Is-Sibt 6 t’Ottubru 2012, Wirt iż-Żejtun ser ikun qiegħed itella’ simpożju ta’ ġurnata fil-Juventutis Domus fi Triq San Girgor iż-Żejtun, li ser jitratta s-sit arkeoloġiku tal-villa Rumana li jinsab fl-inħawi tal-iskola sekondarja tal-bniet Santa Margerita (magħrufa wkoll bħala Carlo Diacono) fiż-Żejtun.
Is-sit tal-Villa Rumana taż-Żejtun
Peress li dan is-sit arkeoloġiku għadu qed jiġi skavat u studjat, bħalissa mhux aċċessibbli għall-pubbliku. Ta’ min isemmi illi dan is-sit kien ġie skopert aċċidentalment fl-1961 waqt li kienet qed titħaffer l-art sabiex tinbena skola ġdida ġewwa dan ir-raħal. Għalkemm matul is-snin instabu bosta binjiet Rumani kemm f’Malta u anki f’Għawdex, numru minnhom inqerdu bħal dik magħrufa bħala Tad-Dawl f’Ħal-Kirkop, oħrajn tgħattew bħas-sit li nstab fil-Bajja tar-Ramla l-Ħamra f’Għawdex, filwaqt li oħrajn mhumiex daqstant aċċessibbli bħal dik Ta’ Kaċċatura li tinsab fl-inħawi ta’ Birżebbuġa. Għaldaqstant, dan is-sit fiż-Żejtun flimkien ma’ wieħed simili li jinsab f’Ta’ San Pawl Milqi, għandhom sinifikat kbir peress li dawn huma l-uniċi siti f’Malta li jinkorporaw kemm parti residenzjali u kif ukoll parti industrijali. Huwa interessanti illi apparat li kien jintuża fi Żmien ir-Rumani, probabbilment konness mal-produzzjoni tal-għasir taż-żejt taż-żebbuġ, jista’ jitfa’ dawl fuq in-nisel ta’ isem il-villaġġ taż-Żejtun innifsu.
Għalkemm se jittrata tema lokali, is-simpożju huwa wieħed ta’ livell nazzjonali u għalih ġew mistiedna l-aqwa akkademiċi u esperti fl-oqsma marbuta ma’ l-arkeoloġija, ir-riċerka storika, il-konservazzjoni u l-immaniġġar tal-wirt kulturali. Aktar informazzjoni detalljata dwar ir-riċerka, il-konservazzjoni u l-immaniġġjar tal-villa Rumana taż-Żejtun ser tkun qed tiġi diskussa waqt is-simpożju li r-reġistrazzjonijiet għalih u l-ħlas ta’ €10 ser ikunu qed jintlaqgħu sat-30 ta’ Settembru 2012. Għalkemm il-membri ta’ Wirt iż-Żejtun jistgħu jattendu bla ħlas, xorta waħda huma mitluba jirreġistraw fuq http://wirtizzejtun.com/symposium-2012/.
Għal dawk li jixtiequ jżommu ruħhom aġġornati ma’ dak li ntqal waqt dan is-simpożju, Wirt iż-Żejtun ser tkun ukoll qed tippubblika dan il-kontenut ġewwa ktieb bl-isem “The Żejtun Roman Villa: Research, Conservation, Management”. Bħalissa, dan il-ktieb qed jiġi offrut bi prezz speċjali ta’qabel il-pubblikazzjoni ta’ €15.
Bil-ħsieb li jitqanqal aktar interess u għarfien dwar dan is-sit, Wirt iż-Żejtun ser ikun qiegħed ukoll itella’ wirja b’numru ta’ fdalijiet arkeoloġici li nstabu matul is-snin waqt l-iskavi f’dan il-post. Fosthom wieħed ser ikun jista’ jara ammont ta’ ċaqquf li jirrappreżenta fażijiet differenti ta’ meta dan is-sit kien għadu qed jiġi utilizzat, inkluż il-biċċa ċaqquf li nstabet fl-1976 u li fuqha hemm iskrizzjoni dedikata lil Ashtart, li bħalha nstabu għadd oħrajn ġewwa s-sit arkeoloġiku f’Tas-Silġ. F’din l-esebizzjoni ser ikun hemm ukoll ħażna ta’ 43 munita tal-bronż li kienu jiddataw madwar it-3 seklu W.K u li nstabu f’waħda mill-kmamar tal-villa. Probabbilment wieħed mill-oġġetti li ser jiġbed l-aktar interess huwa magħsar ċkejken li ġie skopert din is-sena waqt l-iskavi li kienu qed isiru mill-istudenti tad-Dipartiment tal-Klassiċi u l-Arkeoloġija tal-Università ta’ Malta. Madanakollu, wieħed m’għandux jitlef li jara wkoll numru ta’ reċipjenti tal-fuħħar u materjal ieħor li kien instab fit-8 t’April 1963 f’qabar Puniku ġewwa għalqa biswit is-sit tal-villa Rumana taż-Żejtun. Barra minn hekk, il-wirja ser tesebixxi wkoll informazzjoni, ritratti u filmati relatati ma’ dan is-sit u anki mal-industrija ta’ l-għasir taż-żejt taż-żebbuġa.
Din il-wirja ser tittella’ ġewwa ċ-Ċentru ta’ l-Arti u l-Artiġġjanat fi Triq San Girgor, iż-Żejtun bejn is-27 ta’ Settembru 2012 u s-7 t’Ottubru 2012. Il-wirja ser tkun miftuħa fil-għaxija fost il-ġimgħa u fil-għodu l-Ħadd, u l-ħin kollu waqt l-attività ta’ Żejt iż-Żejtun fid-29 ta’ Settembru 2012.
Dawn l-attivitajiet setgħu jkunu possibbli grazzi għall-kooperazzjoni ta’ numru ta’ volontarji li qed jgħinu lil Wirt iż-Żejtun, flimkien ukoll ma’ Heritage Malta, id-Dipartiment ta’ l-Istudji Klassiċi u l-Arkeoloġija ta’ l-Universita’ ta’ Malta, il-Parroċċa taż-Żejtun u l-Kunsill Lokali taż-Żejtun.
Aktar informazzjoni dwar dawn l-attivitajiet tista’ tinkiseb minn fuq is-sit elettroniku www.wirtizzejtun.com
(Dan il-feature ġie ppubblikat fit-Torċa tat-23 ta’ Settembru 2012)
Though many Maltese tend to perceive their archipelago as a solitary group of islands in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, the nearby island Sicily has always been closely present both geographically and often historically. The Archaeotur project aims to enhance the rediscovery of the archaeological and cultural identities of both islands, particularly by setting up a set of heritage trails which link a number of renowned sites together with other interesting locations that are presently found off the usual beaten tourist track.
