Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

  • Long shell life

    Baby Jesus in eggshell - Photo by Fiona VellaAlthough during the Christmas season, it is customary to see statues of baby Jesus in a manger or in a crib, in Candice Fava’s shop New EGGsperience, the holy child would be seen resting in a decorated eggshell.

    “I love to create unique hand-made objects and this craft of eggshell decoration has provided me with the opportunity to have my own niche market,” Fava explains.

    Fava was raised on a farm in Australia, where her family sold eggs. They had several clients but one particular client intrigued Fava 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 would bring me a gift to show me. I felt deeply curious and I awaited her next visit with much anticipation. Eventually, 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!”

    Xmas eggshell decoration (3) - Photo by Fiona VellaFava was so fascinated with this idea that she decided to learn this craft. At the farm, she had all the eggs that she required and in time she learnt how to clean them without breaking them. Soon, she was producing her own eggshell decorations.

    “The first item I made was a jewel box which I painted with bright nail polish. I was so delighted when I saw it ready! Today I realize that it wasn’t much but it is still very dear to me as it reminds me from where it all started.”

    Along the years, eggshell decoration became an integral part of Fava’s life. Which explains why she was surprised when she came over to Malta and realized that this craft was totally unknown on the island.

    “It was hard at first to find the necessary materials to work with. However, my husband Ivan helped me to locate some local farms which could provide me with eggs. He also assisted me in the cleaning and sterilization of the eggshells.”

    Eggshell carriage - Photo by Fiona VellaInitially she decorated eggshells for her personal enjoyment. Then she began to give them out as gifts to her friends.

    “My friends were delighted with these eggshell decorations since they had never seen anything like them before. Soon they were asking me to make some more creations for them so that they could give them as presents to others. It was only a matter of time until I confirmed that there was a demand for such products.”

    Ultimately, people’s positive reactions to her craft led her to open her own shop in Zabbar.

    Xmas eggshell decoration (5) - Photo by Fiona Vella“By then, I had produced so many various eggshell decorations that I had no difficulty to fill the shop with my creations. Each time that new clients come in, it is charming to see their incredulity that so many exquisite things can be made from common fragile eggshells.”

    Nowadays, the Favas have located foreign suppliers who are able to furnish them with quantities of ready-made cleaned and sterilized eggshells. Moreover, they have also managed to establish contacts with suppliers of other materials with which the eggshells are decorated.

    Candice and Ivan Fava at their shop - Photo by Fiona Vella“My husband supports me a lot and helps me to come out with new ideas. Along the years, he too became enthusiastic about this work and now he is able to make his own creations.”

    A wide range of differently decorated eggshells which are ideal as gifts for various occasions are displayed at their shop. However, a few of them are not for sale.

    “When we join forces, we create the best decorations,” the two agree. “The collaboration of ideas lead to exclusive objects which become difficult to part from. Some of them, such as the lamp shade, the handbag set and the sea vessel, are cherished objects and we have won prestigious awards for them at local national craft competitions. Such works provide us also with the opportunity to combine different materials and crafts like woodwork and eggshell decoration. Our imagination has no limit, however we are restrained with the eggshells’ curvatures, although we take that as part of the challenge.”

    Lamp shade - Photo by Fiona VellaEven though all of the creations may serve as decorations, some of them also have their own practical use, acting as exotic containers, wearable accessories or light fittings.

    “Besides selling our creations from my shop, I also participate in several fairs and exhibitions and therefore more people are getting to know about this craft. Presently I am also taking part in the program Niskata which airs on TVM. Yet there is still much more to do to create more awareness.”

    “It is great to see how far a simple hobby can take you. Little by little, all my family has become involved in this craft. In fact, my daughter is already coming up with her own designs and creations and my little son is showing interest too.”

    In these last years, Fava has also dedicated herself to teach this craft to all those who are interested, both children and adults. She has also furnished her shop with all the necessary materials including eggshells of various sizes, cut eggshells, acrylic paints, stands, bases and a multitude of other items.

    As Christmas time approaches, the two explore the possibility of new designs and ideas in order to come out with original creations which relate to this theme.

    Eggshell crib - Photo by Fiona Vella“We are always dreaming of what we are going to do next. We work with all sorts of eggshells, 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’s 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.”

    “Christmas brings a lot of joy and memories. This festive season opens up a whole new world to create related items with baby Jesus statues, cribs, angels, Father Christmas, reindeers, sparkles and a whole range of bright colours. We love to reflect the warm meaning of Christmas in our works.”

    2017.12.03 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles

  • Temmen jekk trid

    Soqt għal għonq it-triq lejn il-Mellieħa taħt sema tqila bi sħab iswed ċomb u tlabt bil-qalb li nilħaq nasal qabel din ifettlilha tiftaħ bwiebha… U oħroġ il-għaġeb, hekk kif missejt mat-tarġa tal-bieb tas-Santwarju tal-Madonna tal-Mellieħa, inħoss l-ewwel qatriet qawwija nieżla fuq dahri, li mill-ewwel inbidlu f’xita qalila, hekk kif dħalt ġewwa għall-kenn ta’ dan ir-rifuġju sagru. Għajnejja mill-ewwel waqgħu fuq dak li kont mort għalih – in-numru kbir ta’ kwadri ex-voto mwaħħla mal-ħitan. U hekk kif rajt lil Jimmy Muscat riesaq isellimli, ma domtx ma ntbaħt li għal darb’oħra, kont ser niskopri xi erbgħa stejjer interessanti mhux ħażin.

    P1130729Infatti, kien proprju l-ktieb ta’ dan l-awtur ‘Ex-Voto: Santwarju tal-Madonna tal-Mellieħa’ li ġibidni lejn dan il-post. F’dan il-ktieb li hu wkoll speċi ta’ katalogu, Jimmy jippreżenta ġabra tal-110 kwadru ex-voto li rnexxielhom isalvaw sal-ġurnata ta’ llum f’dan is-santwarju, fejn 64 minnhom għandhom tema marittima, filwaqt li l-oħrajn juru xeni ta’ mard u inċidenti li n-nies irnexxielhom ifiequ minnhom. Naturalment, kull kwadru għandu l-istorja partikolari tiegħu imma mhux kull wieħed fih id-dettalji ta’ dan ir-rakkont miktubin fuqu. Uħud mill-kwadri għandhom xi deskrizzjoni ta’ dak li kien seħħ biex saret din il-pittura, oħrajn għandhom biss id-data mniżżla fuqhom, filwaqt li numru ieħor juru l-ittri V.F.G.A. (Votum Fecit Gratiam Accepit) li jfisser li l-wegħda ntalbet u l-grazzja nqalgħet. Fl-istess ħin, anki jekk numru ta’ xogħolijiet m’għandhom l-ebda kitba fuqhom, jekk wieħed jiflihom sewwa, xorta waħda jista’ jinnota xi dettalji li kapaċi jagħtuh indikazzjoni tal-kuntest tagħhom, bħal ngħidu aħna mit-tip ta’ xwieni, mill-bnadar li jkollhom fuqhom, mill-inħawi li jidhru fl-isfond, mill-ilbies tan-nies u mill-għamara tad-djar. Għaldaqstant, dawn l-ex-voto mhumiex biss xhieda tat-twemmin tal-popli matul iż-żminijiet imma anki riflessjoni tal-istorja u tas-soċjetajiet differenti li ħallew dan il-wirt tagħhom f’dan il-post.

    P1120168Imma, ejja nimxu lura fis-snin, lejn il-bidu ta’ dan is-sit… Skont l-istudji fl-istorja tal-Mellieħa li għamel Jimmy, jidher li qabel is-17 il-seklu, l-inħawi ta’ fejn illum jinsab dan is-santwarju, kienu biss għerien naturali. Minħabba l-attakki spissi tal-pirati li kienu jsibu l-bajja tal-Mellieħa mira faċli biex minnha jitilgħu l-art, l-inħawi tal-madwar kienu meqjusa bħala perikolużi wisq biex wieħed jgħix fihom. Probabbilment kien hemm xi wħud li kienu jazzardaw jgħixu f’xi għerien tal-madwar, imma dawn kienu jafu li kienu qed jilgħabu xortihom kuljum hemmhekk. Intant, skont xi dokumenti li nstabu, jidher li fl-1640 kien beda t-tħaffir tal-inħawi fejn illum jinsab is-santwarju. Iżda mill-ġdid, minħabba l-invażjonijiet minn perjodu għall-ieħor tal-pirati, intilfu ħafna dokumenti sinifikanti minn dan il-post u fil-fatt il-manuskritti li għandna llum jibdew mit-18 il-seklu.

