Faculty collaborations celebrate Italian Language Week

Schools and Centres in the Wellington Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences celebrated Italian Language Week (19 to 25 October) with launches of scholarly and creative work.

In two collaborative ventures, the School of Languages and Cultures and Wai-te-ata Press launched a zine, and the School of Languages and Cultures and the School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations launched a graphic novel.

This year’s global theme for Italian Language Week was ‘Italian between word and image: Graffiti, illustrations, and comic books’. Dr Marco Sonzogni (School of Languages and Cultures) explains that “images are at the core of the history of the Italian language,” with the first fumetto (cartoon) in Italy that appeared as part of an 11—12-century fresco in the Church of St Clement, Rome. It was also the first example of written Italian alongside Latin.

Dr Sonzogni and Wai-te-ata Press Reader Dr Sydney Shep, with support from Istitutio Italiana di Cultura (Australia) and Accademia della Crusca (Italy), reproduced this fumetto in their zine. The fumetto was accompanied by a joint commentary by Dr Sonzogni and Dr Shep, and te reo Māori whakataukī, which carry similar meanings to a key phrase in the fumetto in Vulgar Latin—Duritiam cordis vestris saxa traere meruistis (Given the hardness of your heart, you deserve to drag rocks).

“It was a time travelling experience to produce the zine and relate it to the current COVID-19 situation and multilingual New Zealand in the commentary,” says Dr Sonzogni.

Alongside the launch of the zine, Wai-te-ata Press hosted an exhibition of 15 comics by 20 contemporary young Italian artists staged by the Lucca Project. This exhibition was adopted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and promoted through their network of Italian Cultural Institutes. Posters of the comics are still on show at Wai-te-ata Press.

The second launch, hosted by the School of Languages and Cultures and the School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations, with support from the Embassy of Italy, celebrated the publication of Sarah Laing’s graphic novel adaptation of 16 ottobre 1943 in Italian and Associate Professor Mark Seymour’s (University of Otago) book Emotional Arenas: Life, love and death in 1870s Italy.

A watercolour drawing of a woman holding a small suitcase, dressed in a mustard '50s style dress, standing on a train platform. The train has already pulled away.
An image from Sarah Laing's graphic novel
Sarah Laing’s graphic novel adaptation was curated by Associate Professor Giacomo Lichtner (School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations) and both he and Dr Sonzogni provided the translations. 16 ottobre 1943 by Giacomo Debenedetti is considered one of the best and most accurate accounts of the roundup of more than one thousand Roman Jews during World War Two. The Debenedetti family were able to attend remotely from Italy, and international experts in Italian history and the History of Emotions contributed remotely from Australia and the United Kingdom.

Associate Professor Mark Seymour’s book explores the ‘emotional arena’ in history through the detailed records of a trial for the murder of a decorated soldier, held in Rome in 1879. University of Otago Emeritus Professor Barbara Brookes was also welcomed to the University to speak at the launch.

The collaboration seen in the works launched at these events and the support of external organisations made this week special for all involved. “We really value our collaborations with friends and colleagues across the country and beyond who share our fascination with things Italian. Italian Language Week is a fantastic way for staff, students, and the wider community to celebrate the many connections between Italy and New Zealand,” says Head of the School of Languages and Cultures Associate Professor Sally Hill.

“Italian has been taught here since 1923, and our Faculty is a hub for the study of Italian history, language, and culture in Aotearoa. It was great to see that acknowledged with the launches taking place at this University.”