On crisp clear nights, some Sicilians search out for Malta’s twinkling lights across the separating sea known as the channel of Malta. Similarly during a fine limpid day, the area of Mount Etna is distinctly visible from Mdina. One may thus wonder how the ancient populations of these islands might have regarded this ‘nearness’ and what they might have shared. The Archaeotur project focuses on these similarities but also on the differences which vividly portray an affinity but no less a diversity between the two places, thereby enticingly creating a new world to discover just a few kilometres away.
During last April, a group of Maltese experts in archaeology and in cultural tourism, together with a number of local university students, attended a three-day seminar that was held at the Auditorium San Vincenzo Ferreri in Ragusa Ibla. The Maltese and Sicilian counterparts discussed the plans of the Archaeotur project, gave detailed descriptions of some of the concerned archaeological sites and the findings discovered within, and shared information and ideas about what has been done so far and what work still needs to be tackled so that these sites are conserved and presented in the most professional way to all the visitors.
Residing in a small hotel in Ragusa Ibla, the Maltese participants could indulge in the historical aura of the oldest part of this town. Narrow alleys with speeding motorini and compact vans running through them led to some impressive medieval buildings and baroque palaces. Interestingly much of this area had to be rebuilt after a very strong earthquake hit Ragusa on the 11th January 1693, killing about 5000 people and destroying many remarkable buildings such as a castle, palaces, churches, and many houses. After this catastrophe, some survivors in Ragusa wanted to rebuild the destroyed part of the town in the same place whilst others preferred to build their residences in another area, thereby creating two facets of this town which eventually became known as the old and the modern Ragusa. Three bridges which connect the older part to the new part of the town have inspired people to identify Ragusa as the city of bridges. These bridges provide a stunning view of this historical town, its buildings huddled closely together, as if clinging for life to the strong high precipice. In the last years, the old centre has been revived again with the opening of a number of shops, bars, restaurants and hotels. Indeed, Ragusa’s distinguished Sicilian character has attracted many photographers and film producers, the latest of which being the popular Italian TV series of ‘Il Commissario Montalbano’.
The seminars’ participants were also given the opportunity to visit some of the locations that are included in the Archaeotur project in order to understand better the significance and value of this endeavor. One of the most outstanding was certainly the catacomb of the Grotta delle Trabacche in Ragusa. Recently, this catacomb has been thoroughly cleaned out and conserved, and information posts have been placed in the vicinity in order to guide those visiting this site. Two central opulent and monumental tombs within this catacomb indicate that two individuals who had some importance or a form of authority in their society were buried there. Moreover, one finds several other common tombs that were dug out of the walls and floors of the cavern.
Ironically although hypogea and catacombs are directly connected with death, these sites tend also to provide crucial information about the life and the rituals of the living individuals who used these places. Therefore for example, a multitude of catacombs that are present in Cava Celone might be expressing the situation of an increasing population. These archaeological sites are magnificently enfolded within a wide valley full of wild vegetation, thus endowing the experience of visiting them with a sense of adventure; the silence reigning within the valley allows one to feel truly at one with nature. Meanwhile, the visit to three catacombs in this location revealed the work that still needs to be done on these archaeological sites, including cleaning, conserving, and planning a more practical path which the visitors could use for easy access.
A visit to the Regional Museum of Camarina was undoubtedly distinctive especially because of the extraordinary display of a multitude of findings that were discovered both on land and under the sea of the Santa Croce Camarina area. Many of the artefacts discovered on land pertain to burial rites. Some of them are so refined that it is believed that they belonged to a Greek aristocracy who had immigrated to this area. On the other hand, the numerous objects that were recovered from several wrecks in the bay of Camarina demonstrate that many commercial ships passed through this zone. Among the prestigious exhibits, one finds a bronze archaic helmet that was recovered from a relic that lay seven metres under the sea in front of Punta Braccetto. Several amphorae, a classical Attic-Etruscan helmet, seventy-three clay lamps and some silver items were retrieved from two other relics that were buried in the middle of the bay. Likewise, in 1991, a huge storm revealed the treasure trove of a hoard of 6000 coins that was buried only 200 metres away from the coast.
Undeniably, the participants in this seminar had a good taste of the potential of these Sicilian sites that are included in the project of Archaeotur. In the first week of September, a second seminar, this time organized in Malta, will once again reunite Maltese and Sicilian experts and participants so that they can evaluate the work that has been done so far and also to visit some of the Maltese sites which form part of the Archaeotur project.
No doubt this EU project is proving of great benefit towards cross-border cooperation in the sector of heritage conservation and interpretation and no less to cultural tourism which is certainly of substantial benefit to both territories.
Archaeotur is a 1.37 million euro project which is co-financed under the Italia-Malta Programme Cohesion Policy 2007 – 2013 and is part-financed by the EU European Regional Development Fund. The partners involved within it are: Mosta and Rabat Local Councils, Heritage Malta, Malta Tourism Authority, the Comune of Ragusa and the Comune of Santa Croce Camarina, the Superintendence of BB.CC.AA Ragusa, the Archaeological Park of Camarina, and Giritravel SRL. The main purpose of this project is to conserve, interpret and market a number of archaeological sites which generally consist of hypogea and catacombs across the Maltese and Italian borders such as: Ta’ Bistra (Mosta), St Augustine (Rabat), Trabacche, Cava Celone, Cisternazzi and Donnafugata (Ragusa), and Mezzagnone, Pirrera and Mirio (Santa Croce Camarina).
(Note: An edited version of this article was published on FIRST magazine Issue September 2012).
Bejn il-5 u s-7 ta’ Settembru 2012, fis-Sala Sant’Anġlu ġewwa l-Mużew Marittimu tal-Birgu, ser tiġi organizzata t-tieni parti ta’ seminar konness mal-proġett Archaeotur. Dawn il-laqgħat għandhom jinteressaw lil dawk kollha li għandhom għal qalbhom il-wirt kulturali nazzjonali u kif ukoll dak dinji. Għalkemm il-parteċipazzjoni f’dawn is-seminars hija b’xejn, huwa rakkommandat illi wieħed jirreġistra sabiex jirriserva post.
Bejn is-sittax u t-tmintax-il seklu l-Grand Tour kien avventura popolari ħafna mal-familji aristokratiċi Ewropej. Infatti, bosta minnhom kienu jibagħtu lill-iben il-kbir tal-familja għall-vjaġġ ta’ sena madwar l-Ewropa sabiex hemm iżur is-siti klassiċi tal-arkeoloġija u b’hekk jifforma aħjar il-lat edukattiv u kulturali tiegħu. Uħud minn dawn kienu saħansitra jaslu sa Malta u fil-fatt fis-seklu sbatax insibu lil Ġan Franġisk Abela jakkompanja lill-viżitaturi ġewwa l-katakombi ta’ San Pawl. Għad illi għaddew bosta snin, il-ġibda għat-turiżmu kulturali għadha ħajja sewwa, tant li llum dan sar niċċa importanti fl-industrija turistika kemm Maltija u kif ukoll Ewropeja. Dan ifisser li hemm bżonn dejjem iżjed li ninvestu fil-partimonju kulturali u storiku sabiex nirrenduh aktar magħruf u miftuħ għall-pubbliku interessat.