    P1120126Il-ħaġa tal-iskantament hija illi għalkemm dawn l-inħawi kienu meqjusa tat-twegħir, bosta pellegrini xorta waħda kienu jirriskjaw ħajjithom sabiex iżuru wieħed minn dawn l-għerien li kien meqjus bħala sagru minħabba xbieha partikolari li kellu fuq il-ħajt. Dan għaliex it-tradizzjoni tgħid li din ix-xbieha tal-Madonna bil-Bambin f’idejha kien pinġiha fuq il-blat San Luqa, meta fis-sena 60W.K. huwa kien qiegħed f’Malta flimkien ma’ sieħbu San Pawl, u għalhekk din  kienet ikkunsidrata bħala mirakoluża. Tradizzjoni oħra relatata ma’ dan il-post tirrakkonta illi fis-sena 409W.K. grupp ta’ isqfijiet kienu żaru dan l-għar u meta raw din it-tpinġija ta’ San Luqa mal-blat u t-twemmin sod li kien hemm marbut magħha, huma ddeċidew li jikkonsagraw dan il-post bħala knisja.

    P1120131Li nafu fiż-żgur huwa li maż-żmien, inbena santwarju sħiħ madwar ikona li turi x-xbieha tal-Madonna bil-Bambin f’idha. Barra minn hekk inbnew ukoll xi kmamar għall-pellegrini fejn dawn setgħu jistrieħu ftit qabel jerħulha lura lejn l-abitat tagħhom. Sal-ġurnata ta’ llum,  bosta pellegrini għadhom iżuru dan il-post biex jitolbu l-għajnuna tal-Madonna tal-Mellieħa quddiem din ix-xbieha. Min-naħa l-oħra, xi studjużi tal-arti għandhom ukoll interess f’din ix-xbieha peress li għad hemm diversi mistoqsijiet relatati magħha. Fosthom hu maħsub li l-ikona li qed naraw fil-preżent, kienet saret fit-13 il-seklu. Iżda mid-dehra taħt din it-tpinġija, hemm oħra ferm aktar antika minnha, minħabba li waqt li kien qed isirilha xi restawr, beda joħroġ xi fdal tad-deheb minn taħtha. Dan jindika l-possibilità li jista’ jkun hemm xbieha eqdem mgħottija b’dik preżenti. Sadanittant, minn dokumenti tal-visti pastorali li saru matul is-snin, Jimmy skopra li għal aktar minn darba, l-isqfijiet ta’ dawk il-perjodi kienu qed jinnutaw li x-xbieha tal-Madonna kienet qed tisfuma biż-żmien u għalhekk huma talbu biex titpinġa oħra fuqha sabiex il-pellegrini jkunu jistgħu jibqgħu jaraw u jidentifikaw max-xbieha tal-Madonna li għaliha kienu qed jiġu f’dan il-post.

    P1120141Hekk kif għajnejja ġrew fuq l-ammonti ta’ kwadri ex-voto li jmorru lura għal mijiet ta’ snin, fihom ilmaħt it-tama ta’ bosta individwi li akkost li kienu f’ibħra ‘l bogħod minn xtutna, talbiethom xorta waħda daret lejn il-Madonna li fiha huma kellhom l-akbar fiduċja – dik tas-Santwarju tal-Mellieħa. Iżda ma kienux biss il-Maltin li kienu jiggranfaw ma’ din il-karba għall-għajnuna divina ta’ din il-Madonna meta l-mewt kienet daqstant viċin! Infatti kienu ħafna l-individwi barranin li kienu rregalaw il-kwadri ex-voto tagħhom lil dan is-santwarju meta rritornaw qawwijin u sħaħ lejn pajjiżna. Fost dawn kien hemm il-ġeneral tal-flotta tal-Ordni, Fra Antonio Correa (Montenegro) li wiegħed u ta kwadru mill-isbaħ lill-Madonna tas-Santwarju tal-Mellieħa wara li x-xwieni li kien responsabbli minnhom inqabdu f’maltempata tal-biża’ waqt li kienu qed jaqsmu u jbaħħru qrib il-gżejjer ta’ Taranto fl-1678 u finalment irnexxielhom isalvaw. Ex-voto ieħor pjuttost kurjuż huwa dak li jidher proprju fil-qoxra tal-ktieb ta’ Jimmy fejn did-darba, il-Madonna li tidher fuq ix-xbieha  tal-ex-voto, tixbaħ ħafna lill-Madonna tal-Monasteru ta’ Kykkos li jinsab f’Ċipru u għalhekk hija għal kollox differenti minn dik tal-Mellieħa. Għaldaqstant wieħed jistaqsi kif dan ix-xogħol ġie inkluż ma’ din il-kollezzjoni tas-santwarju? Kitba fuq dan l-ex-voto li tidher li hi ta’ lingwa antika Russa u Griega, taf tipprovdi xi indikazzjoni dwar din ir-raġuni, iżda s’issa ħadd għadu ma rnexxielu jiddeċifra x’hemm miktub.

    P1120138Kwadri oħra, daqstant emozzjonali, juru persuni jew familji qed jitolbu bil-ħrara għall-qraba morda tagħhom u mill-ġdid hawnhekk, apparti li f’dawn il-wegħdi naraw is-simboli tat-twemmin, fl-istess ħin għandna stampa ċara tas-sitwazzjoni tas-saħħa li kien hawn f’pajjiżna matul is-snin, fejn fosthom uħud kienu mardu bil-malarja, bit-tuberkolożi, bil-pneumonia, bil-ġidri, bil-kolera, bid-difterite u anki bil-pesta. Fost dawn, laqgħatni ħafna kwadru minnhom li juri xena ta’ sptar tal-pesta tal-1813. Dan il-kwadru kien wiegħda magħmulha minn Anna Lungaro u l-qarib tagħha Giovanni Portelli peress li hi kienet mardet bil-marda tal-pesta u permezz tal-ħniena divina tal-Madonna tal-Mellieħa, nhar it-Tlieta, 17 t’Awwissu 1813, hi u tnejn oħra biss mill-160 persuna li kien hemm fl-isptar tal-pesta, irnexxielhom isalvaw.

    P1120134Jimmy kompla jdawwarni madwar is-santwarju li ġewwa fih jinkorpora wkoll l-għerien naturali tal-post li indubbjament jagħtuh laqta’ pjuttost insolita u surreali. Iżda daqstant ieħor bqajt impressjonata bil-kwantità ta’ ex-voto oħrajn li kellhom kull xorta ta’ forma: ittri, ritratti, x-rays, ċertifikati, ilbies tat-trabi, krozzi, u dak kollu li tista’ timmaġina. Wegħdi magħmula mhux biss mill-Maltin imma minn kull ġens li qatt żar dan il-post. Infatti peress li fil-Mellieħa hemm diversi lukandi, it-turisti spiss isibu ruħhom f’dan il-lok, u anki dawk li mhumiex Kristjani, xorta waħda jiġu mistiedna biex jittawwlu u jaraw x’hemm. Uħud minn dawn, imqanqla minn dik ix-xhieda kollha ta’ sabar, fejqan u mirakli, bla ma jafu kif, isibu ruħhom huma wkoll jitolbu l-għajnuna quddiem il-Madonna u numru minnhom, jerġgħu jirritornaw lura lejn gżiritna bir-rigal tagħhom meta talbhom jinstema’. Minn fost il-ħafna oġġetti li kien hemm, sibt ruħi qiegħda naqra ġrajja minn ġurnal li kienet qed tirrakkonta kif koppja Ingliża li t-tobba kienu qatgħulhom qalbhom li għad ikollhom tarbija, meta żaru dan is-santwarju u għamlu t-talba tagħhom, huma rritornaw lejn artna tmien snin wara b’żewġt itfal tagħhom.

