Today we took the Rederij Lampedusa boat cruise, this tour boat agency operates using migrant boats shipped from the Mediterranean. Our Friday afternoon tour took place upon the Alhadj Djumaa Ship. According to the Rederij Lampedusa website, Alhadj means a wise old man who has been on pilgrimage, and Djumaa means Friday. In a single trip this vessel (pictured above) carried 282 migrants from Egypt to Lampedusa, Italy. Consequently, Italian authorities seized the boat a day after it’s arrival to Lampedusa and it was later given to the Rederij Tour Boat company to help raise awareness about migrant journeys overseas. The website explains that upon receiving the Alhadj Djumaa, “In between the oil barrels, life jackets and clothes left behind on board, [Rederij Lampedusa] found a book of sheet music for guitar. One other line of text is written on the back of the vessel: road to freedom, way of peace”. The sheet music and the emphasis on freedom seem have significantly shaped the mission and layout for Rederij Lampedusa’s tours.
Although I was initially expecting to hear migrant stories from Syria, Somalia, Egypt, etc. I was surprised to learn that our story cruise would take a more literal approach. Rather than learning about refugees, our guides explained the importance of storytelling as a whole. With the help of D’Angelo’s “How Does it Feel”, one guide explained his journey to self-awareness and self-acceptance as a gay man. Another guide used music and the blues to explain how he coped with suicidal feelings and loneliness. The final story, a fantasy story of sorts, involved a woman coughing up shoes and a jacket because the stories she had suppressed for so long decided they wanted to come out and see the world on their own. I really enjoyed hearing the stories of these individuals and experiencing their unique deliveries. This tour emphasizes diversity and acceptance. These individuals found a strong community of story tellers in Amsterdam and have found a place where they have the freedom to express themselves and their art. Additionally, given the setting, I came away thinking about the 200+ people who fled their homes on this tiny boat and how each of them had a story to tell.