Journalist, author, activist, creative
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a quick presentation in Sicilian:
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Web designer & Front-end
Born in Sicily, I moved to Milan in 2018.
After graduating in Industrial Design at the University of Palermo
I've developed a strong curiosity for web-coding and I chosen to "jump" in this new design field.
Today I am a Frontend, by chance or luck, it depends on the point of view.
From Puglia with fury
I moved to Turin to undertake university studies at the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts,
specializing in traditional painting,
and in parallel deepening the studies in the digital one.
Today I live and work in London.
Freedomby Luca Scarcella
The parallel roads of
With Murad Subay and Andrea Villa it was just an instant connection.
After months of chat, e-mails and confidences,
this journalistic project has taken shape.
I interviewed Murad on a June afternoon, with thousands of kilometers and an hour of time zone to divide us. A phone call via WhatsApp. He called me at the appointed time.
Murad Subay is the most famous Yemeni street artist in the world, cited by a myriad of European and American publications interested in this young “Yemeni Banksy”, as they like to call him.
On his Wikipedia page, he is defined as a contemporary artist and political activist, and you can read the fundamental stages of his growth.
The revolution, the road, the war and
the road again.
Always with heroism in his gaze, if one can speak and write about heroism, about a thirty-year-old who consciously gave up his freedom to give hope to his people «who no longer dream», with an exceptional degree of courage and self-denial.
With Andrea the appointment was in Piazza Bodoni in Turin, in front of the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory: a warm living room sheltered from the city noise, lulled by the sound of pianos, brass and chordophones. Andrea Villa, a name randomly attributed to him by a newspaper, is one of the most discussed street artists in Italy.
He arrived early for the meeting, and he was waiting for me, hands in his pockets, showing himself relaxed: bright shirt with floral texture, denim jacket, and thick hair.
He is much younger than I expected. On the edge between Millennials and Generation Z, he was born and raised in the age of virality, memes and social networks. But how old is he, exactly?
«More or less twenty»,
he said, defending his anonymity. At public meetings he shows up with a mirror chrome mask, which is somewhat reminiscent of a space helmet, or the one of a fighter from the future.
Andrea Villa is an alien, a stranger from the normal, out of place: for this reason he has something new to say, and to show.
Raised in dissimilar contexts, Murad Subay and Andrea Villa have took the same path to communicate their ideas, resist and fight for the future:
… walls that, in their case, do not divide
Turin and Sana'a are two cities more than 3 thousand miles away, in two countries that are profoundly different in language, culture and traditions.
In Italy, the emergency is social, with the increase in poverty, the growing distance between the rich and the marginalized, the rampant xenophobia, fomented by some political fringes, and a worrying cultural drift.
Yemen is experiencing a profound humanitarian crisis:
a people tormented by war, epidemics, hunger.
Yemen - the poorest country in the Middle East - is the scene of an endless war.
The latest war, which has continued since 2015, is the result of a scenario that changed between the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, when Ali Abdullah Saleh, the head of the country for over thirty years, left power following of the so-called "Arab Spring", which in Yemen was led with the Houthis (Shiite Zaydite group, a fringe of Shiism of which about 35 percent of the Yemeni Muslim population belongs) and the Islah group, within which there were also the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood. Saleh ruled the country since 1978, first only North Yemen, and then the United Republic of Yemen after unification (May 1990).
A slow and complicated political transition, supported and shaped at will by the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council - which include Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia - led to the election of Abdel Rabbo Monsour Hadi, who thus became the new president. Hadi's election was recognized by Arab countries and the West.
The two countries, the USA and Yemen, share two great adversaries: Al-Qāʿida in the south (where it found a new stronghold after leaving Afghanistan) and the Shia Houthi rebels in the north of the country, kept at bay by the resigning president with an alliance precarious subsequent the Revolution, after decades of wars. Saleh therefore never really left power, but in 2017 he decided to go along with the new course and get closer to Saudi Arabia, thus signing his death sentence.
He was killed by the Houthis in December 2017.
The Arabs, close to the new President Hadi, consider their internal security to be the main reason for intervening in Yemen, and for this reason the Houthis are a serious threat. The strengthening of the Yemeni Shiites could strengthen the Shiite minority in the eastern parts of Saudi Arabia, which is continually trying to reduce the power of the Sunni monarchy.
The United States immediately began collaborating with Hadi.
Yemen is in dire need of peace. Today it is in the throes of a humanitarian nightmare, with outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria, hunger and devastation.
