Lanu Varvaro: Our Journey

Artist, Lanu Varvaro was born in London, to parents of Sicilian and South American decent. Growing up, Varvaro lived solely with her mother and has travelled back and forth to Palermo in Sicily every year. Varvaro’s video Our Journey, captures a conversation with her mother about her experiences of immigration, displacement, home and travel. Here, Varvaro talks to Jungle about her own sense of displacement as a child of an immigrant growing up in London, her love of Palermo and the thoughts behind her video.

i. Born in London

I know that one good thing that this society offers is a chance to feel relaxed with people from all cultures. Yet I also feel that there is not such a great sense of community as there should be considering all the people we live amongst, I feel London has definitely changed over the years. When I was very young there was more things happening for families of different countries to try and bring them together, and this change makes me quite sad. I feel like London has become more a place of solitude, where you see people for a short period, there is not the strong warm Mediterrenean-like community bond amongst people. That bond is what I appreciate when I am in Palermo, and I don’t really get it in London.

However much London calls itself tolerant, and open, I find that is even less true. Yes we are ‘welcomed’ but still some of us feel this city isn’t really our home, I wonder whether why it is that a high percentage of us still feel displaced in a city where we were born. I used to think it was personal, but the more I spoke to other young people whose parents were immigrants the more I felt I could relate to their feeling of displacement.

ii. Travelling to my mothers home

I remember we were amongst the first families that would travel from Palermo to London, and back, there were only Sicilian families on the plane, no tourists, and not many young people in their 20s on their own. That is definitely something that has changed. As I grew older, I began to create a stronger bond with people in London, and money became tight, so we flew to Palermo only for the summer and Christmas and then it became just for the summer.

iii. Palermo

Palermo is the city that gave me a sense of hope for the future, which seems absurd to most since the political and living situation is far from ideal. Yet coming from a fast paced and frenetic lifestyle in London, when I was depressed at times as a young teen, the slow paced Palermo was the place that was open for me to go to. It was the place that helped me to orientate my life in the right direction so that when I returned to London I had re found my inner self. I feel that having the possibility to come to Sicily even if now it is only for the summer, it is a great privilege, as a lot of young people in my situation do not get the chance to leave London.

When I travel to Palermo, I feel like the young people of children of immigrants are more peaceful. There may be a greater poverty, but people are happier. I can’t explain it I feel you need go there and live there to understand.

iv. Our Journey

My video was a way to get this subject of home off my chest. This topic has been bugging me for quite a while, and I wanted to discuss it with my mother who has been an integral part of my life as a person and who has experienced the direct affect of being an immigrant in London.

I was coming back from a long road trip down the motorway with my mum from Agrigento back to Palermo, and this one sun spot and the sunset, mountains, and car moving seemed the ideal imagery to use as a backdrop whilst my mum spoke in the video I was going to create. The car heads on a journey, yet it is also coming home. The scene of the lit up chair with no person sitting represents my mum. I did not think it was necessary to literally have my mum there, the chair acted more as a metaphor for a strong presence in my life. I also wanted to include some movement in some of the scenes of the chair and had the idea to have some slow and fast animations of the books, the books representing my mothers’ great love of culture. I wanted the books to disappear one by one from the chair as if the books were individual dancers, with human like qualities.

v. Home

Home should be a place where you feel at ease and have a family around that are supportive. Yet that can be difficult when you are made up of two different countries and are born in a third country. When I am in Palermo I am not on holiday and I am not there as a tourist, I live there as one of the locals… There is a saying in Italian, that a ‘foreigner cries two times when he comes to the south, once when he arrives and the other when he leaves,’ that is definitely a quote I relate to. There is too something magical about this beautiful island that is very hard to let go of.


Words: Emma Bourne