Il-proġett Archaeotur li ser jiswa 1.37 miljun ewro huwa kofinanzjat taħt il-Programm Italia-Malta, Cohesion Policy 2007–2013, u parzjalment iffinanzjat mill-Fond Ewropew tal-Iżvilupp Reġjonali. Fih hemm involuti il-Kunsill Lokali tal-Mosta u dak tar-Rabat (Malta), Heritage Malta, l-Awtorità Maltija għat-Turiżmu, il-Comune di Ragusa u l-Comune di Santa Croce Camarina, is-Superintendenza dei BB.CC.AA di Ragusa f’kollaborazzjoni mal-Parco Archaeologico di Camarina u Giritravel SRL. L-għan aħħari tal-proġett Archaeotur huwa l-konservazzjoni u l-promozzjoni ta’ numru ta’ siti arkeoloġiċi li bosta minnhom jikkonsistu f’ipoġej jew katakombi f’Malta u fi Sqallija: Ta’ Bistra (il-Mosta) u Santu Wistin (ir-Rabat), Trabacche, Cava Celone, Cisternazzi u Donnafugata (Ragusa), u Mezzagnone, Pirrera u Mirio (Santa Croce Camarina).
L-ewwel parti ta’ dawn is-seminars saret bejn il-11 u t-13 t’April 2012 ġewwa l-Auditorium San Vincenzo Ferreri f’Ragusa Ibla. Numru ta’ esperti f’dan il-qasam, kemm minn Malta u kif ukoll minn Sqallija, ddiskutew il-pjanijiet u l-miri tal-proġett Archaeotur, taw deskrizzjoni dettaljata ta’ xi siti u sejbiet arkeoloġiċi, u qasmu bejniethom ideat dwar ix-xogħol li qed isir u dak li għad irid jitwettaq sabiex dawn il-postijiet jiġu kkonservati u ppreżenati lill-viżitaturi bl-aktar mod professjonali.
Għal dawn is-seminars attendew ukoll numru ta’ studenti universitarji kemm Maltin u kif ukoll Sqallin, li flimkien mal-kelliema kellhom ukoll l-opportunità li jżuru wħud minn dawn is-siti sabiex b’hekk jifhmu aħjar is-sinifikat tal-proġett Archaeotur. Ngħidu aħna fil-Grotta delle Trabacche f’Ragusa kien evidenti x-xogħol ta’ tindif u konservazzjoni li kien sar fil-post fejn anki tpoġġew tabelli b’tagħrif għall-viżitaturi. Dan il-katakombi huwa meqjus bħala wieħed mis-siti l-aktar sinifikanti, l-aktar minħabba l-grandjożità monumentali ta’ żewġ oqbra li jinsabu fiċ-ċentru tiegħu, mdawwrin b’oqbra aktar sempliċi mħaffra fil-ħitan u fl-art tal-għar. Indubbjament dawn jagħtu indikazzjoni li almenu żewġ individwi ta’ ċerta importanza jew awtorità fis-soċjetà tal-madwar indifnu hemm.
Ironikament, dawn il-postijiet konnessi mal-mewt għandhom ħabta jservu bħala fonti kruċjali ta’ informazzjoni dwar il-ħajja u l-użanzi tan-nies li sawwruhom u użawhom għall-bżonnijiet u r-ritwali tagħhom. Għalhekk, il-kwantità ta’ katakombi li wieħed isib f’Cava Celone, jista’ jkun li qed tirrappreżenta żieda sostanzjali fil-popolazzjoni ta’ dak iż-żmien. Iż-żjara fi tliet katakombi maġġuri wriet li f’dawn il-postijiet kien għad fadal ħafna xogħol xi jsir, speċjalment biex jitfasslu sinjali, mogħdijiet u trejqat aktar adegwati ħalli dawn il-postijiet jintlaħqu aktar faċilment mill-viżitaturi. Wieħed ma jistax ma jsemmix li dawn l-inħawi jinsabu f’wied mill-isbaħ, mogħni b’natura mhux mittiefsa fejn b’hekk il-viżitatur jista’ jitpaxxa bil-ġmiel tal-post filwaqt li jgawdi mis-sens tal-avventura li toffri kull esplorazzjoni.
Infatti l-proġett Archaeotur huwa ffukat fuq it-tisħiħ tal-valur tal-esperjenza tat-turiżmu kulturali fejn it-turist ikun jista’ jżur għażla ta’ siti ta’ interess permezz ta’ heritage trails li jgħaqqdu f’itinerarju wieħed numru ta’ siti li forsi s’issa ma kinux qed jingħataw daqshekk importanza. Ngħidu aħna bosta turisti li jżuru l-kastell ta’ Donnafugata f’Ragusa probabbilment ma jafux li tefgħa ta’ ġebla ’l bogħod, mogħdija dejqa mistura fil-ħdura ta’ natura mill-iprem, twassal għal katakombi ċkejken li jmur lura għar-raba’ jew il-ħames seklu W.K.
L-istess nistgħu ngħidu għall-fdalijiet arkeoloġiċi mhux tas-soltu li jinsabu f’nofs ta’ għalqa ġewwa Mezzagnone f’Santa Croce Camarina. Din il-binja, li ilha tqanqal l-kurżità tal-istudjużi sa minn żmien twil, hija maħsuba li tmur lura għal bejn ir-raba’ u d-disgħa seklu W.K. u li għal xi żmien intużat bħala banju termali. Inċidentalment, dawk li jżuru dan il-post jistgħu jkomplu triqithom ftit kilometri oħra sabiex japprezzaw il-kollezzjoni arkeoloġika vasta li tinsab fil-Mużew Reġjonali ta’ Camarina. Imfittex minn bosta studjużi, partikolarment minħabba l-għadd kbir ta’ anfori ta’ tipi differenti li jħaddan fih, dan il-Mużew huwa mogħni b’sejbiet sinifikanti li nstabu fl-inħawi kemm taħt l-art u kif ukoll taħt il-baħar. Bosta mill-oġġetti li ġew skavati mill-art huma konnessi mar-ritwali tad-dfin, uħud minnhom tant huma raffinati u prestiġġjużi, li huwa maħsub li kienu jappartjenu lill-ewwel immigranti aristokratiċi Griegi li marru joqogħdu f’dawk l-inħawi. Affarijiet oħra li ttellgħu mill-bajja ta’ Camarina kienu jiffurmaw parti mit-tagħbija kummerċjali ta’ bosta xwieni li għerqu fil-post: prova tal-kummerċ kbir li kien isir f’dawk l-inħawi f’perjodi mbiegħda. Dawk l-aktar spettakolari jinkludu żewġ elmi tal-gwerra, numru ta’ statwetti u għodod, u kwantità ta’ msiebaħ u oġġetti tal-fidda.Huwa fatt magħruf li din il-bajja ta’ Camarina dan l-aħħar saret famuża mat-turisti minħabba s-serje popolari televiżiva ‘Il Commissario Montalbano’ peress li diversi xeni nġibdu f’dawn l-inħawi. Min-naħa l-oħra aktarx ftit jafu li f’din il-bajja jinstabu regolarment oġġetti arkeoloġiċi – bħas-6000 munita antika li nqalgħu minn taħt ir-ramel wara tempesta qalila li seħħet fl-1991.
