11-05-2019 by Freddie del Curatolo
There are interesting books and necessary books. "Field 360 Ndarugu" by Aldo Manos belongs to both categories. Born in 1931, a former United Nations diplomat, one of the first to inaugurate the offices in Nairobi in 1963, Manos has reconstructed the history of a prison camp for Italians in Kenya forgotten by history, and he did so at a time when much of history was erased without any hesitation.
From a small church on the outskirts of Nairobi, in a countryside threatened by industrial sheds where coffee plantations once stood, Manos through this book-document brings to light stelae, fragments of monuments that reopen living memories as never-healed wounds.
In an attempt to preserve these precious testimonies of what happened in Kenyan territory from 1941 to 1947, the author has reconstructed the history of Camp 360, where about ten thousand compatriots were detained. With rigor and passion, reconstructing the history of Ndarugu and the other camps, Manos came into contact with children and grandchildren of former Italian prisoners in Kenya and published letters, emails and other precious testimonies, as well as a list of names and references that finally shed light on a people of dumb forgotten heroes, even in extreme conditions between malnutrition, malaria and lack of hygiene, they put their self-denial, laboriousness and competence in the field (it is the case to say it) by building places of worship, roads and other works of which we can still see the fruits, as Prof. Federico Battera, professor of History and Institutions of Africa at the University of Trieste, in the preface: "The book reminds us of the individual effort typical of the Italian genius, but also of the collective effort from south to north, of a people that gives its best in times of difficulty. The industriousness and generosity of this people and its testimonies in the world. It is above all in manufacturing and craftsmanship that Italy leaves its mark on the world. In the small, it does so even in a place of suffering".
There is not a page to skip, in this precious document, among the re-enactments of the famous escapes (not only the one with the return of Benuzzi, Balletto and Barsotti), the accommodations in the twelve Kenyan camps, the fate of missionaries and officers (among all of them obviously Amedeo d'Aosta) and much more.
In addition to being a pleasant reading, Aldo Manos' book is one of those starting stations from which to begin a journey back in time that, in telling us about a historical period and its African background, fascinates and enriches. As the author will continue to do through the website that has opened www.prigionierinkenya.org, ready to collect other important memories, testimonies, research, discoveries.
The book (Licosia Edizioni, 148 pages € 20) can be ordered in Italy.
For those who are in Nairobi, the author will be present with some copies from Friday 17th to Sunday 20th May at the Italian Expo of the Village Market.
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