Furthermore, Co-Vid19 has done nothing but push the country to the brink of famine and economic collapse.
The pandemic caused by the viral strain SARS-CoV-2 recorded a mortality rate of 29% (World Health Organization data, January 2021). Reported cases are also likely to be underestimated, due to limited testing capacity and difficulty in accessing care services, as well as fear of falling victim to one of several attacks on healthcare facilities.
In short, what is happening in Yemen is not a trivial clash between good and bad, but a very complicated attempt to defend interests, on many sides, where the population is at the expense.
But not only that: the future of the new Yemeni generations also passes through school and education, today in crisis more than ever. In this devastating scenario, Murad Subay had to grow up quickly: first a shy and solitary boy, then a determined and courageous man, who, using his art, tries to restore hope in the eyes and intentions of his compatriots.
The parallel roads of Andrea and Murad: “The dreams”
Even before the war that broke out in 2015, enrollment reports in the Yemeni school system show how access to education was and remains a problem in the country, especially for girls and young women, but also for students in remote areas
In 2016, the enrollment rate for both sexes was 78% in the primary level, 39% in the secondary level and 5% in the tertiary level. Female enrollment, however, is dramatically different between regions: at primary level, it is typically over 50% in urban areas, and often less than half of those in rural areas. In the following infographic, the percentages of enrollment of males and females, in the three school levels.
Source: State University consortium
data collection, 2017
Unlike the Italian primary school, the Yemeni one lasts 9 years, compulsory, and trains children from 6 to 15 years of age.
Secondary school lasts 3 years: in the first year everyone follows a general program, and then in the second they choose a literary or scientific one. Alternatively, they can opt for a technical secondary school that offers vocational training, or one that trains health personnel, or, again, an agricultural secondary school.
The tertiary school is a level of education introduced only in the Seventies, when the University of Sana'a was founded. Today there are several public universities and private colleges.
The literacy rate has grown, exceeding the 70% share of the population (Index Mundi data, 2015). The Yemeni government's stated goal is to exceed 90% by 2025. To achieve this, it has established annual funds for students in rural areas, and more advantageous compensation for teachers who decide to move to the most remote and disadvantaged parts of the country - thanks to Western economic support, especially from the United States, and the Sunni Arab regime -.
This situation will inevitably lead to a greater weight of private education in primary and secondary school.
However, it is not sufficient to avoid the current control of the government’s military forces over education, a cause of distortion of programs in favor of the regime’s propaganda. Furthermore, war, famine and epidemics have had severe effects on every aspect of everyday life, including school education.
The parallel roads of Andrea and Murad: “The colors”
While the West - in particular the United States -
finances education in Yemen, it indirectly
kills those children
it offers to study.
largely purchased and used by Saudi Arabia
to counter the Houthis.
The latest younger victims, reported by media around the world, are 40 children, all boys, aged 6 to 11, blown up by a US-made bomb that hit their bus
on their way to school.
And Italy also has a role in that theater of blood.
As reported by The New York Times,
bombs were also produced in the Bel Paese (in this specific case, the MK8s) which were then used by Saudi Arabia to hit the Shia Houthis.
On 29 January 2021, the Italian government revoked the authorizations in progress, thus stopping the export of bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; meanwhile, the US has frozen military supplies to Riyadh.
But all this is not enough: the United Kingdom has resumed exports of Paveway IV bombs, whose components are also produced in Italy.
UNICEF representative in Yemen
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) explains that Yemen's education system has been devastated by the country's brutal conflict.
According to the UNICEF «If Not In School» report:
Source: UNICEF Data Collection,
He was forced to drop out of school from 2015 to date
Public teachers who have not been paid for over 1 year
Children enrolled from 2015 to today
Little girls forced to marry
converted into dormitories or military bases
The war continues, and the consequent humanitarian crisis has worsened further
in a country that, as written, was already one of the poorest in the Middle East.
But there is little news on the front of the search for a peace agreement.
The parallel roads of Andrea and Murad: “The street”
«I was born in the city of Dhamar (in 1987, ed), and in the early 1990s we moved to the capital Sana'a.
Ho quattro fratelli e tre sorelle: è stata sicuramente un’infanzia segnata dalla povertà, ma dignitosa.
I have four brothers and three sisters: it was certainly a childhood marked by poverty, but dignified.