Il-parteċipanti Maltin kienu joqogħdu f’lukanda żgħira ġewwa Ragusa Ibla u minħabba f’hekk huma setgħu jirrikonoxxu kemm dan il-post huwa ideali biex wieħed iqatta’ erbat ijiem hawnhekk sabiex iżur dawn is-siti tal-madwar li tkellimna dwarhom. Ragusa Ibla nnifisha hija belt bi storja kbira. Xhieda ta’ dan huma d-diversi binjiet medjevali u palazzi barokki. Interessanti li wieħed isemmi li ħafna minn dawn il-binjiet kellhom jerġgħu jinbnew wara li parti kbira minn din il-belt ġiet meqruda minn terremot qawwi li seħħ fil-11 ta’ Jannar 1693, fejn anki mietu madwar 5000 persuna. Wara din id-diżgrazzja wħud mill-abitanti riedu jerġgħu jibnu l-belt fejn kienet oriġinarjament, filwaqt li oħrajn għażlu nħawi aktar fl-għoli biex jibnu r-residenza tagħhom. Infatti llum tliet pontijiet jgħaqqdu l-parti tal-belt l-antika mal-parti l-ġdida. Ragusa Ibla, bil-bini tagħha antik donnu mdendel mal-blat tal-irdumijiet u mgezzez f’xulxin, joffri dehra tassew spettakolari. Mhux ta’ b’xejn li l-post ġibed lejh bosta fotografi u anki kumpaniji tal-films.
Il-proġett Archaeotur huwa mistenni li jħeġġeġ aktar turiżmu kulturali bejn Ragusa u Malta, fosthom billi jinforma lill-pubbliku bl-opportunità li wieħed iżur dawn is-siti fiż-żewġ gżejjer. L-istorja ta’ Sqallija u ta’ Malta sikwit twaħħdet u mhux darba u tnejn li dawn il-popli, għalkemm mifrudin b’firxa wiesgħa ta’ baħar, għexu esperjenzi konnessi ma’ ta’ xulxin.
Għas-seminars ta’ Archaeotur li ser jiġu organizzati f’Malta, ser jattendu wkoll diversi esperti, studenti u individwi minn Sqallija ħalli b’hekk terġa’ tingħata l-opportunità għat-taħlit tal-ideat u għad-diskussjoni dwar ix-xogħol li għad fadal isir kemm fis-siti ta’ Malta u kif ukoll dawk ta’ Sqallija, sabiex b’hekk jistagħna l-patrimonju kulturali taż-żewġ gżejjer. Fuq kollox il-parteċipanti ser ikunu qed jiġu mdawwra ma’ xi siti arkeoloġiċi Maltin bħall-katakombi Ta’ Bistra fil-Mosta u dak ta’ Santu Wistin fir-Rabat, li s’issa qatt ma kienu miftuħa għall-pubbliku.
Aktar informazzjoni dwar il-proġett Archaeotur tista’ tinkiseb mill-website www.archaeotur.eu. Reġistrazzjonijiet għall-attendenza f’dan is-seminar jistgħu jsiru kemm permezz tal-istess sit elettroniku, inkella billi tintbagħat e-mail lill-Kuratur tal-Proġett, Glen Farrugia, fuq firstname.lastname@example.org
(Nota: Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fit-Torċa tas-26 t’Awwissu 2012)
It is hard not to see a soul in the earnest eyes of a faithful animal, and it is this very entity that the intricate and colourful brush strokes of pet artist GAYNOR HUNT seek to portray …
This article was published on First Magazine issued with The Malta Independent on Sunday of the 12th August 2012.
It is hard not to see a soul in the earnest eyes of a faithful animal, and it is this very entity that the intricate and colourful brush strokes of pet artist Gaynor Hunt seek to portray.
Most pets have a significant meaning in people’s lives. Their loyal companionship at times tends to excel even the presence of other humans. Indeed, many owners regard them as part of one’s family, whilst for some individuals who find themselves alone, a pet becomes the family. Pets give people joy, friendship, support and love. Ultimately their loss could prove to be quite painful.
“When my brother’s labrador died he missed it terribly and to comfort him, his partner commissioned a portrait of it. My brother was delighted with this gift and during that moment I understood the value of such work and decided instantly that one day, that would be my job.”
Quite artistic from childhood, Gaynor was further encouraged by her father when he involved her in the restoration of antique vehicles and machines.
“Around the farm where we lived in Derbyshire, England, there was an extensive stretch of land which my father allotted for a number of ancient vehicles that he intended to restore. There were all sorts of objects such as trucks, small steam trains, carousels and even an old Maltese bus. I used to help him restore their painting and this eventually led me to work as a sign-writer artist. Subsequently, my father succeeded to transform this land into a museum.”
When Gaynor met her partner she had to let go of her painting since they needed to travel frequently. However in these last years they have settled in Malta and finally Gaynor found the time to fulfill her dream.
“I find Malta’s picturesque scenery deeply inspiring for my artworks. Now I have my studio where I can work at my leisure and relish the feeling of being surrounded by my creations.”
Gaynor’s studio is delightful, comfortable and bright. The vision and smell of the various oil colours lying neatly at one’s reach are enticing. I found her working on the painting of a leopard. Somehow animals are her preferred subject…
“I find animals extremely fascinating to paint, much more than humans. Probably because they are so varied and beautiful. While I’m painting them I actually feel the sensation of their presence: their wet noses, their velvety long or short fur, their strong bones or their delicate structure. It’s difficult to explain… it’s a strange and lovely sentiment. Inevitably this passion was born in me during my childhood years when I lived on the farm.”
Paintings of domestic and wild animals were displayed around Gaynor’s studio. However, a painting of a boxer dog seemed to stand in a prominent spot.
“That is my favourite painting. It shows my dog, Rocky. I missed him intensely when he passed away but when I finally completed his painting, I regained a sense of comfort since now I feel him beside me whenever I look at his image. The painting shows him exactly as I remember him: smart, proud and playful.”
Though a common tradition in England, pet portaiture is not characteristic in Maltese culture.
“I find this quite strange because I notice that Maltese people are very fond of their pets. Presumably it is because they are not aware of the availability of pet artists. A painting of one’s pet is a way of eternalizing its memories. It is a distinguished symbol of the deep love that can exist between humans and their animals.”
