Federico Tisa: Tinuola

2018 / ongoing

This is the story of Mary, born on the 2nd of May 1994 in Mushalash, a small town in Lagos State in Nigeria. Her grandmother called her Tinuola, meaning “full of wealth” in the Yoruba language.

After a journey of more than 2.500 miles and endless time, which took her from Lagos to Benin City, then to Kano, Agadez in Niger and finally to the seaport city of Zuara in Libya, she arrived in Sicily in October 2014 and was transferred to Florence shortly afterwards. Following the end of one of the hospitality projects, she was transferred to Chivasso, a small town near Turin in 2017. Mary is a guest of the Mary Poppins association, a non-profit organisation that works with trafficked women.

The journey that carries me to Chivasso is much shorter, just a few minutes’ drive from Turin, where I live and work. I turn to Mary Poppins thanks to the advice of a friend who works for the cooperative as an operator. After a series of introductory interviews I met Mary in April 2018. Time carried me to become her friend. Her white brother. That is what she calls me now when she has to introduce me to her friends.

In 2019, Mary leaves the project and starts a new life. A life not easy and full of difficulties, made of mistakes, steps forward, passions, pain, humiliation. A long bureaucratic path to regularization on Italian ground and the search for a job.

This is a small story about the world around her and her incredible story.

It’s the story of our friendship.

Mary poses for a portrait I took of her at the Sacra di San Michele. A place I absolutely wanted her to see given its strong spirituality. Sant’Ambrogio di Susa, February 2020.

Mary and Kate are getting ready for another birthday party for a friend of theirs who is in the Mary Poppins shelter project. Chivasso, July 2018.

Mary and her roommates during a birthday party for their friend’s daughter. Chivasso, May 2018.

Mary shows signs of Libya on her body, of the exploitation she was subjected to and the voodoo ritual she underwent before leaving for Europe. She has a story no different from the thousands of other girls imprisoned in hot spots and forced into prostitution to pay off the debt contracted for the journey.
A debt tha strangles them and forces them to be trafficked. San Sebastiano da Po, May 2018.

With the arrival of 2022, it has been more than two years since Mary has been undocumented, officially illegal. So, we decide it is time to begin to find a way out of this state of slumber and malaise. Through old contacts in the hospitality world and a lawyer friend, Mary is placed in a new project. Turin, March 2022.

Mary jealously preserves this photo. It’s the only photo of her mum with her and her brother. Her mother unfortunately died when she was still a child and Mary grew up with her grandmother in a house outside the city. Chivasso, May 2018.

The first trial period, the first activated internship is officially over. It lasted six months. The tailoring job currently is the only way she can afford money to help pay her rent and everything else. Turin, February 2023.

Mary poses for a portrait in the room of her host cohousing. Turin, March 2023.

Federico Tisa | Documentary photographer
email: tisa.federico@gmail.com
tel: +393384611573
web: www.federicotisa.com
instagram: /federicotisa

Follow us on social media: