On the occasion of the “Week of the Italian language”, the Italian Cultural Institute in Dakar, Senegal, organized a vast program of exhibitions, conference, theatre plays and film screenings dedicated to Italian Poet Dante Alighieri.

Italy's poet Dante celebrated in Dakar, Senegal

From 11 October to 11 November the face of Dante Alighieri was visible on the streets of Dakar, on 10 billboards placed in various districts of the capital city of Senegal.

This exhibition presented the work of ten Italian artists, who reinvented Dante’s face through the language of illustration, comics and street art. The artists are Andrea De Luca, Blub, Bomboland, Milo Manara, Mirko Camia, Oscar Diodoro, Matteo Cuccato, Camilla Garofano, Lucamaleonte, VanOrton. 

The events dedicated to Dante also included the screening of the documentary film “The sky over Kibera”, named after a slum of Nairobi, Kenya. In Swahili Kibera means forest, a symbolic reference to the first lines of Dante’s “Inferno”: “Midway upon the journey of our life/I found myself within a forest dark/For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”  

Marco Martinelli, the director of “The sky over Kibera”, arrived in Nairobi in 2018. Martinelli’s encounter with the (dark) forest par excellence gave life to a theatre workshop and related show focused on Dante’s “Divina Commedia”(Divine Comedy), which involved 150 children and teenagers from local schools, giving a new perspective to Dante’s masterpiece in English and Swahili. The screening of the movie, in Italian with English subtitles, was preceded by a meeting with Martinelli himself. 

One of the billboards that showcased Dante's face in Dakar, Senegal
One of the billboards that showcased Dante’s face in Dakar, Senegal

Also, part of the initiative was the presentation of the first translation into Wolof of the Divina Commedia’s First Canto. The Canto was translated by Italian-Senegalese writer and journalist Abdoulaye Khoumaalso known as Pap.  

The translation process took months and saw the support of other Senegalese intellectuals, including Pap Khouma’s colleague and friend Cheikh Tidiane Gaye, an Italian-Senegalese writer and poet. The Ambassador of Italy to SenegalGiovanni Umberto De Vito, introduced the meeting with Pap Khouma and Cheikh Tidiane Gaye, who read passages from the First Canto of the Divina Commedia

La straordinaria traduzione di Pap Khouma è alla base di un lavoro artistico che ha coinvolto il Teatro delle Albe di Ravenna in partnership con il Ker Théâtre Mandiaye N’Diaye, un gruppo di attori di Pikine – quartiere nella banlieue di Dakar -, l’attore senegalese Laity Fall e il Complexe Culturel Léopold Sédar Senghor di Pikine.  

The extraordinary translation by Pap Khouma is the basis of an artistic work that involved the Albe Theatre of Ravenna, in partnership with the Ker Théâtre Mandiaye N’Diaye. The two theatres, together with a group of actors from Pikine – a neighbourhood in the suburbs of Dakar -, Senegalese actor Laity Fall and the Complexe Culturel Léopold Sédar Senghor of Pikine organized a theatre workshop. 

The theatre workshop on Dante held by Alessandro Argnani
The theatre workshop on Dante held by Alessandro Argnani

For a week, from 17 to 24 October, thirty young Senegalese actors under the guidance of Italian actor Alessandro Argnani carried out a journey through the cantos of the Divina Commedia, with the aim of bringing Dante’s poem to the outskirts of Dakar.  At the end of the week, on Saturday 23rd the Complexe Culturel L.S.S. Pikine hosted the final show of this short but intense artistic journey. 

Finally, the events dedicated to Dante Alighieri concluded with the collective exhibition “Sunu Dund – seven Senegalese artists interpret Dante’s First Canto of Hell”, as part of Partcours 2021