For more information Gaynor Hunt can be contacted on email email@example.com or mobile 99809445.
(An edited version of this article was published in FIRST magazine that was issued with The Malta Independent on Sunday on 12 August 2012. A pdf version of the published feature is also available under the title PART OF THE FAMILY).
A little train set ignited a passion for model building in a young boy of three…. Now forty, Rainer Mader reveals that the same passion has kindled an intense fascination for Malta and its culture, its history and its people.
“It was Christmas and my parents gave me a wonderful model train set which consisted of a black locomotive with three green passenger cars and two other red cars. These model rail sets are very popular in Germany, especially with young children who are delighted and intrigued by the movement of the trains going round on the rails. However, these train sets are also a favourite with adults too who build large landscapes through which the trains can move. Eventually it can prove to be quite an expensive hobby.”
Sitting in the cosy lounge of Preluna hotel, Rainer explained how he ended up getting hooked on this hobby of model building.
“I never stopped building models from then on, but when I joined the army, my interest turned onto military modeling. I prefer tanks, trucks and jeeps which I purchase as semi-assembled models. My finished models are around 10 cms and usually I finish them within one day. The most laborious work is the painting, as these models require to have a weathered used look and they actually need a lot of drying time.”
Rainer admits that he has a rather impatient nature and that once he begins to work on a model, he would want to finish it as soon as possible.
“I love this hobby because it gives me a rest from my work. Yet being very busy, I don’t have much time available to spend on a model and therefore I choose to work on semi-assembled ones. Nonetheless there are moments when I opt to convert a standard model in order to build a particular one which is not yet on the market. For example, we still have some special American trucks in Germany which are presently changing all the equipment with brand new staff. Now usually that would take about two to four years for the industry to provide an exact model of the new vehicle. So my aim would be to find a similar model of that truck and modify it accordingly in order to possess a small version of the new vehicle beforehand”.
His first glimpse of Malta back in 1999 was love at first sight…..
“Malta is totally different from where I live in Aschaffenburg, near Frankfurt in Germany. I remember that what impressed me most was the proximity of the sea. I love the sea… it’s beautiful crystal blue colour, it’s salty smell, and it’s ever changing sounds. It gives me a very pleasant feeling to hear it, smell it and see it everywhere around me here in Malta.”
His sister introduced him to some of her Maltese friends from Santa Venera and from then on, a long friendship was born where Rainer got to know better the Maltese people and their culture. His interest in Malta continued to grow even further once he discovered the local Association of Model Engineers and became a member there.
“The Association organizes an annual model exhibition and in these last five years, I have always participated with my models. Thanks to the AME I met many model enthusiasts and soon we became good friends. One can say that these exhibitions serve as a showcase of our hobby while at the same time they provide an opportunity to introduce and blend different cultures together. For example through these model exhibitions, the Maltese can experience a railway, whilst foreigners can get to know about some local customs.”
In fact Rainer decided to surprise his Maltese friends by building diaromas which depict the local history and landscape.
“Last year, I was flipping through the pages of a tourist magazine about Malta when I saw some old photos which instilled in me the desire to give them life through my diaromas. My first diaroma represented a van which sold vegetables and fruit. This year I made another two: one showing a woman trying to pull behind her an unwilling donkey, and another one which illustrates a sheperd with his sheep in his farm. These models were very much appreciated during the exhibition and in fact I won a gold medal”.
Proudly Rainer showed me his dioramas while he tried to describe them in the Maltese language. Being a typical romantic Maltese, I could not help not appreciating this German’s effort to try to speak our language.
“I realized that once you start to learn some Maltese, you will increase the possibility of making friends faster. My Maltese friends simply love hearing me speak their language and many of them try to teach me some new words. In fact, a friend of mine who works as a printer, has even printed a dictionary for me with German and Maltese words and the German phonetic way to say them in Maltese. I also bought some books which include CDs of Maltese words in order to learn better the language. By now, I can only speak basic words and sentences but I am adamant to learn more. At times, I find a Maltese word which I do not understand and I ask my Maltese friends to explain to me what it means. Then, each time that I visit again, I love to surprise them with some new expressions that I learn.”
Cheerfully, Rainer admitted that he is also enthralled by the local food and drink. I was quite amazed when he listed the amount of cans of Cisk and Kinnie, and packets of galletti and Twistees that he takes back with him to Germany to enjoy with his friends. Thinking about it, I thought that maybe each time that he returns back to Germany, Rainer is trying to take a little part of Malta with him.
“It is true! I came to love Malta and its people very much. In fact from 2003, I visit this island each year, my visits getting more frequent each time, so that now I come to Malta three times a year. Moreover, I have a little calendar at my place of work and while I am waiting for the machines to finish, I just flip its pages and have a look. When I exhibited last year’s diorama in a German exhibition, people were very curious about it and they asked me from where I got the idea for that landscape. So I explained to them about Malta and I showed them some books about the island. Somehow these dioramas are very special to me and I won’t part with them for anything else.”
Naturally Rainer is very fond of the local villages which are most near to the sea like Dingli and Xlendi. He strongly resists the idea of a bridge from Malta to Gozo because he claims that it would surely ruin the scenery. He doesn’t like the modern Maltese architecture especially the never-ending apartments which are replacing, according to him, the lovely old houses such as those that up to some years ago, used to be on the Sliema seafront. Moreover he feels perplexed about the permits of huge establishments with not enough parking space inside.
“When you visit a country so regularly, you tend to become involved more closely to it and to its people. Actually I am also very interested in the local history especially from 1940 till now, particularly the Second World War period.”
At this point, I could not help asking…. Being a German who has Malta at heart so much, how does it feel to get to know about the participation of the Germans in this war in relation to our islands?
“Surely I am not proud of this history but no one can do anything about it; that was war and thankfully it’s history! I do feel touched when I visit the Malta at War Museum and I see those underground shelters. However though grim and painful, I need to face this history as it also gives me more background for this hobby in model making. Certainly the merging together of different cultures through such activities will help people to relate better to each other, and to establish mutual bonding and respect that will prevent history from ever repeating itself.”
Rainer gave me the impression that by now his life is divided between two countries. In fact, he came to celebrate his 40th birthday with a very long holiday among his Maltese friends. Curiously I asked him whether he would ever consider to come and live for good in Malta?
“Għalissa għadha ħolma…. For now it’s only a dream. But probably, when I’ll come to retire from work, this possibility will be very much on my mind. Presently I can only foretell my next visit to Malta in October wherein I intend to present some new dioramas. But that is all I can say… the rest is a secret!”
(Note: An edited version of this article was published on FIRST magazine Issue June 2012).
When it comes to our churches, we Maltese are famous for generally thinking that bigger is better. I discovered that the same reasoning prevails among a group of dedicated enthusiasts who build models of local churches, maintaining a tradition handed down from the time of the Knights, and including one who was recognised with an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Read the full feature which was published in FIRST magazine – April 2012 …
As several bombs were let loose on our islands during the attacks of World War II, their destructive effects threatened more than human lives and buildings. They put at peril our heritage, jeopardizing the roots of our people and the future of our country.
