funny thing is that in Africa, you try to run away from the sun, but here, you see people coming out to take the sun. You see the contrast? In Africa, you try to run away from the sun, cos the sun is too hot but in Italy you see people coming out to sit in the sun and sunbathe. And here's the fountain here. We have fountains too in Freetown, even more beautiful than this. I just took this to show the beauty of Piazza Castello, the fountains, the statues, the people waiting.



In Freetown we have a brass band that comes out to play on independence day. I like that, you know. It has some style to it. Is independence day a proud day for you? Yeah, on independence day there will be a musical parade. But on other days to see something like this, it's not common unless it's someone coming into the plaza to demonstrate like this. This would be very different in Freetown. In Freetown people would not come together and gather like this unless there's some kind of protest or independence day celebration. This isn't really a gathering, it's just people sitting in the sun. People don't do that in Sierre Leone. They start to run away from the sun. If you are in the sun in Sierre Leone, people will think you are mad. But you see people in the steet if there is a demonstration. But the demonstrations or protests are different. Here they are well organised. In Sierre Leone or in Africa in general, political demonstartions are more spontaneous and are followed with violence. Destruction goes with it. People try to destroy anything that belongs to the government so that the government will have to rebuild it. It's like that.



You would only see these kind of steps with a red carpet in a palace in Freetown but here you can see it anywhere. There are times when you see displays like this, or like in a high street store, it always amazes me in Torino, you know you see glass, you see things, beautiful things inside. In Freetown, at night, someone would break that glass and steal all those things. What's the law enforcement like in Freetown to stop things like that happening? If law enforcement, would try to trace those people but unlike here where everybody has an identity, and somebody can easily describe somebody they saw twenty minutes ago. But in Africa, somebody can only describe somebody they saw two minutes ago. They will not give a description. Even while trying to describe a person, if the person is a notorious criminal, his or her life is in danger by telling the police. Because the law enforcement officers actually work with these people, with the criminals because they get some 'kickback' from the criminals. Because that's the way they can survive. So if anybody reports then to the law enforcement agents, they tend to pass the message to the criminal that somebody saw something. So the law enforcement will tell the owner of the store, 'yes, we'll look for this person'. Even if everybody knows that person that did it, there's people who are above the law and there's not much you can do.



I saw this man from Ghana. I don't know him, I just photographed him because he drives tourists from Piazza Castello to Piazza Statuto. It's run by the Torino city. That's it.



The team I play with, they're called the Nigerian Eagles. We train twice a week in a public field. This our first year in the local Torino league and already we are in second place. We don't get paid but we're looking for a sponsor. Here we're having a huddle before the game. Before each game we have a huddle and pray to God to protect us from injury and to help us to win. This is the referee. He gave me a yellow card in this game for no reason. Just because I went off the park to tell an injured player to come back on. It was ridiculous.
I get a bit of money if I score goals. If I don't score goals, I assist in goals. I don't know if you know this guy Edgar Davids? I play like him. I have his strength and stamina. I can play football well. So most people who attend, they say 'take this, take this', so I get a bit of money that way. But you can't work here can you? No, I get a little money from the people here (La Tenda, Via Botero) and from my football team, when I score goals. For food.