    P1120122Ex-voto oħra ta’ qisien differenti, li ħafna minnhom ġew maħdumin mill-fidda fid-19 il-seklu, juru diversi partijiet tal-ġisem bħala rappreżentazzjoni ta’ b’hiex kien marid l-individwu li għamel il-wegħda. Numru minnhom għandhom forma ta’ qalb imma dawn huma simbolu tal-imħabba lejn il-Madonna. Oħrajn juru par għajnejn u id u dawn kienu jissimbolizzaw is-superstizzjoni tal-magħmul li ġej mill-għajn. Bħall-oġġetti l-oħra, anki dawn jitfgħu dawl fuq is-soċjetà li għamlithom, hekk kif l-abbundanza li ngħataw biha u l-fatt li ħafna minnhom huma identiċi, juru li tant kien hemm talba għal dawn il-wegħdi, li dawn l-oġġetti kienu qed jiġu manifatturati fil-kwantità u mibjugħa. Iżda darba minnhom kien ġie żmien meta isqof partikolari kien beda jitnaffar minn dawn l-affarijiet, uħud minnhom saħansitra superstizzjużi, imwaħħla madwar l-artali tal-knejjes kollha! U għalhekk hu ordna li dawn kellhom jitneħħew minnufih u jiġu merfugħa fis-sagristija, b’eċċezzjoni tal-qalb li kienet tirrappreżenta l-imħabba lejn il-Madonna. Infatti Jimmy għadu sa llum isib minn dawn l-ex-voto fil-kaxxi iżda hu jemmen li rigward dawn il-wegħdi, jiswew kemm jiswew, u juru x’juru, jeżisti l-obbligu li dawn jintwerew fil-pubbliku peress li huma kienu kollha doni li ngħataw b’qima, b’rispett u b’imħabba lill-Madonna. Għaldaqstant hu qed jagħmel minn kollox biex jesponi kull oġġett li jingħata lis-santwarju, akkost il-problema tal-ispazju u l-fatt li dawn il-wegħdi għadhom deħlin.

    P1130721Proġett ieħor li dejjem isus fuq moħħ Jimmy jirrigwarda r-restawr tal-kwadri ex-voto sabiex dawn jiġu konservati għar-referenza tal-ġenerazzjonijiet li ġejjin warajna. Huwa jixtieq ħafna li jsib xi sponsors li jkunu jistgħu jagħtuh daqqa t’id biex isir dan ir-restawr. Sfortunatament, in-nuqqas ta’ għarfien fiż-żminijiet antiki dwar kif kien l-aħjar mezz kif jinżammu oġġetti bħal dawn, kien wassal għall-qerda ta’ għadd ta’ kwadri sinifikanti u min jaf kemm informazzjoni ntilfet! Infatti bosta minn dawn il-kwadri kienu ġew mormija wara li sofrew danni peress li tpoġġew direttament fuq blat umduż, filwaqt li oħrajn ġew anki maħsula bl-ilma wara li swiedu minħabba n-nugrufun li tqanqal mill-kwantità ta’ xemgħat u ftili taż-żejt li kienu jinxtegħlu għal siegħat twal fis-santwarju!

    P1120170Temminx jew le f’dawn il-mirakli jew fl-istess reliġjon innifsu, ma naħsibx li tista’ tibqa’ biered għal kollox fil-preżenza ta’ din il-ġabra mmensa tat-tifkiriet ta’ nies li emmnu, afdaw u qalgħu l-għajnuna meta l-aktar li kellhom bżonnha. Ċertament jagħmel tajjeb li kieku intom jirnexxielkhom issibu ftit ħin biex iżżuru dan il-post sinifikanti ħafna f’pajjiżna u fil-kultura tagħna sabiex b’hekk taraw b’għajnejkhom, tmissu b’idejkhom u tħossu b’qalbkhom.

    Is-Santwarju tal-Madonna tal-Mellieħa jkun miftuħ mis-7.00am sa nofsinhar u mill-4.00pm sas-6.00pm. Issir ukoll quddiesa kuljum fit-8.30am, filwaqt li dik tal-Ħadd tibda fl-10.00am u tkun bl-Ingliż.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fit-Torċa tas-26 ta’ Jannar 2014 fis-sensiela Ġabriet it-Tifkiriet)

     

    2017.09.03 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • Love is strange doctor

    card for bride and groomChoosing a unique white wedding dress, sending out elegant invitations to guests, being led down the aisle by one’s father, shamelessly removing the garter, tossing the colourful bouquet, and giving out souvenirs may be considered as universal marriage traditions. However the reality is far from that. Rituals and customs could vary greatly between cultures, religions and countries, ranging from the sweet and romantic, to the strange and bizarre and at times even to the shocking and outrageous.

    Ghost weddings – China

    Whereas a wedding is generally expected to be the culmination of a loving and living bride and groom, ghost weddings are still celebrated in some provinces of northern and central China such as Shanxi and Henan. Such weddings are based on a grisly 3000 year old tradition which recommends that the unmarried dead sould not be left alone in the afterlife, otherwise the deceased’s family might get cursed.

    Originally this ritual was strictly for the dead and it involved two unmarried dead people. A wedding ceremony was duly celebrated and the two were buried together in the groom’s grave. Mainly aimed for young unmarried men who worked in coal mining and often suffered fatalities, this custom provided the bereaved parents with the opportunity to help their sons find a soulmate and be at peace even after death. It must be said that traditionally, parents felt obliged to assist their sons to settle down in a marriage.

    Although this tradition is supposed to have ended, especially with the sale of corpses being outlawed in China in 2006, studies and police reports show that this ritual is more alive than ever. Worse than that, besides being practised secretely, this custom has mutated to a more appalling nature, leading to grave robberies and at times even murders. Prices for female corpses or human remains have increased considerably as parents are ready to carry the financial burden, no matter how difficult it might be.

    Fat farms for brides – Mauritania

    While many brides go on strict diets to lose weight before the wedding, in rural Mauritania, an attractive bride is a girl with stomach rolls, stretch marks and overlapping thighs. In this society, a thin girl is considered inferior and unappealing and her slim figure will bring shame to her family. An old tradition in this country, known as leblouh, ensures that girls are round and corpulent at their weddings by force feeding them from the tender age of 5.

    During the school holidays or in the rainy season, when milk is abundant, girls are sent to ‘fattening farms’ where they are constrained to eat by older women, their aunts or grandmothers. A typical daily intake for a six year old includes two kilos of pounded millet blended with two cups of butter, as well as 20 litres of camel’s milk. Refusal to eat all this food will lead to a subtle form of corporal punishment such as squeezing the girls’ toes between two sticks. Vomit has to be consumed again.

    Historians claim that this tradition dates back to pre-colonial times when Mauritania’s population consisted of nomad white Moor Arabs. At the time, a man was deemed wealthy and well respected if his wives could afford to sit still all day and leave the household chores to black slaves. This laziness led these women to gain weight and by time, being overweight became culturally acceptable and regarded as high class.

    Even though health campaigners are trying to eradicate this old tradition, the leblouh practice has seen a resurgence in recent years. A successful fattenning process will make a girl of 15 look 30, making it easier for her to get married. Sadly, this custom causes endless illnesses and health problems to these girls in later years.

    Cursed wives – India

    When searching for a girl to marry, one tends to be attracted by looks or a charming personality. Yet in India, a man has to watch out for more than that since a woman born under Mangal Dosha (a Hindu astrological combination under the influence of planet Mars) is believed to be cursed and after marriage, she might lead to his untimely death.

    Such women are known as Mangliks and are looked upon with fear in Hindu society. Their choice of spouse is very limited as they are clearly not regarded as ideal prospective matches in the arranged marriages which take place in this country.

    A remedy to break this curse is to marry a clay pot during the kumbh vivah ceremony. This function is just like a real Hindu wedding where the woman has to wear a wedding dress and jewelery along with a thread. A priest is invited to chant the mantra and a marriage celebration takes place between the woman and the pot. Once the wedding is over, the bride will change her clothes, remove the thread and tie it around the pot. Later, when no one is watching, the pot will be drowned in a pond or in a river, thereby releasing the woman from the curse and making her suitable to marry a man.

    Spitting on the bride – Kenya

    One of the most emotional moments in a wedding is the point when a father accompanies his daughter down the aisle, then removes her veil and kisses her on her cheek before handing her over to her future husband. Yet although similar emotions will be involved during a wedding celebration of the Maasai people in Kenya, the father of the bride will spit on her in order to bless her.

    Whereas spitting in many cultures is associated with disgrace and humiliation, in this tribe, this act is regarded to bring good luck and fortune. In fact, Maasai tribesmen will spit on their hands before greeting and shaking hands with elders and it is also customary for them to spit on newborns in order to avert any bad luck.

    During a Maasai wedding, the bride’s head is shaved and lamb fat and oil is applied on her head. After her father has spit on her head and breasts, she will leave with her husband and walk away without looking back since she is fearful that she might turn into stone.

     (This article was published in The Wedding Supplement issued with The Sunday Times of Malta dated 12th March 2017)

    2017.03.12 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles

  • Out of its shell

    No one can really say what inspired Indrí Dimech known as Il-Mikk in 1898 to start decorating the façade of his property in Għaxaq with hundreds of snails and seashells which he collected from local and foreign beaches. However, some suggest that he might have seen such decorations when he was living abroad.

    Massi il-Mikk (Photo provided by Dr Mario Rizzo Naudi)2Known to be able to do whatever came up to his mind, within two years, Indrí turned the two upper sides of the walls of his property in a huge canvas as he craftly designed them with religious symbols made out of snails and seashells. He embellished this artwork further by adding also three niches, a statue, and some writing which included his surname. Soon this property became renowned as Id-Dar tal-Bebbux (the house of snails).

    More than a century later, much of this unique artistic work has somehow succeeded to withstand the test of time. Yet considerable sections of it have been lost and what remains is in dire need of preservation and restoration. For many years, the Local Council of Għaxaq has been trying to obtain the necessary funds to save this singular property in St Mary Street but no one seems to be interested to protect this national cultural heritage.

    “A recent application for funds in a scheme that was dedicated to the restoration of historical sites was disqualified since the work to restore Id-Dar Tal-Bebbux was going to take more than six months. Moreover, we were informed that there were no workers available in the Restoration Section who could do the type of work required for this property,” said Darren Abela, Mayor of the Għaxaq Local Council.

    “We were all very disappointed to receive this news. It is deplorable to notice that it is always the same Local Councils who receive the funds to do restoration projects in their localities whilst our locality always ends up with nothing! Although we are in favour of such works, we find it difficult to understand why similar sites obtain the funds to be restored, whereas this property in Għaxaq which is unique, continues to be ignored.”

    Dar tal-bebbux 1 (Photo - Fiona Vella)Abela insisted that about fifty years ago, this house was considered to be his village’s jewel while today, it is regarded as the village’s sorrow as it is painful to look at its pitiful state.

    “Everyone who sees this house or who hears about it recommends us to restore its old decorations before we lose them once and for all. And yet, nobody has ever came forward with any solid action to commence these works.”

    No estimate of the value of the work required has ever been done because such a project requires particular expertise which till now was not located.

    “At the moment, there are three different families living in this property and they have all agreed that this work should be done. I hope it won’t be too late if we’ll ever have the funds to start this project. It is already doubtful whether the snails and seashells which have fallen out could ever be replaced.”

    It would definitely be a pity to allow further deterioration of this place. Indeed, Indrì Dimech’s work was deemed significant enough to be included in the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands where there is detailed information about the niches and the statues which form part of Id-Dar tal-Bebbux.

    Dar tal-bebbux - main facade (Photo - Fiona Vella)High up on the main facade which bears the date 1901, a small stone statue of the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Għaxaq, stands triumphantly on a large sphere of clouds. Below it, on the left hand side, one can observe a niche with a stone statue of St Joseph holding baby Jesus; a saint which is also very cherished in this village and for whom a secondary feast is dedicated. On the right, another niche was constructed to contain the stone statue of St Andrew; the saint which has the same name as Indrì. Both these niches have been lavishly decorated with beautiful patterns made with snails and seashells and coloured with paint in between. Only the first three letters of the surname Dimech remain intact on the aperture of the left balcony, the middle balcony displays the letters C. Asciak, whilst the word Malta is still in one piece on the right balcony.

    Another niche with three stone statues showing a crucified figure of Christ accompanied by the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist claims the attention at the center of the other facade. Unfortunately, many of the shells which composed the intricate designs around this niche are now lost.

    Several other designs which include religious symbols, particularly those connected to the Passion of the Christ, can also be recognized. A number of other forms show angels, crosses, palm trees, lions, unicorns, fountains, churches, Għaxaq’s coat of arms, and many others.

    One of the niches loacted on a wall of Dar il-BebbuxRelatives of Indrì Dimech who often worked as a sailor in the Middle East narrated how he used to return from his voyages carrying numerous shells. Once back home in Għaxaq, he would cover the facade of his property with bedsheets and continue working on his masterpiece. It is not known whether these sheets served as a protection against the sun or whether he intended to surprise his neighbours once he was finished with his work.

    At the time, Indri’s property functioned as a bar wherein men gathered to have a drink and to socialize after a hard day’s work. In there, those who were devoted and passionate about the feast of St Mary met to discuss the events which had to be organized. Meanwhile, this place served also as the hub which sparked the idea of the establishment of the first social club in Għaxaq that was to be dedicated to the titular of the Assumption of Mary.

    Even Indrì gave a helping hand to decorate the square that was located in front of his property during the feast. Numerous oil lamps and coloured paper turned the surrounding environment in a surreal atmosphere, especially with his bizarre property in the background.

    Today, this property stands in the core of the village, just a few metres away from Għaxaq’s parish church. Although Indrì is gone, his aptitude to mesmerize still lingers on as passers by are captivated by the strange designs that he created. Hopefully, as soon as possible, the authorities would appreciate this gem for its uniqueness and would take the necessary actions to restore back its beauty and allure of bygone days.

    (This article was published in the ‘Homes’ Supplement issued with The Sunday Times of Malta dated 3rd April 2016)

    2016.04.03 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles

  • Guests to history

    One would probably spare only a few moments of consideration at the receipt of a wedding invitation. However, for Baron Igino de Piro d’Amico Inguanez, these endearing solicitations were cherished so much that he kept a collection of them, neatly separated according to their date and wrapped up together by a string.

    Baron Igino de Piro d’Amico Inguanez (Photo - Fiona Vella)“Were it not for my grandfather’s interest to keep these wedding invitations, we would have lost this fascinating information which can be unravelled within each one of them,” remarked Marquis Nicholas de Piro as we walked towards an elegant table in one of the rooms at Casa Rocca Piccola where he had layed out a number of these invitations.

    I glanced out at the wide selection of wedding invitations tastefully set on the polished wooden surface, noticing the different sizes, shapes, writing, designs and paper. The earliest ones dated back to 1815, 1829 and 1832. They were quite plain and small, slightly bigger than a credit card, and written in Italian.

    “Here are two of the prettiest ones” said the Marquis as he pulled them out of the rest.

    These two invitations had been issued at the end of the 19th century. They were larger than the earlier ones and were quite different from each other. The one dated June 1896 was elegantly designed with an intricate cross at its corner and consisted of an invitation to the wedding between the noble Maria de Piro and Dr. Alfredo Stilon. The other one dated October 1899 was more colourful and rather than an invitation, it was more an announcement of the wedding which was to take place between the noble Maria Teresa de Piro and the Marquis Paolo Apap Bologna. Once again, both were written in Italian.

    Wedding indefinitely postponed (Photo - Fiona Vella)“Now look at this note which accompanies this wedding invitation,” said the Marquis as he handed it to me.

    The presentation of this wedding invitation was simpler than the previous two and the writing was in English. Here, Judge and Mrs L Camilleri were  requesting the company of Baron and Baroness I de Piro d’Amico Inguanez and family to the wedding of their noble daughter Inez to Marquis Mallia Tabone on 26th January 1920. Yet this celebration was not destined to take place as a smaller card which was sent some days later informed those invited that this wedding had been indefinitely postponed.

    Wedding invitation during Lent (Photo - Fiona Vella)“From these invitations, one can also observe the traditional customs of the various eras. For example, this wedding invitation dated 1935 shows clearly that people who chose to get married during the period of Lent had to abide to some limitations.”

    Indeed, a formal note which was inserted together with the wedding invitation that was sent by Chev & Mrs E Moore and Mrs H Xuereb to announce the marriage of their daughter Alice Moore to Godfrey Xuereb, provided this information with direct instructions:

    ‘It is much regretted that in view of the restrictions imposed by Canon Law for weddings held in Lent, only a few guests may attend the religious ceremony at the Archbishop’s Palace.

    You are therefore invited to meet the bride and bridegroom immediately after the ceremony at the residence at 4:00pm.’

    Wedding invitations - close up (Photo - Fiona Vella)As we followed the different invitations that were sent along the years to Baron Igino and his family, we could also trace some of his friends and acquaintances, their residences, the chapels and churches where the marriages took place, and the selected locations for the wedding receptions. Although many of the churches still exist today, some of the street names had changed from Italian to English or were altered completely. A number of the residences mentioned have become quite renowned today whilst a few others were turned into commercial properties. Sadly, some of the lovely villas which provided exquisite entertainment in the bygone days were demolished to make place for large modern complexes.

    Marquis Nicholas de Piro (Photo - Fiona Vella)Amongst these, there was the wedding between Hilda Scicluna and Paymaster Lieutenant W Eric Brockman that took place on 4th March 1928. Their marriage was celebrated at the Archbishop’s Palace in Valletta which seems to have been quite a popular venue for such occasions. On the other hand, the reception was held at the bride’s parents residence that was located at 86 Strada Merkanti Valletta; a house which originally belonged to Sir Oliver Starkey, Bali of Aquila and Latin Secretary to Grand Master La Valette. Being an English Knight, he had assisted the Grand Master during the Great Siege of 1565 and was later given the privilege to be buried in the crypt of the Co-Cathedral of St John in Valletta, close to La Valette’s own burial place.

    The Cathedral in Mdina seems to have been another prominent place for marriages. On 24th January 1937, Adelina Maempel was married to Edwin England Sant Fournier. A reception followed at Villa Luginsland in 26 Boschetto Road, Rabat; a lovely villa which was built by Baron Max von Tucker, the German consul who was serving in Malta in the early 20th century. Unfortunately in recent years years, this remarkable place was in an abandoned state and had a haunting atmosphere.

    Invitation from Gozo (Photo - Fiona Vella)The only wedding invitation which came from Gozo looked quite distinguished and it boasted a silver wax seal. The marriage of Carmela and Paul Vella took place on 4th August 1937 and their reception was organized at the Duke of Ediburgh Hotel in Victoria, Gozo. Alas, in recent years, this splendid hotel that was beautifully constructed in Victorian architecture was demolished in order to make way for a commercial centre and a number of residential units.

    “As you have already noted, some of these wedding invitations pertained to our relatives. Incidentally, this one which announces the marriage between my aunt Mona de Piro to Major John E J Nelson on 28th December 1940 is a favourite of mine, particularly because she was quite a character and she kept her high spirits even when she was aged more than ninety. Well, she’s there, looking at us!” the Marquis exclaimed as he pointed to a delightful portrait on the opposite wall.

    My eyes met with those of a young, graceful girl, defiantly posing with an off-the-shoulder silver dress which melted in the greyish background behind her.

    The noble Mona de Piro (Photo - Fiona Vella)“That portrait created much talk when her relatives saw it since it was regarded too sensual at the time. It was commissioned by her Italian boyfriend, Marquis Onofrio Bartolini Salinbeni, and the painting was done by Arthur Acton who lived in a palace in Florence. Onofrio was madly in love with Mona but unfortunately, their relationship ended and when she returned to Malta, a relative of hers went to Italy to claim this painting since it was not deemed fit for him to keep it,” smiled the Marquis as he went to add some logs to the fire burning in the stylish hearth besides us.

    A warm gush of air embraced the room as the logs protested and cracked and poured a glowing light over the wedding invitations lying in front of us. For a short spell, I thought that I could hear the tinkling of the glasses filled with red velvety wine and golden sizzling champagne as the guests toasted to the newly married couples.

    (This article was published in the Weddings Supplement issued with The Sunday Times of Malta dated 13th March 2016)

    2016.03.13 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles

  • Bats at the museum

    As the sun began to set, the sky darkened with the legion of bats which came out of the Rabat catacombs, noted G. Gulia in 1890 in his book Elenco dei Mammiferi Maltesi. Certainly, the tendency of these nightly creatures to live in such dreaded underground areas didn’t help them much in order not to be associated with evil and darkness. Likewise, their strange semblance, their mythical association with Dracula, and images of Satan bearing their wings, hindered even more their reputation. In Aztec and Mayan cultures, bats were deities connected to death. Yet nothing could be far from the truth since bats have a beneficial role in the earth’s ecosystem.

    Senior Curator John Joseph Borg besides a specimen of a fruit bat located at the Museum in Mdina (Photo - Fiona Vella)2The importance of these unique flying mammals was highlighted during a recent activity which was organized by MEPA’s Environment Division in collaboration with Heritage Malta, at the National Museum of Natural History in Mdina. This annual event, recognized as Malta Bat Night, included a discussion about bats and listening to their sounds through an electronic device.

    Malta Bat Night forms part of a partnership which we have with the European Union for the Research and Conservation of Bats,” explained John Joseph Borg, Senior Curator at the National Museum of Natural History.

    “Such events are aimed to inform the public about bats in the hope of removing the negative impression that people have about them. Along the years, bats have decreased considerably in Malta, both because their habitat has often been disturbed, and also due to direct acts of vandalism which were carried out upon them.”

    Maghrebian Bat2Indeed, Borg explained that colonies of bats have been repeatedly put on fire whilst they were resting in their caves. Others were smothered when vandals threw mud and other things at them, even though they were clearly being protected behind a gate, such as in the case of Ħasan Cave. Bats of a small colony which lived in a site that had access to a particular school, were burnt alive by school children after they captured them and drenched them in hot candle wax.

    Well, after hearing these stories, it becomes very clear who the evil ones are.

     “Unfortunately our culture has taught us to fear and hate these creatures. In actual fact, their presence could be very advantageous to humans,” revealed Borg.

    “Many of the bats eat insects and studies have shown that they tend to feed on species that are harmful to humans and to agriculture. Other small bats which have an elongated snout and a long tongue, act as pollinators when they enter into flower tubes to lick the pollen inside and then move onto different plants. Larger bats, which may look spooky and scary, nurture themselves on decaying fruit and therefore, they keep the fruit trees healthy.”

     What about the so called vampire bats. Were they real? And do we have them in Malta?

    Grey Long-eared Bat2 “In contrast to peoples’ impression that all bats can suck blood, most of them thrive on insects, fruit, fish and frogs. The only vampire bats which feed on blood are found in South America and they are pretty small. They are nothing similar to the fictional bats that we see in films. In fact, they do not suck blood but they lick it, thanks to their anticogulant saliva which prevents the blood from clotting. They do not normally attack human beings and neither animals. However, they will feed on any animal available if it is reachable to them, including humans.”

    Borg informed me that we have seven resident species of bats which are: Lesser Horse-shoe Bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), Maghrebian Bat (Myotis punicus), Grey Long-eared Bat (Plecotus austriacus), Savi`s Pipistrelle (Hypsugo savii), Kuhl`s Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus kuhlii), Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), and Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus).

    Common Pipistrelle2“We have bats from all these resident species living in this museum,” smiled Borg who has an avid passion about bats. “In the underground tunnels there are the Lesser Horse-shoe and the Maghrebian Bats, whereas in the rooms of the underlying level, one finds the Grey Long-eared and the Lesser Horse-shoe Bats. Moreover, all the four Pipistrelle species have managed to make a home in some cracks of the facade and on the high beams.”

    From the remains of moth wings which Borg collects from the museum floor early in the morning for his studies, he is able to identify more information about his resident bats, such as what they prey on. Interestingly, each small Pipistrelle is able to eat around 20,000 moth each night, thereby being more effective than the insect sprays which we use. Nonetheless, most people have no idea about this and when they realize that they are co-habitating with bats, hell breaks lose.

