FORMER Italian ambassador to Namibia Massimo Baistrocchi died in Windhoek on Sunday evening following a heart attack.
Baistrocchi served as Italian ambassador to Namibia from 2001 to 2004, but will be remembered as much for his involvement in art and culture as for his work as a diplomat.
Born in Karuizawa, Japan, on August 17 1942, he can be considered a true citizen of the world, as he lived in Brazil, Egypt, France, Argentina, Russia, Hong Kong and Namibia.
According to information on Baistrocchi's website www.massimobaistrocchi.com, he joined the press department of the Italian foreign ministry in 1970, and has contributed as a freelance journalist to many Italian and foreign newspapers and magazines on many subjects such as art, socio-anthropology, travel and other cultural issues.
Baistrocchi has also published a number of books on literature, archeology, poetry, politics and cultural affairs.
An artist, poet, photographer, author and diplomat, Baistrocchi was much loved and considered a personal friend to many Namibians, including former editor of The Namibian Gwen Lister and Safety and Security Minister Nangolo Mbumba.
Upon hearing the news of Baistrocchi's death, Mbumba described it as a "sad and tragic occasion."
"He (Baistrocchi) was close to us, not only as a diplomat, but also as an artist as he held several art exhibitions in Windhoek. He was an open and a good person, a friend to Namibia and always wanted to do his best for Namibia." Following his retirement as a diplomat, Baistrocchi bought a house in Namibia and spent large parts of every year in the country.
"It is because of his love of Namibia that he chose to buy a home here and because of that he can be considered a Namibian citizen by choice," Mbumba said.
One of Baistrocchi's books, titled 'Namibian Elegy', is a collection of poems focusing on key Namibian landmarks such as the Fish River Canyon, Spitzkoppe, Sossusvlei and the Orange River.
Following his posting to Namibia, Baistocchi returned to Italy where he became President of the Interministerial Commission for the Recovering of Works of Art, before being posted again to Africa as the Italian ambassador to Nigeria and then Benin.
Baistocchi held a number of art exhibitions in countries all around the world, including his native Italy, Malaysia, Namibia, Hong Kong, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Portugal, Egypt and Ghana.
Baistocchi is survived by his wife, Adriana, and daughter Allegra.