Ali from Pakistan. “Ali, you’re a great artist”

I arrived to Italy on the 15th March 2011. I travelled to Cortona by train, then by bus. I arrive to the hotel at 11:00 o’clock. At the station of Cortona I met some people. Two boys from Eritrea and another girl and a boy… 5 people were at the station. We started talking. They asked me “Where are you from?” I told them “I’m Pakistani”. Another one said “Eritrea” and two others I don’t know. I told them “Do you want to eat?” and they said “Yes” so I gave them something to eat. We ate together. We stayed at the station for a while, then they told me “Do you want to stay here or to go downstairs?”. I asked “Where downstairs?”. They said “There are other people downstairs”. We went downstairs and I saw there were 14 people more sleeping on the floor on the pasteboard. I sat on the stairs and slowly the morning came, so we went to the police station in Cortona. There were a lot of people there. Some of them were asking for a permit renewal, some were new. I was new, too. We waited until five p.m., then went to the Reception Centre “St. Ann”. They asked me “Do you have any friends here?” I said “No, I haven’t. I’m alone, I don’t have any friends”. There were many people in the Reception Centre. I stayed in a container for two or three days and three days later I got out and went to school to learn Italian language. I sat in the class I drew a flower, and the teacher saw it and asked me “Can you draw?” I said “Yes, a little”. Then the teacher spoke with the Art teacher and four days later I attended the Art class. The teacher gave me a sheet and told me “Try”. I drew a flower by pastels. The teacher told me “Quit those pencils!” and brought me some paints and a brush. Three or four days later I finished my first painting. The teacher looked at it, and other people did, then he came to the class and said “Ali painted a beautiful painting”. I was very happy because I liked this work very much. Then the teacher gave me other canvases. Every morning I go to the class at eight o’clock. I stopped the language classes because I always paint. I work until one p.m., then I pray, ‘cause I’m muslim, I have to pray. Then I have lunch and rest a little bit. Then I start working again until six o’clock. I had an exhibition on the 18th December and many people came. Also the head of the police came, and gave me a paper where she wrote “Ali, you’re a great artist”. Then the time came I received my residence permit for one year, and then my passport. I left the Centre in January.

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