Vera Omwocha, the Kenyan writer winner of the Tito Livio award organized by IIC Nairobi, Sugarpulp and the italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, tells her experience at Chronicae Festival 2018
Ecstasy… endlessly. Across the sea to the starry skies and to paradise.
That’s what I’m listening to as I look out into ‘paradise’; the paradise that makes the nothingness of the space and the magic of the clouds.
In well-arranged layers like well mowed flowers, the clouds take different shapes; like shrubs, others like a tilled farm awaiting planting. Sometimes they swallow us up and I wait on for the sun to rise up on the horizon. A new day in the sky.
The clouds disappear and the blueness of the sky ushers us in to Venice.
Magic. Awe. Wonder. Venice is indescribable in words, it’s an emotion. It feels like looking at a map you are in.
Riding along the Grand Canal (in a water bus) at the heart of Venice is the Bridge Rialto, a masterpiece. There are crowds of tourists on it, looking down at gondolas making their way through the canal. The Adriatic waters are calm, blue and peaceful.
Piazza San Marco: for a moment I forget all this space, intimidatingly huge is standing on water, unapologetically so. Then there’s Doge’s palace and St Marks Basilica, with more than 8,000 square metres of mosaic made of gold cover the walls, vaults and cupolas of the Basilica. The marble geometry floor steals my breath.
On the narrow streets are shops and countless tourists. We walk on the alleyways and Canal Bridges and it all seems like you are walking in a picture motion movie.
From the Fondaco dei Tedeschi palazzo, I take in the city and keep it; such beauty can only be kept in the heart.
From Venice to Padua, the religious architecture and art is intense. The coldness of the ancient buildings hits you and when you enter, it feels like the building has swallowed you up. At times, I feel like I’m going to turn into a painting too. A beautiful piece of art.
The magical Villa Roberti expresses the richness of architecture dating back to the 15th Century during the Renaissance period in Veneto. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Tintoretto and Giotto are no longer names from a history class; they walked these streets and painted these buildings.
We have a better view of Padua from Palazzo della Ragione, a medieval town hall. Need I talk about more paintings? At the Padua Baptistery, I salivate over the work of the masterpiece fresco cycles of the 14th century, by Giusto de Menabuoi.
And finally, The University of Padua. The statue of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, one of the first women to receive an academic degree from a university is welcoming. The alumni list is equally breath-taking, the highlight of it being Galileo’s desk!
From the 31 metres Torre Carrarese, the small town of Piove di Sacco looks beautifully busy. It’s a full festival Sunday and ancient costumes and artefacts are out on the ground between the cathedral and the tower.
Great authors of historical fiction talk about their writing. I’m greatly awed by the kind of research they carry out for their books. They are writers united because they care about history, for what is man without a sense of where he is coming from? I can’t wait to learn Italian so I can read all those books, starting with Giacomo Casanova.
I remember Francesca Chiesa mentioning this at the workshop in Nairobi, ‘If you are a poet, you don’t eat. If you write historical fiction, you eat – and drink!’ So, here’s the inspiration to eat and drink.
Italians are extremely kind hearted, warm and friendly (on a very large scale). Strangers flash lovely smiles and ciaos.
It feels like a home in a different world.
This would be incomplete without the kitchen section, right? Pasta, polenta, Piatti curati e gustosi, lamb ribs…nothing disappoints. I taste horse meat- smoked and raw. Yeah, I know. But it doesn’t even taste raw.
The thing is, we had an agreement with my body, that’s a lie; I blackmailed my body to better behave if it ever wanted to travel abroad again. Imagine a spoiler stomach upset! Luckily, it happened to over perform.
We eat at a table together, over endless stories and bountiful laughter. Happiness is served along the dishes.
Italy offers an overdose of beauty and unforgettable art. I’m in perfect synchrony with the world and the beauty it holds. And the peace in my heart is higher than all the buildings I’ve seen. Out here is a world weaved together in perfection.
I sit at the airport lounge and watch a multitude of humanity, pulling suitcases to discover new worlds, perhaps to also have a taste of raw horse meat.
The flight timetable is moving fast and soon a flight to ‘Doha’ will appear; a ticket to the starry skies…and to another paradise, with experiences and a new world tugged in my heart.
Thank you to the Sugarpulp team (Wonderful people), The Italian Institute of Culture in Nairobi and the italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation – you made it possible.