    “We do receive calls from people who request us to remove bats from their properties. It is very rare that these creatures enter into homes. Usually they live in cracks in external windows or in narrow openings in facades. Some of the bats are minute in size and in fact, five of them can be placed in a matchstick box. Generally, once these people realize that these animals will be doing no harm to them or to their family, they will agree to allow them to stay. Yet there were cases when the individuals concerned were adamant that they wanted them removed.”

    Savi Pipistrelle2In such cases, Borg or other responsible officials will need to go and survey the bats before taking action. This involves counting them daily for a whole week in order to confirm the exact amount of bats that are roosting in this place. Once, this amount is identified, they will wait until all the bats are out at night and then they will block the nest in order not to let them in again. Eventually, when the bats will return home and realize what happenned, they will automatically move away to a second area which they tend to keep as a form of protection.

    “This procedure to count bats is very important because they do not always leave the nest in the same number. Usually, a scout bat will fly out first in order to check whether it is windy and whether there are enough insects available in the area. If he returns, the others will stay inside but if he does not, they will understand that the situation is favourable and they will fly out too.”

    I couldn’t help feeling impressed by these creatures. Yet more was still to come.

    Kuhl`s Pipistrelle2“The courting and copulation of bats takes place in autumn, between October and November. Then, as soon as the temperature drops and insects are more rare, they will fall in a state of torpidity which is a short period of sleep. During this time, the sperm with which the female has been fertilized will remain stored inside her, waiting for the right moment to come. Once the tempertaure gets warmer and insects become available, these bats will wake up and the real preganancy will start. In this way, both the mother and the offspring will have a better chance to survive.”

    Although there are some who associate bats with flying mice, Borg informed me that there is nothing common between the two. While mice come from the order Rodentia, bats form part of the order of Chiroptera (meaning hand-wing).

    Soprano Pipistrelle2“The oldest bat fossils date back to 55 million years ago where this mammal had already the shape which we know today. On the other hand, the oldest fossils which were found in Malta go back to the Ice Age at around 200,000 and 10,000 years ago. These were found during excavations at Għar Dalam and so we can say that these ancient bats remember the dwarf elephants and hippopotami roaming around. At this museum, we do hold a sample of these fossils. However, the majority of them were taken by the foreign researchers who were doing the excavations, and these passed on their discoveries to their relative museums.”

    In the Mdina museum, one can also find some current bat specimens. Borg insisted that it is not the policy of the museum to capture and kill creatures in order to preserve them. So, one won’t find a specimen for each species which live in Malta. Nevertheless, the museum will do his best to assist whoever will request information about bats.

    Lesser Horse-shoe Bat2Borg’s own interest in bats goes back to the 1980s. Originally fearful of them, he came face to face with these bats whilst he was doing bird studies and these nightly creatures were being captured accidentally in nets. At first nervous, he asked others to remove them for him, until one day, he decided to do the job himself.

    From then on, he was completely captivated by them and has been studying them ever since, eager to share his knowledge in the hope of fostering more interest from the public.

    It is safe to say that Malta Bat Night has certainly gone a long way towards achieving this.

    (This article was published in Escape Suppliment issued with the Sunday Times of Malta dated 29th November 2015)

    2015.11.29 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles

  • A HIDDEN BEAUTY SPOT

    In contrast to the city of Beijing, wherein we visited some of the most splendid sites of Chinese historical significance, Shanghai seemed bound to impress us with its ultra modern, cosmopolitan character and its new high rises. Even though we were informed that a number of old structures in Shanghai were being preserved in order to conserve the roots of this area, our initial general impression was that the new buildings had taken over considerably its Chinese origins.

    Dehra ta' Zhujiajiao2Therefore, it was quite a pleasant surprise to learn that tucked safely away at relatively short distances from this avant-garde city, one could still find a wide selection of ancient water towns which offer the opportunity to relish the charm of an ancient China. Known as the ‘Little Venices of the East’, these unique towns of exceptional allure are a wonder of cultural landscape. A visit to at least one of them, is definitely a must once you are in Shanghai.

    Since we had only one day left in Shanghai, our guide led us to Zhujiajiao which is located only forty seven kilometers away from this city, in the district of Qingpu. With a history of around 1700 years, Zhujiajiao is renowned as one of the best preserved ancient water towns of the area. Like much of the other sites in China, once we got there, we found the place pretty crowded, especially since on that day, the local people were celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival. Indeed, during public holidays, these water towns are very popular with Shanghai residents who yearn for moments of tranquility, away from the hustle and bustle of the urban areas.

    Snajja' tradizzjonali2The settlement of Zhujiajiao dates back to the Yuan dynasty, when this location was turned into an important trading hub for the surrounding countryside. Since it is strategically situated at the intersection of a number of local rivers, Zhujiajiao continued to gain significance, and during the reign of Emperor Wanli of the Ming dynasty, it was granted township status. The town prospered by trading rice and cloth which were transported on boats from the surrounding countryside, right to the houses of the Zhujiajiao merchants.

    Today, this town which covers about 3 square kilometers, has a population of about 70,000 people. Although nowadays, one finds some recent and modern structures in Zhujiajiao, about a thousand of the surviving buildings and ancient markets were constructed during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

    Zhujiajiao, Shanghai2Thirty six bridges of different sizes, designs, and materials, cross the small rivers shaded by willow trees, and connect the ancient town. Whilst the narrowest bridges are only about a metre wide, Zhujiajiao can boast to have the largest stone arch bridge in Shanghai. Originally built in 1571 by the monk Xingchao of Cimen Temple in 1571, and then rebuilt in 1812, Fangsheng Bridge rests on five arches and is 70 metres long, and 5.8 metres high. The central arch is decorated with a stone relief of eight dragons surrounding a pearl, whilst the pillars at the ends are sculpted into lions.

    Interestingly, ancient bridges can be recognized from more recent ones by looking at the height of their stairs, since in the old days, these were quite steep, whereas nowadays, steps are constructed in lower and more uniform positions, in order to be more easily accessible, especially to the elderly.

    Il-gondola2Both these bridges and the town itself can be appreciated further by taking a cruise on one of the small bamboo gondolas that navigate the countless waterways of Zhujiajiao. A short trip and a longer one are offered, wherein the first takes passengers up and down the main canal, whilst the latter travels all over the town and back.

    In order to explore this town, one needs about four hours. Narrow streets filled with different shops that sell typical souvenirs and various other products are often packed with tourists who tend to disrupt the serenity that one would have expected to find in such a location. The one kilometre North Streetis the best preserved ancient street in this suburb where one can observe the historical architecture. On the other hand, in Xijin Street, one can visit the classical Kezhi Garden with its distinguished combination of traditional Chinese and Western styles.

    Selling traditional food (Photo - Fiona Vella)2A closer investigation of Zhujiajiao can offer much more to see, includingTongtianhe Medicine Shop, Qing Dynasty Post Office, Baoguo Temple, and Yuanjin Meditation Room. A selection of bars, restaurants, teahouses, and coffee shops provide the opportunity to rest and to taste some local cuisine whilst gazing out at the rivers or the main canal.

    Having gone through a period of inactivity, where life crawled on at a slow pace, in these last years Zhujiajiao has gone through a rapid transformation as both locals and foreigners began to long for such preserved gems which can relate strongly to a bygone period in China.

    Although some believe that the heavily touristic element on which the inhabitants have become highly dependent, is ruining the romantic nature of this sublime ancient water town, I can say that I enjoyed every minute which I spent in this exotic place. A heaven for photographers, Zhujiajiao provides an unforgettable experience of a surreal Chinese life which has succeeded to endure the test of time.

    (This article was published in ESCAPE Suppliment which was issued with the Sunday Times of Malta dated 1st November 2015)

    2015.11.01 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles

  • AROUND THE WORLD IN 90 DAYS

    “They say that you always travel three times: the first time when you are planning your holiday,then when you actually travel, and finally when you watch the photos that you have taken whilst travelling,” Jennifer told me as she proudly showed me the pictures that she and her husband Alan took during their three month honeymoon trip around the globe.

