From the Dark Wood to Paradise: Dante Alighieri at UoN
The University of Nairobi’s Department of Linguistics, Languages and Literature, the Italian Embassy and the Italian cultural institute collaborated on a conference dubbed "From the Dark Wood to Paradise: Dante Alighieri at the University of Nairobi."
The initiative was part of the "Week of the Italian Language in the World" with the objective of introducing Dante Alighieri and his poetics to the students of the Faculty of Arts.
During the event, excerpts of the audio book version of From the Dark Wood to Paradise were read to the participants in English, Kiswahili and Italian; some parts of the Divine Comedy have been translated into 33 languages including Swahili. The Kiswahili version of the audio book is thanks to a collaborative effort between the Italian Embassy and UoN Department of Linguistics, Languages and Literature’s professors Alex Wanjala and Kinenne Wamutiso.
The audio book Dalla selva oscura al paradiso leads listeners on a tour through the three cantos of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise to enable them discover an extraordinary poem which arouses the interest of readers and inspires artists, writers, musicians, film and theatre directors.
It evident upon listening to Dalla selva oscura al paradiso that Dante really loved Beatrice; his love goes way back to his childhood years. However, this love is unrequited, both Beatrice and Dante are betrothed to different people and Beatrice died when they were both 24. Despite this, Beatrice continues featuring in Dante’s work where she is portrayed as the ideal woman.
Dante’s devolution to Beatrice can be seen as the depiction of an ideal love and a quest for perfection. Through his perpetual quest for happiness, Dante is in search of a source of joy or happiness which is divine love. At a higher level, Beatrice is the embodiment of the philosophical quest for truth. Dante’s poetry in philosophical terms describes the experience of love and the pursuit of happiness.
Dante Alighieri at University of Nairobi also included a segment for the collaborators to share their perspectives.
Speaking at the conference, the Italian Ambassador to Kenya, Ambassador Alberto Pieri noted that some Italian words are used in Kenya and across the globe thus showcasing the undeniable influences of Italian culture to the world. Some of these words include: bravo, fiasco, opera, finale, solo, lotto, spaghetti, pizza, lasagna, gelato, diva and ballerina.
The Dean Faculty of Arts, Prof. Ephraim Wahome expressed sentiments with regards to the cultural and technological influences of Italians onto the world.
“There is no better partner in terms of culture than Italy because culture goes back to the Greco-Roman period. Aspects of culture and technology like road building are drawn from that early cultural heritage. As a university we would like to see this collaboration grow into a full collaboration where we are able to interact in terms of theatre and languages.”
The Dean Faculty of Arts was representing the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Stephen Kiama.
“The Italian language has been part of the population of the country of Kenya for a long time. Malindi for example has often been referred to as little Italy since the late 60s because of its cultural inclination.” Read the Vice-Chancellor’s speech.
On his part Dr. Alex Wanjala, Department of Linguistics, Languages and Literature explained the contributions of Dante Alighieri’s work to world literature.
“He is part of what came to be known as three crowns of Italian literature. The others being the writer Giovanni Boccaccio well known for his text and Francesco Petrarch the father of the Renaissance movement. Indeed, the works of the three crowns of Italian literature have been known to comprise an entire teaching unit in English and literature departments the world over signaling the importance of the contribution of the Italian language to world literature.”
Dante Alighieri at University of Nairobi concluded with the screening of the film "The Sky over Kibera" by Marco Martinelli (Teatro delle Albe).