Raphael Micallef, now 82, still recalls the terror felt by the people as the shrill of the air-raid sirens urged them to leave their houses and run for shelters. As an inhabitant of the capital city, he saw his town being shattered to pieces, the damage claiming even unique treasures such as the Chapel of Bones which used to be so popular both with the locals and the tourists. People huddled together in shelters and prayed for their own safety but they also implored for their houses to be spared as these nested within them all their possessions, memories of loved ones, and valuable objects which had been passed on from generation to generation.
“Valletta and Cottonera suffered some of the severest attacks. Unfortunately within these areas one could find the best examples of church models, many of which had been inherited over many years. Sadly most of them had to be abandoned during the war and almost all of them ended up buried under the rubble of destroyed buildings.”
The craft of church model-making had been introduced to our islands by the Knights of St John back in the 16th century, and therefore it’s knowledge was a distinct tradition. However the adversity of war ravaged even this ancient memory until eventually this craft was almost completely forgotten.
In 1986, this dire situation inspired Raphael, who was an avid enthusiast in church model-making, to make an effort to revive this craft. Together with his friends Tony Terribile and Paul Piscopo, he ventured to initiate an association under the name of Għaqda Dilettanti Mudelli ta’ Knejjes which aimed to instill interest, knowhow and craftsmanship in the art of church model-making. The first president of the association was Guido Lanfranco.
“After 26 years, I am proud to say that now we have our own premises at 37 East Street, Valletta. Although it is a small place, our 400 members meet keenly under its humble roof in order to attend to the regular activities that we organize. Members’ ages differ greatly; starting from young children of 7 and going up to elderly individuals over 90. Everybody is welcome in our group and together we learn and discuss new ideas of how to enrich this cultural tradition. Each of the members has the opportunity to explore his skills and to enhance them further both through the interaction with other members and also under the guidance of craftsmen and historians who are frequently invited to our premises. Many members have built their own church models, some of which one can even walk through – a popular model is that of Simon Mercieca which is often open to the public for viewing. Others have opted to produce statues and accessories which are used in the church models. Most of the members succeed in producing marvellous works, sometimes using common objects and transforming them into intricate decorations which adorne the models.”
Each year, during the Lenten period, the association organizes an exhibition with some of the works of the members, both to give them the opportunity to share their skill with others and also to attract the public to this old tradition.
“Our association is deeply cherished by its members. In fact some of them have honoured us by donating us prestigious works which belonged to them or to their families. It is a great privilege to possess a number of the few lucky survivors of war which managed to make it, as their owners lovingly took them along with them to safer areas.”
Raphael showed me some of these examples, including an elegant limestone church facade which was designed by Manuel Psaila between 1935 and 1940, and a delicate niche produced out of quilling which dates back to more than 100 years. I was thankful to Raphael for having shared with me this experience. His calm and serene smile was full of pride as his dream of giving the life back to a part of our culture was fulfilled. In fact the association’s work has succeeded to reach much further grounds than any of the members could ever have aspired for, when in 1994, Joseph Sciberras ended up winning a place in the Guinness Book of Records for his church model which was made out of more than 3 million used up matchsticks!
I met Joseph Sciberras, now 93, in his son’s home in Attard. Sitting cosily near his bird pet who sung cheerfully at his side, Joseph told me the story of his model which has given him so much satisfaction in his life.
“I was an electrician by trade but during the war I was engaged as a soldier. I remember vividly a particular day when I was at work in Delimara and came to know that Floriana, where I lived, had just been badly hit by bomb attacks. I was desperate to see whether my family was safe and whether our house was damaged, and my superior allowed me to leave. I walked right back to Floriana there and then, and luckily both my family and my house were safe. The enemy used to target his attacks from the Floriana parish church and bomb throughout. We lived nearby and one day our house did fall victim to these attacks, alas like the church which did too anyway.
Years passed and both our houses and the Floriana parish church were rebuilt. I used to like to observe the facade of our beloved church and when I became a pensioner, I decided to start building an exact model of it. I chose to construct it out of used up matchsticks. Day after day, I worked on my model, constantly taking measures and designing the acute details of the facade.
When my friends who most of them worked at the Dockyards got to know what I was doing, they started to collect used mathsticks for me. Then when I exhibited my first model to the public, these matchsticks began to arrive from different areas of Malta! I had so many in hand that I ended up doing all the parish church inside out, until eventually the model measured 2 metres by 2 metres with a height of a further 1.5 metres.
People were totally mesmerized by my model and many, including several tourists, even hugged me when they noticed all the details and work that I had put into my work. It was during one of these exhibitions when some foreigners entered to view my model. I could not be more lucky as these were officials of the Guinness Book of Records and as they studied and measured my model, they informed me that I had succeeded to break the record of the previous winner matchstick model! Soon a certificate arrived together with my inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records.” Spiritedly Joseph showed me his model church displayed on the pages of this famous book. He felt very satisfied that his hard work which took so many years to do was given such an acknowledgement.
“Ultimately this model became part of my life as I have dedicated much of my love and my time to it. In return it gave me happinness as I saw people admiring it and appreciating my skill and patience. I have taken good care of it all along these years and my final wish is to donate my model to our National Museum of Etnography wherein it could be enjoyed by the public in reminiscence of me and of this ancient cultural tradition. I feel sad to leave it behind me but one cannot live forever, can he?”
I could not resist the invitation of Francis, Joseph’s son, to visit the workshop of his father in Floriana wherein this model was stored. Humorously Francis indicated the name of the place “Sulfarina” (matchstick). “Interestingly our family was originally known as “Taċ-Ċomb” (of lead) but today, because of my father’s model, everyone knows us as “Tas-Sulfarini” (of the matchsticks). Notwithstanding that my father has stopped working now, I still find packets full of used matchsticks which people leave behind his door.”
We went into the small building which was totally engulfed by the huge model of the Floriana parish church and by other of Joseph’s works, all made of matchsticks. With some difficulty, Francis managed to find his way through the multitude of wires which his father had included in the model in order to light up the church.
Now I could observe what Joseph had talked about…. the millions of matchsticks, each one placed or thwarted to fit into the shape that he had designed for them…. the facade, the dome, the walls, the columns, the niches, the floor, the minute chairs. There were also small silver apostles which Francis had made for his father to place on the altar. Miniature gorgeous chandeliers made up of common scrap hung beautifully along the flowing arches. It was all set up and ready as if inviting people to go inside.
I gazed inside the model church, my eyes resting and enjoying every detail whilst I slowly understood what this all means… Within this modest model lied the admirable representation of our local skills together with the ability of our people to prevail even through the hardest times.
For further information about the Għaqda Dilettanti Mudelli ta’ Knejjes, one can access their website www.freewebs.com/ghaqda_dilettanti_knejjes or join their facebook page.
