The theme running through the XXXI Masi Prize was the central role of culture in nourishing a renaissance of virtue in a period of global crisis. This is what emerged both at the packed press conference held at Possessioni Serego Alighieri in Valpolicella and then the awards ceremony for the Prize winners at Teatro Filarmonico in Verona.
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Kuki Gallmann, the writer with origins in the Veneto and now a naturalised Kenyan, was awarded the Grosso d’Oro Veneziano for her commitment to the protection of the African ecosystem. She underlined the difficulties with the educational system in Kenya: “Education is a major problem: at school the children learn nothing about what makes their country special. They’ve never seen an elephant. How can they look after a country that they don’t know?” Which is why her Gallmann Memorial Foundation takes in African children and teaches them to respect nature.
The same educational theme emerged for the winners of the Masi Civiltà Veneta Prize. The super youthful orchestral conductor Andrea Battistoni was awarded the prize for his commitment to the use of musical education as a tool for the creation of a new moral order. “Music has got to come down off its pedestal, take off its finery, and mix with the people. There is an audience there, but we have got to get my age group to go to concerts.”
Giovanni Radossi, a teacher of Italian and English in Rovigno, talked about education too. He told us about his struggle, as a teacher and as director of the Centre for Research into the Italian Community in Rovigno, keeping the memories of the language and culture of Veneto and Italy alive in Istria, after its transferral to Jugoslavia following the Italian defeat in the Second World War. Political reform was the theme of the journalist and author Gian Antonio Stella, whose writings condemned the wrongs of politicians in the hope of a reform of politics and the party system. “New politicians should have an education too”, he said, underlining the reduced number of politicians in Parliament who are university graduates. The Institute of Masters of Wine, the authoritative London-based organisation that trains the greatest experts on wine, was represented by its President, Lynne Sherriff, and received the Civiltà del Vino award precisely because of its work in spreading knowledge about wine as an expression of the culture of the people and the territory that produce it. “Making wine is becoming more and more a cultural activity now it has become a global product,” according to the Masi Foundation vice-president and Masi Agricola president, Sandro Boscaini. He continued, “Making wine today means, above all, respecting a set of values, beginning with those connected with the countryside and going on to those dealing with knowledge, work, history and health. In a word, culture”.
The ancient culture of wine was in the foreground of another central part of the awards ceremony for the Masi Prize too: the traditional barrel-signing ceremony held at the Masi cellars where the Prize winners marked their property with signatures on the Amarone barrel set aside for them.