The Malta Independent 25 June 2024, Tuesday
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Conferment of Honoris Causa Degrees of Doctor of Literature

Marie Benoît Sunday, 19 March 2023, 08:50 Last update: about 2 years ago

I haven't been to such a traditional ceremony for a long time. I loved it from beginning to end. The recepients of the D.Litt were Judge Vanni Bonello and Ms Maria Grech Ganado, both loved and admired personalities, and both in their 80s.

No one could tell me whether Maria was the first woman to receive this honour, not even Maria herself.


The ceremony took place at the Church of the University, Valletta on 3 March. The Academic Body, including the Honorary Graduands, proceeded in procession from the Valletta Campus, St Paul's street, to the Church of the University, Merchants Street, Valletta.


The beautiful music was in the hands of the Cordia String Ensemble and Chorus Urbanus directed by Mro Dr John Galea.  The Ensemble played Mozart's first movement of the Nutcracker Suite. Other pieces played:  A time for us - Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet, (composed by Nino Rita; soloist Hilda Grima); Saint-Saëns's Ave Verum Corpus were soon followed by Ennio Moricone's Nella Fantasia (Gabriel's Oboe) in which Cordia String Ensemble was joined by the Chorus Urbanus

Our president who was in Ireland was replaced by Acting President, Prof. Frank Bezzina.


It was a solemn occasion however, Vanni's wit and Maria's smiling eyes ensured that the event did not become too solemn. It was all beautifully organised, with guests of Judge Bonello on one side of the church and Ms Grech Ganado's on the other. Dignitaries and academic staff in the middle.


The Oration at the beginning of the ceremony was delivered in Maltese by Prof Adrian Grima. The rest of the ceremony was conducted in English.

Prof Grima quoted and analysed in depth Maria's well-known poem Sqaq Nru 2 praising the quality of the language, the ideas and its depth; her iconic Izda Mhux Biss had touched many women who subsequently approached Maria. He also commented on her poetry books, Fil-Hofra Bejn Spallejha and Skont Eva; her participation in Inizjiamed and Poeziaplus; her many travels in the name of poetry. Thanks to her insistence and determination Inizjamed finally became a member of the European network Literature Across Frontiers.

He commented on her teaching of literature; her gathering young women poets to share with them her knowledge, to show them her faith in them while at the same time to learn from them. The silent revolution, Prof Grima said, started in those meetings some of which took place in her home. It was an intellectually and artistically stimulating ambience in which authors could discuss books, films but above all the literature they were writing. In the meantime Inizjamed and Poeziaplus created a public literary space, which for many years had been the domain of men. Here now, Maria and other young writers could read their literary work.


Why was Maria awarded the D.Litt? Because she was "a meritorious candidate."  Because the University recognised  the significant contribution she made "for writing poetry that fosters a more humane, respectful and inclusive society, for coaching, supporting and encouraging other women writers to work together and give voice to their individual and collective thoughts and experiences; for teaching literature in insightful and stimulating ways, with rare passion; and for helping to carve a place for Maltese literature in international literary networks."


Ms Grech Ganado's sponsor was Prof. Dominic Fenech, Dean, Faculty of Arts who presented the graduand to the Rector. The Chancellor then presented the degree scroll and following this the Honorary Graduand signed the Liber Aureus. Maria then addressed the assembly.


In his oration before the confernment of degree on Judge Giovanni Bonello Prof Borg gave another interesting oration. " his long career as a lawyer,  judge, scholar, historian and writer, has achieved two main goals. One is that of literally creating and developing human rights law from an area of study limited to a few cases, to a veritable law in its own right, permeating all the areas of this discipline. His second achievement is as valid as the first: that of making Maltese history popular, and understood by everyone; his books on different episodes, incidents and anecdotes which are scattered through time in our history, always well researched and documented, have rekindled an interest in our research and traditions, and have explained in an enjoyable style and manner, who we are and where we come from."

This was such an interesting speech. As an avid reader of the Judge's work I found it even more so.


Judge Giovanni Bonello was awarded the D. Litt "for his contribution towards the development of human rights law in Malta, as well as the popularisation of Maltese history through prolific contributions; for his role as judge in the European Court of Human Rights; for nurturing among students and peers, a consciousness about human rights law and practice in Malta; and for being a beacon of excellence in the study of law and history in Malta.


Judge Bonello's sponsor was Dr Ivan Mifsud (Dean Faculty of Laws) who presented the graduand to the Rector. The confernment of the degree by the Rector was followed by the presentation of the degree scroll by the Chancellor. The Honorary Graduand then signed the Liber Aureus followed by Judge Bonello's address. The Innu Malti followed.

The Honorary Graduands then left in procession with the Chancellor, the Rector and the Academic Body for a Vin d'Honneur at the University of Malta Valletta Campus, in Merchants Street.

I regret being unable to at least quote from the excellent, often witty addresses of Ms Grech Ganado and Judge Bonello for lack of space but I am certain you wish to see some photos.


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