Art and culture

BOOKS

The unforgettable past work of italians in Kenya

Professor Aldo Manos book was presented in Nairobi

18-12-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo

The recovery of the memory of Italians in East Africa is a work that is becoming increasingly valuable, both because of the now unbridgeable distance between the historical events of the last century and the collective imagination, and because of the difficulty in finding evidence in countries that change appearance with the speed of light.
With this spirit, the Comites Kenya has financed the publication of a book by the scholar Aldo Manos, a distinguished professor who was among the founders of the United Nations office in Kenya, concerning the works of Italian prisoners in Kenya.
The book, entitled "Contribution of Italians to the construction of modern Kenya, 1941-1947" and published in Italian and English, brings to light and makes known to fellow Kenyans and especially to Kenyans roads, bridges, dams, churches, irrigation canals, garden cities, private houses, machinery, engines and more that bear the signature of the creativity of Italian citizens who were detained in prison and labor camps during World War II. Many of them still don't have a name and a surname, as is the case for those who perished because of the uncomfortable conditions they were forced to endure, due to malaria or other diseases, or because they worked too hard. Others have survived and continued their African adventure, contributing their professionalism to modernizing a country that was on its way to independence.
The importance of the document resulting from Aldo Manos' research was also certified by the Italian Ambassador to Kenya Alberto Pieri, who wanted to present the volume in his residence, in front of members of the Comites and a few guests due to the restrictions still in force on public events, and also wrote the preface.
"The work of Professor Manos is an example of how the stories of Italians abroad can offer interesting and unpublished keys to interpreting a given historical period and often become an important part of the history of the country that hosts them - said Pieri - many of the buildings mentioned in this book are still visible and in good condition, a sign that despite the conditions to which our compatriots were subjected, their different attitudes and skills stand out as we often find in Italians abroad".
The accurate and capillary research work of Aldo Manos is not only an example of how much Italians have collaborated in the development of Kenya, starting from our prisoners of war, but it is part of the wider context of the recovery and preservation of the history of two peoples, the Italian and the Kenyan, both before and after the independence of the country. Manos, already the author of "Camp 360 Ndarugu", at the age of 90, with competence and passion is also in charge of the website prigionieriinkenia.org which receives daily requests, news, anecdotes and memories from relatives of those who lived through the years of World War II in the African country, died there, managed to return home or decided to stay in Africa. 
This work does not represent the conclusion of my research," confirmed the scholar during the presentation on Thursday, December 16, "but it must constitute the beginning of a work of research, archiving and recovery of the memories of at least 55,000 Italian prisoners and their families that is part of the much broader context of the entire history of our compatriots in Kenya. For this, we will need the collaboration of Kenyan and Italian institutions, as in this case with Comites Kenya".
As an example of the connections that can be made between Kenyan scholars and history buffs, Anglo-Kenyan researcher Tom Lawrence participated in the presentation by bringing a wooden bas-relief produced during his imprisonment by a detained Italian artist, depicting a sailing ship, an image reproduced from "Clipper" cigarette packs provided to prisoners in detention camps.
Satisfaction was also expressed by the President of Comites Bruno Giachino, who welcomed the publication of Aldo Manos' research as a fundamental step to keep alive the memory of thousands of heroic compatriots.
"As Comites we unanimously decided to finance this project - explained Giachino - for us Manos' work is absolutely necessary, because it is the demonstration of the great and varied abilities that have always distinguished the Italian people and our nation. We must continue to keep alive the memory of those who have done their best and who still do their best, honoring their roots".
The publication will be available, free of charge, at some distribution points that we will indicate soon.

TAGS: italiani kenyaprigionieri kenyaopere kenyaambasciatore kenyacomites kenyaaldo manos

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