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Together on Earth (T.O.E.) | Civic Europe
Community development, Youth participation and empowerment

Together on Earth (T.O.E.)

Spreading knowledge of Arabic and Islamic culture: a public program to promote cultural exchanges and inaugurate a new way of living together in the multiethnic community of the Via Padova area, Milan


Who is behind this?

Elena Quarestani

Assab One


Who is joining forces?

Threes Production



Idea pitch

Together On Earth will showcase the neglected aspects of the exquisite Middle Eastern and Islamic culture: art, music, dance, poetry, cuisine, science, body care, architecture, storytelling. Assab One will work with Arabic associations, schools and Universities on a programme about this culture, mostly unknown both to the Milaneses and to the local Muslim community.
T.O.E. will enhance a virtuous process of mutual understanding, replicable in critical areas, where different communities meet.

Where will your project idea take place?

Via Padova area, Milan, Italy

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

Seen the striking presence of the Arabic community in the neighbourhood, Together On Earth aims at dignifying Islamic culture and at promoting awareness. Inclusion and respect will be key points of the project in schools, where local students will be involved. Showcasing Islamic spirituality and its secular cultural expressions, such as cinema, literature and dance, will have a nobilitating impact on how the neighbourhood’s population and the rest of the city perceives the Islamic community, and the Islamic community perceives itself.
Integration will also be sought on a broader level, inviting the whole population of Milan to venture into the area to experience its joyful and beautiful culture and the richness of diversity, overcoming its bad reputation of unsafety.

Who are you doing it for?

School-age children and teenagers in the area will be the first key target group, as they represent the core asset for the future of the area (being 25% of the Islamic community). They will be involved as creators and users, in a co-creation process of collaborative research (through the phases of inquiry, mapping, engaging and social reporting). This will be rolled out in conjunction with the local primary, middle and high schools, where almost 50% of the students are of non-Italian background.
The area’s and Milan’s population will be the other key target group of the initiative. The project aims at overcoming cultural segregation between different groups, and therefore at normalising and dignifying Islamic culture both for the Arabic and non-Arabic parts of the population.

How do you plan to get there?

At least 10 events will take place with focuses on Islamic culture: literature, spirituality, music, storytelling, traditional dance, women culture, science, calligraphy, food, cinema, art and architecture.
Partnerships with local schools Casa del Sole, Liceo Caravaggio and Istituto S.Giuseppe will be activated. Students will be involved in in-class and off-site activities to map the local history of Arabic culture; they will also work on perceived and real differences and obstacles to diversity and inclusion. This social research will be the starting point for workshops with academics, mentors and artists.
Thanks to Assab One’s 20years experience in cultural events production, film screenings, cookery classes and books presentations will be held, involving active members of the local Muslim community as well as from other backgrounds.
Some examples:
- workshops of calligraphy and dance
- performance of a Sufi group
- workshops of photography focused on the neighbourhood
- storytelling night addressed to the youngest kids
- open-air Arabic cinema night in the courtyard
- playful cooking classes of traditional Middle Eastern and Italian recipes held by members of the local community
- concert of contemporary Arabic musicians for the younger generation
In addition, we will leave our premises and ‘invade’ the neighbourhood bringing smaller events inside local shops.

What are the expected results?

Together On Earth will show how rich and inspiring true Islamic culture can be.
We aim at spreading a message that will challenge and change the perception of Islamic culture for the local Arabic community and the rest of the population. This will result in a more defined identity for the whole area, where a better understanding of Islamic life and habits will benefit everyone.
Our goal is also to make second-generation Muslims aware and proud of their culture’s longstanding richness, and for them to re-claim their roots in light of their millenary traditions.
This virtuous process may be mirrored by other actions in the community involving the municipality and the city council, creating a self-sustainable cycle of events around different yet present cultures in Milan’s outskirts.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

Community members and representatives from Assab One, local schools and other subjects involved will co-create every event of Together On Earth.
Everyone’s voice will be key to every step of the decisional aspects. Students and adults from the community will be:
- creators, through interactive mapping and research about Islamic culture in the area
- hosts, leading workshops and contributing to every event
- final users of talks, roundtables and support groups
This will also have a broader impact, as it will empower citizens to act on their area and will show the positive results of community-engaged activities. Together On Earth will enhance the pride of being part of such a generous community that expresses the richness of its multifaceted identity.

Why is this idea important to you?

- Elena Quarestani is AssabOne’s Founder. Passionate about conveying the beauty of different cultures, since 2002 she has explored the neighbourhood producing several projects in collaboration with artists and academics
- Valeria Gemelli believes in empowering people to have the cultural tools and create their own connections, events and art projects. She sees AssabOne and via Padova as the most fertile soil to do so

Assab One’s building fosters this mission via its façade, enriched by a public art piece by artist Nathalie DuPasquier. Its premises house a creative community that will be involved in the project: Threes, two independent publishers, a graphic designer, two artists, the studio of an Indian architect, all working towards nobilitating the culture in the area.

€ 45000,-

Total budget

€ 35000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

- Curatorship, Project Management, Community Management €6000
- Consultants, translators, mediators €7000
- Invigilators and security €3000
- Guests, lecturers, mentors travel and expenses fees €9000
- Communication (Press office, printouts, social media, newsletter, flyers, website ..) €5000
- Workshops material and equipment hire (incl. audio&video supports) €8000
- Office expenses (incl. utilities) €5000
- Meetings and lectures catering €2000
*Optional €10000 Magazine or Publication

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

We look forward to receiving feedbacks on our project!
We would specifically like to know whether similar programmes took place in other cities or regions and how communities and external neighbourhoods reacted to them.


Idea created on April 26, 2021
Last edit on April 26, 2021

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