“Cortile Napoli” is a tribute to the lives of children, facing a very difficult context in a district of
Palermo named Zisa-Danisinni, inhabited by a high number of vulnerable families, mainly
foreigners and unemployed.
I focused on this particular district because it caught my attention
since the very first time I accidentally passed by. The district has a peculiar urban aspect: even if
Zisa and Danisinni are part of the same geographical area, they are often thought as two
different living units. The rione Danisinni, surrounded by caves, ups and downs, is located in a
area of depression in the riverbed of Papireto, lower than the rest of the city: you can glimpse
Danisinni from the higher streets of Zisa and it seems a place impossible to reach. Only the
people who know the district very well can show you the way through a small corridor carved
into the rock, in an alley that seems to bring nowhere.
A few months after discovering this area I met Paola, mother of Alma, Clara and Angela. She
showed me where she lives with her family, in a very small alley of Zisa called Cortile Napoli.
Despite being a very tiny space to live in, it immediately felt like home to me. The apartment is
partly open, with a small patio surrounded by old, decadent buildings, and big white tarps that
delimit the kitchen and a small room with a sofa. The patio is animated by the sound of birds
that Salvo, Paola’s husband, used to breed. The boundaries between the outside and the inside
of the building are labile: there is a strong synergy with the outside environment because the
doorstep is adjacent to the streets. The lights, the noise of the district harmoniously mingle with
the indoor sounds. Adjacent to the patio lives Aya, a little girl of Moroccan origins: from her
window she watches Clara, Angela and Alma playing in the patio and she often joins them
pretending to be their sister. Aya’s cousins, who live nearby, usually come to Cortile Napoli and
the kids play together building their own world made of laughters, dreams and imagination,
mixing their different cultures and habits with the authentic spirit of children.
I stayed in Cortile Napoli as much as I could, driven by its spirit, trying to grasp the grace of the
children’s plays and thoughts, being part of them, sweeping away any boundary.
Virginia Zoli (b. 1990, Forli, Italy) is a photographer and social educator based in Palermo,
Sicily. She graduated in Modern Literature and Cultural Studies, she holds a master in
Reportage and Photojournalism (Spazio Labò, Bologna).
She focuses on photographic projects
based on social issues. In 2015 she won the first prize in the Urban Photo Race competition in
Amsterdam and exhibited her work at Raw Street Photo Gallery in Rotterdam. In 2018 she won
the first prize in the Life Framer competition and her work was exhibited in Milan at Officine
Fotografiche. In 2020 she worked as a photo assistant for Francesco Bellina, a member of
Cesura. Since 2021 she has been collaborating with the collective Arcipelago-19.