Culture

Elisa Chimenti, a life dedicated to educating others

ASSOCIATION She founded the first Italian school in Morocco, she spoke several languages including Arabic and the North African dialects, but her tomb’s been forgotten and abandoned. The Fondation Elisa Chimenti pays homage to her work and plans to reopen the Italian school and promote the culture.

Who is Elisa Chimenti?

Writer and Italian teacher, she arrived in Morocco in 1884 at the age of one with her father, who became the personal doctor to Sultan Moulay Hassan.  

Fluent in French, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, German, Portuguese and Russian, she decided to teach languages and founded the first Italian language school in Morocco in 1914 with her mother.

The establishment was a huge success and was financed by the Italian government from 1924, who filled two teaching positions as well.   Elisa dedicated her life to teaching and writing and would also be the only European to teach in a medersa [Koranic school] of grand Moroccan a’llim scholar Abdellah Guennoun, well-known author of Annoubough al-maghribi and who called her “my sister”.   Forgetten at the end of the 1950s, she died in misery and abandonment in 1969 at the age of 86. Once in a deplorable state of neglect, her tomb in Tangier has been repaired thanks to the Consulate General of Italy.   Today, it’s been restored in the name of dignity.

Why an Elisa Chimenti Foundation?
Located within the Palais des Institutions Italiennes, the Fondation Méditerranéenne Elisa Chimenti was formed in March 2010, putting in place initiatives that enhance awarenss and disseminate life, the work and thoughts of Elsia Chimenti.

As a non-profit, the foundation’s goal is to promote international exchange between individuals and cultural groups in an effort to strengthen ties between the Mediterranean countries.   Her work will provide inspiration to the foundation, universal criteria for dialogue and peace told in her writings.   The initiatives are taken by the foundation to better understand and spread the works of Elisa Chimentia, as well as other writers having worked with the multiple cultures and inter-cultures of the Mediterranean region.   Finally, cultural, scientific and socio-economic initiatives will contribute to a better mutual understanding between the Mediterranean countries.

And then hopefully the Ecole italienne in Tangier will reopen!

Text Zineb Bennouna

Photo DR