    Since Alan Borg and Jennifer Cusba got to know each other, their life turned into an adventure. They met incidentally on a boat trip whilst they were visiting the enchanting lakeside town of Guatapé in Colombia.

    First photo together on boat trip at Guatapé“I was on holiday in Colombia with my friends, when we decided to go on this particular boat trip. At one point, I saw Jennifer walking by with her mother and I liked her immediately. So I followed her, waiting for an excuse to talk to her. The right moment came when I noticed that she needed someone to take their photo and I offered to help. Then, I made sure to take a photo with her too,” revealed Alan.

    For the following three months, they kept in contact through Facebook. During one of their communications, Jennifer who is Colombian, told Alan that she was planning to go to America to study English.

    “I lived in Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, where I worked as an internal auditor of a governmental company. I had studied hard to obtain this job and in the first years, I was very satisfied that I had succeeded in this career. However, as time went by, I felt that life had become stale. I woke early each day to travel for two hours to reach work, meeting always the same people on the bus and at work, and likewise on my two hour ride back home. At 29 years, I felt as if I was stuck in a rut and I was afraid that if I continued to live this mundane life, I would lose all the essence of life. I definitely had to do something to make a change,” reminisced Jennifer.

    Once again, Alan did not fail to grab the opportunity, and as soon as he learnt that Jennifer wanted to study English, he informed her about the selection of English schools that there were in Malta. Attracted by Alan’s gentle and friendly attitude, and also by the fact that it was cheaper to study in Malta than in America, Jennifer chose the small archipelago of the Maltese Islands. Once in Malta, their friendship grew stronger, she gave up her job in Colombia, and a year later, they got married.

    Wedding photo 1“When we told our friends and relatives that we were going to get married, they all wanted to know when and where the wedding is going to take place and how many guests would be invited. However, we had no intention of spending thousands of euros for just a few hours of enjoyment. Our plans were much bigger!” claimed Alan.

    “On our wedding day we were joined by our family and closest friends. After the celebration, we shared a cake, drank some champagne, took photos, had a lot of fun, and that was that. The big moment came seven months later, when we prepared our backpacks and left for the adventure of a lifetime,” continued Jennifer.

    Alan decided to make the best of the various offers and discounts that his job with an airline company afforded him. The couple started out with an initial idea of a simple honeymoon to Santorini, fully aware that they’d need to get a connecting flight from another location. Soon, this stopover was joined by other countries until the list grew and grew. Eventually, they decided to go on a three month trip around the world, to the total tune of 15,000 euros.

    Backpacks ready to travel“We both love to travel. Yet I was the one who was more experienced in travelling to faraway countries without concerning myself too much on a fixed itinerary. In fact, at first, Jennifer was somehow incredulous whether this voyage would take place for real,” smiled Alan.

    “It’s true! I was worried whether we would have enough money to do it all and what would happen if we spent everything whilst still abroad? I was also afraid that someone could steal our cards or that unknowingly, we could end up in some dangerous country or get caught up in a terrorist attack.”

    In reality, during this amazing voyage, the couple did have their fare share of risk… In New York, they experienced a huge storm and they could not get out of their hotel room. In Colombia, whilst they were seeing a horseshow, an earthquake shook the building which they were in. In Australia, just a week after they left, the Central Coast was a complete disaster with houses being carried away  due to heavy floods and strong winds.

    “Before we left on our adventure, I left a simple message on Facebook saying that we were going on our honeymoon, never mentioning that we were going for a trip around the world, because I couldn’t believe it myself! Off we went to Amsterdam and then we started to move and move and move, until I realized that this dream was becoming true. It became very very real whilst we were on the long flight crossing from Australia to Japan, and I started to note the various countries showing on the screen in front of me. By then, we had been to many of them, changing even continents, and there it dawned on me that we were truly going around the world,” Jennifer exclaimed.

    Balloon flightAlthough they had planned an overall general itinerary of the places and sites which they wished to visit, they prebooked nothing except their first destination to Amsterdam. And yet, they managed to see and do many many things. Their travels took them to Amsterdam, New York, Las Vegas, Arizona, San Francisco, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Sydney, New South Wales, Melbourne, Queensland, Japan, and Istanbul.

    “Ultimately, this was not just a holiday but an experience. Certainly, quite a great way to start a new and exciting chapter as husband and wife,” beamed Alan as he winked at Jennifer.

    (This article was published in ‘Escape’ cultural suppliment issued with the Sunday Times of Malta dated 4 October 2015)

    2015.10.04 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles

  • L-attakk fuq l-isperun tal-Isla

    Għal dawk kollha li tinteressahom l-Istorja ta’ Malta, din is-sena hija waħda sinifikattiva ħafna, peress li qed jiġi kkommemorat l-450 anniversarju mill-Assedju l-Kbir li seħħ fil-gżejjer tagħna fl-1565. Diversi kotba, lekċers, blogs, u attivitajiet relatati ma’ din it-tema, qegħdin ikomplu jqanqlu l-entużjażmu sabiex wieħed isir jaf aktar dwar din il-battalja qalila, fosthom għaliex seħħet, kif żvolġiet, min ħa sehem, x’kienu l-istrateġiji użati, u kif finalment il-Kavallieri ta’ San Ġwann u l-Maltin ħarġu rebbieħa akkost id-diffikultajiet kollha.

    Sabiex jirrakkuntaw dawn il-fatti, nibtu wkoll numru ta’ paġni fuq Facebook u permezz tagħhom, wieħed jista’ jara biċ-ċar li mhumiex il-Maltin biss li qed jinvolvu ruħhom f’din il-kommemorazzjoni, imma anki għadd ta’ individwi minn madwar id-dinja kollha. B’hekk, din il-ġrajja tal-Assedju, qed isservi wkoll biex tiġbed l-attenzjoni tal-barranin lejn il-gżejjer tagħna u possibilment, uħud minnhom jafu jitħajjru jżuruna.

    Mudell li juri l-attakk fuq l-isperun tal-Isla

    Membri jahdmu fuq il-mudellWaħda minn dawn il-paġni tal-Facebook hija ‘The assault on the Spur, Isla, 15th July 1565’ li permezz ta’ bosta ritratti, qed turi u tispjega pass pass, it-tnissil u l-kostruzzjoni ta’ diorama, jew mudell, tal-isperun tal-Isla. Għall-ewwel, segwejt dan il-grupp permezz tar-ritratti li kien qed itella’. Iżda eventwalment, tant sibt ix-xogħol li kien qed jitwettaq intriganti, li deherli li kien jixraq li mmur nagħtih titwila ħalli narah b’għajnejja.

    “Huma ħafna dawk li qed juru x-xewqa li jiġu jaraw dan il-mudell,” stqarr Alex Schembri, President ta’ Society for Scale Modellers – IPMS Malta. “Napprezzaw ferm li l-pubbliku qiegħed isegwi x-xogħol tagħna b’tant ħeġġa u qed nagħmlu minn kollox biex sal-15 ta’ Lulju, inkunu nistgħu nvarawh ftit billi nippreżentaw diversi ritratti tiegħu.”

    Society for Scale Modellers – IPMS Malta

    Society for Scale Modellers ġiet imwaqqfa f’Jannar tal-1981. L-għan prinċipali ta’ dan il-klabb dejjem kien li jgħolli l-livell tal-iscale modelling f’pajjiżna sabiex jikkompara ma’ dak internazzjonali. Infatti l-klabb huwa affiljat mal-International Plastic Modellers Society li għandha rappreżentanti tagħha f’diversi pajjiżi madwar id-dinja.

    L-iscale modelling jieħdok sa fejn trid

    “Għalkemm dan il-qasam ġeneralment jitqies bħala passatemp, aħna xorta waħda nagħtuh attenzjoni kbira billi naraw li x-xogħol isir bi professjonalità. Imma fir-realtà, l-iscale modelling jieħdok sa fejn trid u infatti fost il-membri, għandna numru minnhom li huma esperti tassew, tant li rebħu diversi kompetizzjonijiet barra minn Malta. Oħrajn saru jipproduċu l-prodotti tagħhom u jbiegħuhom.”

