Stefano Montesi

Author: Stefano MontesiSefano Montesi at Pantanella

Shish Mahal Pantanella

b/w photo installation, 1990-1991

I have arrived at Pantanella at the suggestion of a friend who knew that immigration was one of the topics I had been following for many years in my work as a photographer.

It was the end of May 1990. Rome was getting ready for the football World Cup. The city authorities had evicted migrants who found temporary shelter in different areas of the historical centre: Esquilino, Piazza Vittorio, Stazione Termini. Some migrants – mostly from Pakistan and other Asian countries – then squatted Pantanella, a former pasta factory.

From that afternoon at the end of May to the final eviction in January 1991, Pantanella became my second home. I saw it growing, and I photographed this ‘city within the city’. It was not a nice place to live, and the inhabitants ironically called it Shish Mahal - the Crystal Palace. However, it was a place where one could find humanity and the determination to build a community.

With my pictures, I have tried to narrate histories and the people of a world now disappeared that changed Rome, and which was the germ of migrant self organisation.