Months after booking reservations to Isola di Lampedusa last summer news reports began pouring in exposing countless refugees perilously washing ashore from neighboring Tunisia. My family and I scratched our heads wondering what this would actually be like coexisting in the midst of tragedy — we experienced only one isolated encounter.
Upon arrival, an employee at the Lampedusa car rental lot mentioned a movie was being shot during those three weeks of holiday late July and early August 2015. Our starstruck, then eleven-year-old daughter started going gaga reciting her celebrity absolutely gotta-get-a-glimpse of stars. Days afterward we spotted that talked about film crew shooting a scene portraying an overcrowded school bus transporting Africans exclusively; each terrified face shrouded by silver mylar emergency blankets.
Certainly out of context for an Italian island; why educate Africans wearing reflective blankets in ninety-odd degree heat? Snooping around hours later we established two basic facts: this film was one illustrating that year’s unfolding of events; secondly, every refugee who had previously arrived were soon thereafter mysteriously carted away to busier Italian locations: Palermo, Rome, Milan and so on, where opportunities securing employment are much greater. The whispered hush, sly wink, alongside confident nod among several Italians conveyed in brief, those disorientated refugees would’ve caused a blight on festive Lampedusa’s three month long ka-ching machine.
My what a vast difference one little ol’ year can make. Black is beautiful on Lampedusa 2016. Skin emerges badass Nubian ebony, not no pussy footn’ Barack nor Beyoncé mocha shade here. Two visible generations abound this year, the first not hugely interesting, those teenage, twenty-somethings who dress and act western, oversized NBA tanks, droopy drawers, bleach-tipped midi-dreads, playing mindless games on cellphones, same old same old. Parents have form over their kids mega fold. Fathers don knitted skull caps, long tunics, I Dream of Jeannie billowy pants, and track style kicks, none which appear slightly color or pattern coordinated. Mothers wear hijabs, some I occasionally noticed had been embellished with tiny brass sequins, their neck down draped using another layer of mismatched motif fabric, kaftans hiding any skin except feet, those clad by leather hand-stitched sandals — the nouvelle gypsy Virgin Mary.
Lampedusa’s displaced Africans are way chill, similar to Mexico and Thailand’s general populous; unlike these migrant’s hosts who seemingly thrive emitting excessive disturbance at every turn. There is though a grittier portion on Lampedusa, as most towns also have their seedier side of the tracks; we however, haven’t ventured into Lampedusa’s Tenderloin yet. I doubt if we were to visit the “hood” we’d bump into any ISIS fighters assembling explosive vests. I’d rather think we might instead stumble across some version of a jerk chicken shack, complete with an in-house five-piece ensemble jamming fresh Burundi beats.
Who’s the lucky winner next February during New York Fashion Week? Come on, can’t you just picture it? truckloads of sand barrelling in from Coney Island via the Belt Parkway toward Lincoln Center, hauling a temporary runway depicting Nairobi’s torrid desert. What cool cat fashion designer was also on Lampedusa summer 2016 salivating over this simon-pure Black Lives Matter narrative? Models will undoubtedly have to be flown in, both male and female; America simply doesn’t provide 100% African ancestry anymore.
Might this upcoming designer recreate skullcaps, tunics, billowy pants, kicks, hijabs, kaftans and hand-stitched leather sandals, borrowing from history’s obvious, inspiration by way of electric Stephen Sprouse or keep things totally on the down-low in that manner Ann Demeulemeester does so impeccably well?
Boy oh boy, it’s a toss up, given the choice: accept three comped seats in-between Anna Wintour and Taylor Swift watching Lampedusa’s underside come alive next winter or return here for another summer — tough call, no diff, we got plenty of time.