By Hilda de Windt-Ayoubi
Translating The Prophet started in an almost mystical way. Someone I know, asked me 6 years ago, if I knew Kahlil Gibran. Despite the fact that I wrote him that I did not, he kept mentioning Kahlil’s name once in a while. He wrote me that some aspects of my poems remembered him of this writer. One day he told me that Kahlil, like my parents, hailed from Lebanon. It was then that I could not close my heart any more. So I went in google-search of this Lebanese writer. When I saw his oeuvre I was really startled.
In 2011 my son Faried, bought me The Prophet as a birthday present. I was really touched by this wonderful book. A few months later, I got the second present, a translation into Dutch, De Profeet. While reading this translation, I felt a great desire to translate this marvelous book into Papiamento, our local language.
On the inside of the cover of the Dutch translation, I read the name of Professor Suheil Bushrui of the University of Maryland. Professor Bushrui is a leading authority on Kahlil Gibran and the Director of the George and Lisa Zakhem Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace at the University of Maryland. Before I started the translation, I called the University of Maryland to ask about the authorial rights and was able to speak to the professor himself who encouraged me to start translating the book. He also invited me to the Second International Conference of Kahlil Gibran which would be in May 2012.
That moment I was not sure that I would be able to attend. But again, things turned out in a rather mystical way, as my husband and I attended the conference. We met many scholars from many Arab and non- Arab countries. I got much information, and I felt even more motivated to go on. I met Glen Kalem, an Australian film/documentary maker who asked me to contact him as soon as I was ready with the translation, for he was working on a documentary, Kahlil Gibran, the Reluctant Visionary, and wished to include the translation into Papiamento.
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet into Papiamento will be the 43th language in which the work has been translated. It is also striking that this translation is 90 years after the first edition in English in 1923 and 130 years after the passing away of this universal writer.
Today, December 13, 2013, the work is at the Publisher, and I hope that the printing will be finished very soon. I look back at a marvelous, interesting, though, not always very easy time. For publishing a book, not only costs a lot, but also requires a great effort to get things done. I have learned a lot and feel very grateful that the Lord has given me the opportunity and strength to translate this eternal writer, painter, and philosopher.
Papiamento is a Portuguese-Creole language with many influences of Spanish and Dutch. It is spoken not only in the three Leeward Islands, Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire, but nowadays plays a functional role on the three Windward Islands, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and Saba. Moreover, it is spoken by a relatively big group of the islands’ inhabitants who, forced by economical and educational necessities, have moved to Holland, creating a Papiamento community there of approximately 125.000 persons. In addition, Papiamento is one of the three official languages of the Dutch Kingdom. It is also the instruction language of the majority of the primary schools on the Leeward Islands.
The first graduating class of Master in Papiamento was in July, 2011. The translation into Papiamento will, most probably, be the first one into a Creole language, a unique event, not only for our island, but also for the whole world.
I am Hilda de Windt –Ayoubi, the third daughter of an emigrated Lebanese family. My grandfather, mother’s side, emigrated to Curaçao in 1907. My mother and almost all her ten brothers and sisters were born on this Dutch island in the Caribbean. My grandfather used to take his whole family for holidays to Lebanon. On their last stay in Lebanon, my mother met my father again whom she already knew, and shortly after, they married. I married someone of my island, whom I met when I lived and studied in Holland.
My mother loved languages and so do I. I studied Spanish and Literature in Holland and later got a Master of Education degree in Spanish at our local university. I also studied Public Relations, Mass Communications, and English. On my island I attended an Art Academy for almost 4 years. I still love art and writing, especially painting and writing poetry.
Thus, while translating The Prophet, I portrayed Kahlil Gibran. Many of my poems were published in a local Dutch newspaper. Even one on Lebanon, “My Lebanon”. Currently I am working on my first poetry book. Furthermore, some of my short stories in Dutch have already seen light. In some of these stories, I narrate stories about life events in Lebanon, which my mother has told me years ago. Or things that make the life of a ‘Lebanese’ child in Curaçao different from the life of other Curaçao-children. Presently, I am a lecturer at the University of Curaçao, Dr. Moises Da Costa Gomez.
Because of the almost constant unquiet situation in Lebanon I have not yet been able to visit Lebanon; nevertheless, have never stopped wishing to see and feel this Cedar-Country nearer, the country of my family, the country where I was almost born.