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Child Nation – Growing up in Italy

The photographic and multimedia exhibition Child Nation is curated by the Akronos Association, promoted and produced by the social enterprise Con i Bambini, and dedicated to children and teenagers at risk in Italy.

Child Nation is a long, multifaceted and articulated journey, a path through which the authors show us and introduce us to places of play and pain, the rooms, the houses, the buildings,the neighbourhoods, and the country in which a generation is growing up and maturing, facing life amidst a thousand difficulties.

However, Child Nation is above all a child-oriented journey that deals with the delicate and fundamental issues of minors’ poverty, families and land of origin, of school education right from kindergartens, of the lack of education and values to be transmitted to the younger generations; among other things, it touches on social isolation and all the difficulties that frequently cause school drop-outs.

From the Imagna and Brembana Valleys to Favara and Ragusa, touching on the outskirts of large cities, Venturi and Massimi’s reportage deals with topical issues that have often become fully-fledged emergencies due to the pandemic and lockdown.

The indiscriminate increase in eating disorders, xenophobia, drug addiction, social isolation – including the issue of hikikomori and NEETs –, suburban decay and domestic violence has further highlighted the fragility of our society, proving that the issue of marginality is not an isolated fact but a complex and stratified social phenomenon, which starts early in the lives of too many of our sons and daughters.

This project, which is the result of photojournalist Riccardo Venturi’s long experience on the subject of childhood in Italy and his collaboration with film-maker Arianna Massimi, is an original and unprecedented portrait of children, teenagers and young people, and at the same time tells the story of the great programme of the Fund Against Educational Poverty In Children and Youth implemented by the social enterprise Con i Bambini.

In the authors’ intentions, childhood is seen as a ‘suspended’ time where the hours last for days and the days become seasons; it is the time of experiences that are foundational to the lives of children who will become men, and it is therefore also the time of care, attention, respect and above all listening.

The authors took in and recorded the voices, looks, and stories of children and young people, giving a face and a voice to the real protagonists of this tale. They also interviewed educators, social workers, and prominent figures on the Italian social educational scene, including Vanessa Pallucchi, spokesperson for the National Forum of the Third Sector, and Marco Rossi-Doria, President of the social enterprise Con i Bambini.

Lastly, Venturi and Massimi wanted to provide an important space for ‘young adults’, that is, people between the ages of twenty and twenty-eight, whose stories have a silver lining; theirs are tales of redemption, from tragedy to closure. They are stories of young people who have asked for help and support, both psychological and concrete, and have received it, thus finding the strength to re-emerge.

Such an articulated cross-section reveals the value of this work. Child Nation leads us to a profound understanding of a complex world that is generally unacknowledged and hidden; it urges us to reflect, it prompts us to giving our young people trust and hope, fair opportunities and education, first in terms of values then in terms of learning; lest this generation feel sacrificed at the altar of our mistakes, because it is within children and teenagers that man is built, and because these young people possess unexpected resources and deserve to be able to believe in a better future.

Ilaria Prili

President of Akronos Association

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