(Note: An edited version of this article was published in FIRST magazine Issue April 2012. A pdf version of the published article is available on this website under the title MINIATURE CHURCH DEVOTION).
Nista’ ngħid li l-artikli ta’ Perspettivi bdewli l-vjaġġ tiegħi fid-dinja tal-kitba. Permezz tagħhom kelli l-opportunità li niltaqa’ ma’ diversi individwi li qasmu miegħi l-fehmiet u l-ġrajjiet tagħhom sabiex jiena nwassalhom lilkhom. Tawni wkoll iċ-ċans biex nifhem il-potenzjal tal-midja u kemm hu għaqli li wieħed ikun responsabbli fil-messaġġ li jibgħat f’kitbietu. Finalment dawn l-artikli dewwquni wkoll il-ħlewwa tas-sodisfazzjon meta tirċievi l-apprezzament tal-qarrejja. Iżda bħal f’kull ħaġa oħra, Perspettivi illum ser jaslu fi tmiemhom u bix-xieraq xtaqt nagħlaq l-aħħar artiklu b’dedikazzjoni għal dawk kollha li għoġobhom isegwuni matul dawn l-aħħar snin, permezz tal-ġmiel tar-ritratti li l-fotografu tan-natura Guido Bonett għoġbu jaqsam magħna.
“In-natura minn dejjem kienet għal qalbi ħafna tant li ommi kienet tħobb tgħidli li l-ewwel kelma li jiena lissint kienet “allimal”,” beda jirrakkuntali Guido bi tbissima. “Aktar il-quddiem inġbidt ukoll lejn il-qasam tal-fotografija sakemm eventwalment irnexxieli nżewweġ liż-żewġ imħabbiet tiegħi flimkien.”
Ma kellix wisq diffikultà biex nifhem x’ried jgħid hekk kif bdejt inqalleb il-paġni tal-ktieb riċenti tiegħu ‘The Natural History of The Maltese Islands’.
“Minn daqshekk inħossni xxurtjat għaliex minħabba li jiena midħla sewwa tan-natura, għandi aktar għarfien dwar fejn u meta nista’ nsib ċerti speċi u ħlejqiet. Biex nagħtik eżempju nista’ nurik dar-ritratt ta’ koppja tal-ispeċi tad-debba tax-xitan (dragonflies) li hu għall-qalbi ħafna kemm għad-dawl, il-kuluri, il-kompożizzjoni u l-azzjoni li rnexxieli nislet fih. Veru li jkun hemm element ta’ kumbinazzjoni imma hawnhekk ngħidu aħna, kont ilni nara lil din il-koppja ddur ‘l hemm u ‘l hawn u kont naf li dawn l-insetti għandhom it-tendenza li jerġgħu lura fl-istess post minn ħin għall-ieħor. Bsart ukoll li ser naqbad din l-azzjoni u allura stennejt f’post adegwat sakemm ilmaħthom fil-pożizzjoni li xtaqt u ħadt ir-ritratt.”
Il-valur ta’ ritratt jitqies proprju f’dik il-kapaċità li taqbad mument qasir u rrepetibbli fil-ħajja u tagħnih bl-eternità hekk kif imbagħad wieħed jista’ jibqa’ jara u jifli dik l-azzjoni għal kemm il-darba jrid.
“Kont ilni erbgħa snin naħdem fuq dan il-ktieb. Dort il-gżejjer kollha f’Malta u Għawdex sabiex niġbor rikordju fotografiku tal-ispeċi lokali tal-fawna u l-flora. Ħadt madwar 8000 ritratt li 524 minnhom ġew inklużi f’dan il-ktieb. Qattajt siegħat sħaħ speċjalment fil-ġranet ta’ tmiem il-ġimgħa nistenna bosta drabi f’pożizzjonijiet skomdi, kultant mixħut mal-art għal tuli fit-tajn, fil-kesħa u fis-sħana, għall-gdim tal-insetti u dak kollu li tiltaqa’ miegħu f’dawn is-sitwazzjonijiet. Għaldaqstant meta mbagħad jirnexxielek tmur lura d-dar b’erbgħa ritratti sbieħ tħoss sodisfazzjon kbir, bħal ngħidu aħna meta nzertajt żewġt isriep qed jiġġieldu u rnexxieli naqbad dak il-mument taħt il-lenti tiegħi.”
Guido spjegali kif l-idea wara dan il-ktieb żvolġiet maż-żmien.
“Peress li jiena membru tal-Malta Photographic Society, sħabi spiss kienu jistaqsuni kif kien jirnexxieli nieħu ċerti ritratti, liema lenti wżajt, x’apparat kelli bżonn, fejn insib ċerti insetti, f’liema żmien jikbru ċerti pjanti u fejn hu l-abitat ta’ ċerti annimali? Għaldaqstant darba minnhom iddeċidejt li nibda nieħu xi ritratti ħalli niġborhom f’fuljetti li kellhom iservu ta’ gwida f’dan il-qasam. Imma hekk kif beda għaddej iż-żmien u bdew jakkumulaw ir-ritratti, għaraft li kien hemm materjal biżżejjed biex isir dan il-ktieb.”
Fil-fatt taħt kull ritratt li jinkludi dan il-ktieb, wieħed isib ukoll indikat diversi dettalji dwar it-teknika u l-apparat li ġew utilizzati biex ittieħdet dik ix-xbieha. Barra minn hekk, sezzjoni minnu hija wkoll immirata lejn dawk li huma interessati li jitħajjru jiġbdu ritratti tajbin tan-natura.
“Permezz ta’ dan il-ktieb xtaqt inħajjar aktar individwi biex jinteressaw ruħhom fin-natura għanja tal-gżejjer tagħna: kemm biex nuri l-potenzjal tal-varjetà tal-ispeċi li jeżistu, kemm biex nistieden lil dawk li qatt ma qabdu kamera b’idejhom ħalli jittantaw jiġbdu l-ewwel ritratti tagħhom u anki biex nispira lil fotografi oħrajn li forsi ma tawx ħafna importanza lil dan il-qasam sabiex jiftħu għajnejhom għall-possibilitajiet li toffri n-natura.
Nixtieq niċċara illi f’dan il-ktieb wieħed ser isib ideat bażiċi tat-teknika li tista’ tintuża fir-rigward tal-fotografija tan-natura peress li f’dan il-qasam wieħed jeħtieġ apparat apposta u azzjoni partikolari ta’ kif għandu jersaq lejn insett, annimal jew pjanta. Iżda naturalment għalkemm jeżistu ċerti regoli, xorta waħda nemmen li wieħed għandu jesperimenta sabiex jakkwista riżultati interessanti u oriġinali.”
Għal aktar minn darba Guido saħaq illi l-għan prinċipali tiegħu huwa li jkisser il-mentalità li fil-gżejjer Maltin m’hawnx ħafna natura x’tara.