Thanks to the sacrifices of my father, we got the chance to study: I remember that for me it was a very troubled time, since I even changed 9 schools. Especially for this reason I had no friends, couldn't bond with anyone, and felt disconnected from sociability. I had become very taciturn, thoughtful. I started drawing in 2001, I remember that day well... oh yes,
I remember that the light went out in the house due to an explosion a few blocks away. I took paper and pencil and drew, in the dark: a simple thing, a sketch of the bedroom, which I then showed to my brothers and sisters. It was like a miracle, and from there I continued to express myself by drawing».
«I have always had difficulty in relating to people, but it was only at 16 that I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.
Before, not knowing I had it, I didn't understand what my problem came from, and I suffered a lot from it.
Today the situation has improved considerably, but at that time I had no friends, and to feel less alone I spent my time between TV, video games, and the first online satirical memes.
I also remember well the moments at the dining table, with the television always on: I saw the politicians on the news, and I was a pissed off teenager because I didn't feel represented.
I loved art, and I wanted to find a way to express my ideas, to represent the kids in my situation. But it was as if the artistic world was totally disconnected from my reality, due to Asperger's. Slowly I found my way into contemporary art, often mistreated by insiders».
The parallel roads of Andrea and Murad: “The inspiration”
Feeling the need to propose a new language, and
communicate an idea that has a social impact.
«Street art is a world of respect and silence among artists. Writers all know each other, and no one is allowed to judge someone else's works.
- explains Villa -
For example, I imagine that artists in London know Banksy's identity, but no one fails to show solidarity between colleagues. I am different from writers: they take themselves too seriously and are too self-centered. They think they are changing the world with their works: but the truth is that it is economic and social processes that divert the course of history. Graffiti focuses heavily on images and graphics, and little on concepts. I try to do the opposite: my works are clean and simple, and I'm inspired by Armando Testa, whom I consider one of the greatest artists of all time, and British Brandalism. But... be careful: I'm not against multinationals, as the brandalists were. I only use the language of advertising to express my ideas».
"FUCK WAR" This is the title of one of the latest Murad Subay’s murals, fresh paint on the bricks of the facade of a building destroyed by bombs, on a common street in Sana'a.
«In 2012, after the revolution, I created the first campaign “Color the walls of your street”,
where I started drawing and painting on the destroyed walls.
Then on my Facebook page I asked my fellow citizens to join me, and every Thursday morning,
for three months, dozens and dozens of young and old helped me draw and paint the walls.
It was beautiful, and the effect spread to other Yemeni cities.
- Murad remembers -
Later, in September of the same year, I created the second campaign, where I began to propose messages of a political nature. "Walls remember faces", to draw attention to the disappearance of political activists and journalists from the late 1960s to 2011 in Yemen.
Here I used the stencil technique to paint the faces of those who had disappeared on the walls of the cities, getting help from the people and families of the victims.
Today the situation is much more serious due to the war that has continued since 2015 and in addition to the visible and tangible effect on cities, it is what it does to people that frightens. There is a rampant resignation, hoping for a better future is really difficult».
The parallel roads of Andrea and Murad: "The courage"
The parallel roads of
Thanks to the two protagonists,
Murad Subay and Andrea Villa,
for their time, their creativity and vision.
And thanks to you too, who read this story.
«This is the way I know to fight: street art is a weapon that strikes without killing, and indeed gives people hope. During the revolution, in 2011, I thought I had seen the worst, but no: it was nothing compared to the war that broke out three years ago, and which continues today.
It is a devastating situation at every level, you no longer dream, there is frustration, you are hungry. But over time I realized that it doesn't matter what you feel, be pessimistic about the future or optimistic. It does not change anything.
What can really change things is taking action. Trying to keep doing something for my people gives me strength, giving vent to people's voices hits close to home for me. And now more than ever I want to continue doing it».
In Turin the situation is completely different, fortunately: we are not dealing with war, disease and famine. However, there is a growing social emergency, to which Andrea Villa responds with satire and culture.
«I think contemporary art is very interesting.
For example, the Dadaists made collages with newspaper clippings and images, treating politics and society in a satirical way. Or, even earlier, the Parisian opera "La Belle Helene" (1864, ed.) Was full of parodies of French characters of the time. I included a quote from the operetta in my "Eau Di Nolfi" billboard, and it doesn't matter if it was picked up by few.
In my creations there are multiple levels of understanding: I want to speak to everyone, not just the insiders. I don't want to give messages, but to tell the real, in my own way.
This is a time when you have to take a stand, you cannot wait for events to take their course. In the art world, however, dealing with current affairs is not something that is welcomed.
This is why I use a false name: I have a parallel activity as a sculptor artist, with my real name, and that's what gives me a living».