“Teżisti l-idea żbaljata li pajjiżna huwa fqir f’dan il-qasam imma jaħasra ħafna ma jafux kemm huma żbaljati! Infatti mhux darba u tnejn li nara wħud jistagħġbu meta jaraw ċerti ritratti tiegħi għax ma jkunux iridu jemmnu li dawk il-ħlejqiet jgħixu f’pajjiżna: bħal ngħidu aħna numru ta’ rettili li jiena nħobb niġbed ħafna kemm għax diffiċli ferm biex tieħu ritratt ta’ wieħed minnhom u anki għax ġeneralment mhumiex il-favoriti ta’ fotografi oħra. Bosta mill-ispeċi tan-natura trid tmur tfittixhom għax dawn iżommu ‘l bogħod min-nies u mhux la kemm tarahom kif ġieb u laħaq. Oħrajn jgħixu fl-abitat partikolari tagħhom il-barra mill-bini, kultant saħansitra fuq xi gżira iżolata bħal Filfla. Dawk kollha li qallbu l-paġni numerużi ta’ dan il-ktieb kienu mpressjonati bil-varjetà tal-ħolqien lokali li jinkludi. Nittama li permezz tiegħu finalment il-Maltin u l-Għawdxin jifhmu r-rikkezza tal-wirt naturali li pajjiżna hu mogħni bihom.”
Iżda l-ktieb ma jurikx dan biss! Għalkemm ormaj Guido huwa sinonimu mal-fotografija tan-natura fejn anki rebaħ bosta unuri kemm lokali u anki internazzjonali, intbaħt li dan il-fotografu għandu kwalità prezzjuża u rari – l-umiltà. U għaldaqstant hu jħalli f’idejk biex tiddeċiedi dwar il-livell tat-talent impressjonanti li dawn ir-ritratti nġibdu bih. Min-naħa tiegħi m’għandix dubju li hekk kif jiġi f’idejkhom dan il-ktieb, intom ukoll ser tagħrfu dan ma’ l-ewwel daqqa t’għajn li ser tagħtu lejn ir-ritratti tiegħu.
Għal aktar informazzjoni tistgħu tikkuntattjaw lil Guido Bonett fuq 79883556 jew lil Book Distributors Ltd fuq 21380351.
(Nota: Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fit-Torċa tat-18 ta’ Diċembru 2011)
Natives watched eagerly with awe as the foreign traders unwrapped large ostrich eggs decorated with exotic painted designs. The Phoenician merchants were sure that the ornamented eggs will be sold out in a matter of minutes, for this race possessed the key to humanity’s heart – the ability to manipulate a sense of wonder. Centuries later this magic still lives … an ingenious craft which started far away in an Australian farm has recently been introduced to our islands by Candice Fava, whose artistry in egg decoration is a joy to behold.
“I have fond memories of my childhood. My family lived in a farm in Australia from which we used to sell eggs. We had lots of clients but one particular client attracted my attention since she regularly purchased a substantial quantity of eggs. One day I decided to ask her why she always needed so many eggs and she promised that the next time she called at our farm, she will bring me a gift to show me. I felt deeply curious and I awaited her next visit with much anticipation. When she came she brought me a little jewel box adorned with lovely fabrics and accessories. I could not believe that she had actually made it with one of the eggs from our farm! It was such a fascinating idea that I made up my mind to learn this craft. I was blessed to have so much eggs to experiment upon and my mum urged me and gave me ideas to be creative. Eventually I succeeded to learn how to empty the eggs and clean them thoroughly without breaking them. The first item I made was a jewel box which I painted with a bright nail polish. I was so delighted when I saw it ready! Today I realize that it wasn’t much and I keep it hidden away. However it is very dear to me as it reminds me from where it all started.”
Looking at the variety of decorated eggs in her shop NewEggsperience in Żabbar, it was clear that Candice had learned the craft quite well. I surely found it hard to understand how she could carve out doors, windows, shelves and other designs from a simple egg-shell. And like the famous incredulous St Thomas, she had to allow me to hold an object in my hands in order to affirm that it was really made out of an egg.
“People everywhere react in this way with regards to these items since most think that eggshell is too fragile to work with. However the eggs which I use today are provided by foreign farms who specialize in this sector where probably the birds are given food mixed with fragmented shells in order to harden the quality of their eggshells. This craft is so widespread in different countries that there are also factories which sell a variety of cleansed eggs.”
Yet when Candice came over to Malta, she was quite shocked as there were no shops who sold the accessories needed for this work.
“This craft was totally unknown in Malta but with the help of my husband I searched on the internet and I succeeded to buy all that was necessary online. Egg decoration had become an essential part of my life and I simply could not stop creating new things. Initially I did these objects for my personal satisfaction. Then surprisingly, when I started to give them out as gifts, I began to receive requests from my friends to make something for them. Eventually I had so many finished objects and I saw so much interest in my work, that I decided to fulfill another dream of mine and I opened this shop.”
A range of eggs of various sizes and colours were ready to be transformed into new creations. Likewise, small jars of colourful paint and a multitude of various decorations were crying out to become part of a new charming object.
“I’m always dreaming of what I can do next. I work with all sorts of eggs, starting with the smallest ones of love-birds and parrots, and moving on to larger ones such as those of pigeons, quails, ducks, geese, emu, rhea and ostrich. The geese’ eggs are the most practical because of their size and shape. Other eggs are relished for their natural particular characteristics such as the blackish colour of the rhea eggs and the large shape and pearly shade of the ostrich eggs.”
For the Christmas season, Candice has come up with exquisite original creations.
“Christmas time is wonderful and I love to reflect its warm sensations and meaning in my works. Cribs are the most requested although I have a vast selection of other items too. I’m constantly pondering over new creations as I thrive hard to provide unique hand-made objects which one could give to that special person who deserves such an exclusive gift.
Some clients have even asked me to show them how these creations are done in order to be able to produce them for themselves and also to compose their very own personal gift this Christmas. I instructed them how to do Christmas crackers first and many clients were delighted to see that even they could produce beautiful objects. For after all, it’s all a matter of creativity, dedication and much patience.”
“Probably some of them might but I have no problem with that. Instead I feel great satisfaction when I understand that I succeeded to initiate the love for this craft in these islands. For after all what is the value of such creativity if you can’t share it with others?”
(Note: An edited version of this article was published in FIRST Issue December 2011)
- IL-VILLA RUMANA TAŻ-ŻEJTUN TAĦT IL-LENTI
- THE SICILIAN CONNECTION – Archaeotur Project
- ARCHAEOTUR: PROĠETT LI JGĦAQQAD SITI KULTURALI F’MALTA U F’RAGUSA
- PART OF THE FAMILY – pdf version
- PART OF THE FAMILY
- ICH LIEBE MALTA
- MINIATURE CHURCH DEVOTION – pdf version
- MINIATURE CHURCH DEVOTION