    Kull sena, din is-Soċjetà ttella’ esebizzjoni bix-xogħolijiet li jkunu saru mill-membri tagħha u f’dak iż-żmien, ikun hemm numru ta’ nies li jitħajjru jingħaqdu magħha.

    “Idealment l-età tal-membri tagħna tibda minn 17 il-sena sabiex wieħed jilħaq jitrawwem f’dan il-qasam. Niltaqgħu darba f’ġimgħa ħalli nuru x-xogħolijiet li qed nagħmlu u flimkien niddiskutu x’jista’ jsir aħjar. Hawnhekk kulħadd ikollu l-preferenzi tiegħu: min jaħdem il-mudelli tal-ajruplani, min il-figuri, min il-karozzi, oħrajn inġenji tal-baħar eċċ. U għalhekk, wieħed jgħin u jgħallem lill-ieħor sabiex il-mudell tiegħu ikun aktar perfett u komplet.”

    Proġett li ġabar flimkien lill-membri kollha

    IMG_8367Fil-fatt, matul dawn l-aħħar xahrejn, prattikament il-membri kollha qegħdin jagħtu daqqa t’id biex jissawwar dan il-mudell imdaqqas tal-isperun tal-Isla.

    L-għażla ta’ din it-tema oriġinat minn Ivan Cocker, wieħed mill-membri.

    “Dehrilna li peress li dis-sena qed nikkommemoraw l-450 anniversarju mill-Assedju l-Kbir, kien jixraq li niddedikaw xi biċċa xogħol għalih. Wara li ddiskutejt din l-idea ma’ sħabi u mal-Kuraturi ta’ Heritage Malta, Emmanuel Magro Conti u Liam Gauci, l-għażla tagħna waqgħet fuq l-isperun tal-Isla minħabba li fuq dan il-Post ta’ Don Francisco de Sanoguera kien hemm il-konċentrament tal-attakk u anki peress li dan il-lwog kien l-uniku wieħed waqt dan l-assedju li ġiet attakkat kemm mill-art u kif ukoll mill-baħar,” spjegali Ivan.

    Ir-riċerka nvoluta biex isir dan il-mudell

    Hekk kif intagħżel il-lwog li kienu se joħolqu l-mudell tiegħu, bdiet riċerka sfieqa ħalli tinkiseb kemm jista’ jkun informazzjoni, l-aktar minħabba li llum ftit li xejn fadal minn dan l-isperun.

    “Irreferejna ma’ għadd ta’ kotba, mapep, mużewijiet, u pitturi sabiex inkunu nistgħu noħolqu mudell kemm jista’ jkun viċin għal dak li kien jeżisti tassew f’dak il-perjodu. Ngħidu aħna biex bdejna nibnu l-isperun, imxejna mal-ktieb ta’ Balbi, li kien suldat li ħa sehem f’dan l-assedju. Rajna wkoll pjanti ta’ llum tal-Isla peress li sirna nafu li l-pedament tal-isperun għadu hemm. Fittixna wkoll kotba tal-istorja u tal-fortifikazzjonijiet li jsegwu dak li seħħ wara l-assedju ħalli b’hekk nagħrfu x’kienu dawk ix-xogħolijiet li saru wara, kemm mill-Kavallieri nfushom u kif ukoll mill-Imperu Ingliż.”

    Mudell maħdum fuq skala 1:72

    Oliver MifsudHuma użaw ukoll il-pjanti biex jiffurmaw l-iskala tal-mudell 1:72 ħalli b’hekk janalizzaw ukoll sa fejn se jkopri.

    “Ma stajnix nagħmlu l-Isla kollha, naturalment. Għalhekk iffukajna fuq l-isperun, u permezz tal-pjanti, ħriġna bl-iskala. Ħdimna b’reqqa kbira imma mbagħad kien hemm mument fejn kellna nagħlqu għajnejna. Dan seħħ per eżempju fil-każ tal-mitħna li fir-realtà kienet tinsab aktar lura minn fejn tidher fil-mudell. Madanakollu, peress li l-imtieħen lagħbu parti importanti f’din il-battalja, anki peress li biswiethom, l-Ordni kellha l-kanuni, ma kienx jagħmel sens li nħalluha barra,” infurmani Oliver Mifsud hekk kif beda jurini kif qed jinħadem dan il-mudell.

    Sabiex il-mudell ma jkunx tqil wisq, il-pedamenti tiegħu tfasslu mill-ġablo u mbagħad fuqu beda l-kisi ta’ materjal ieħor ħalli jiġu ffurmati l-art u l-fortifikazzjoni. Imbagħad, biex il-lewn ta’ dawn jiġi jixbaħ lill-ġebla tal-franka Maltija, ġie xkatlat il-ġebel fil-wiċċ, mgħejjun ukoll miż-żebgħa ħalli joqrob aktar lejn ir-realtà.

    Kull parti tal-mudell għandha l-istorja tagħha

    Dawwruni ftit mal-mudell biex inkun nista’ nifli d-dettalji li fih. Intbaħt li skont minn fejn tħares lejn dan il-mudell, tkun tista’ ssegwi parti mill-ġrajja ta’ dak li seħħ f’dan il-post waqt l-assedju.

    “Biex inkunu aktar preċiżi, segwejna wkoll mill-qrib kif saru l-attakki fuq dan l-isperun, ħalli b’hekk nagħrfu aħjar fejn saru l-ħsarat u t-tifrik, fejn tpoġġa ċertu lqugħ għad-difiża, fejn kien hemm il-katina biex iżżomm ix-xwieni tal-għadu milli jidħlu, u fejn il-Gran Mastru Jean de la Valette ordna biex isir l-ostaklu ġol-baħar li kellu jtellef lit-Torok milli jersqu bid-dgħajjes tagħhom,” qalli Ivan.

    Minkejja t-tiftix u r-riċerka, xorta jibqgħu numru ta’ mistoqsijiet dwar uħud minn dawn li semmejt peress li issa għadda ħafna żmien u wieħed ikollu joqgħod biss fuq dak li jirnexxielu jsib.

    Skoperti fatti kurjużi waqt il-ħidma ta’ dan il-mudell

    Ivan Cocker“L-ostaklu fil-baħar huwa eżempju minnhom,” fissirli Ivan. “Biex fassalnih, qgħadna ħafna fuq id-dettalji ta’ Balbi. Imma aħna u naħdmuh, ma stajniex nifhmu l-għala dan l-ostaklu ma sarx biex ikopri t-tul kollu tal-art imma tħalliet parti mikxufa minn fejn wieħed seta’ jidħol.”

    “Intant, meta bqajna niflu dan id-dettall, sibna li fejn inbena l-ostaklu, il-baħar kien aktar baxx, filwaqt li fil-parti l-miftuħa, il-baħar kien fond. Għalhekk, komplejna deħlin nistħarrġu l-istorja u ma domnix ma skoprejna li għall-attakk tal-15 ta’ Lulju 1565 fuq dan l-isperun tal-Isla, il-Kmandanti Ottomani kienu bagħtu suldati li ma jafux jgħumu ħalli b’hekk ma jkunux jistgħu jirtiraw billi jgħumu lura.”

    Uħud mill-membri li nġabru ħdejna ammettew illi qabel bdew jaħdmu fuq dan il-mudell, ftit li xejn kienu jafu dwar din il-parti tal-istorja ta’ Malta. Imma issa kien xort’oħra hekk kif bdew jinteressaw ruħhom dejjem aktar u l-għatx għall-informazzjoni kull ma jmur dejjem jikber.

    Parti mill-mudell tal-mitħna maħdum minn disinjatur industrijali Amerikan

    Il-mudell tal-mithnaBiċċa xogħol oħra li qanqlet riċerka kienet il-mitħna.

    “Ma stajniex noqogħdu biss fuq l-affreski ta’ D’Aleccio peress li fix-xogħolijiet tiegħu, dawn l-imtieħen ivarjaw. Jidher ċar li f’dan il-każ, l-artist uża l-immaġinazzjoni tiegħu u għalhekk aħna ridna nsibu x-xbieha reali tagħhom,” fissirli Alex.

    “Inxtħetna nirriċerkaw dan is-suġġett u sibna li l-imtieħen tar-riħ ma kienux inbidlu wisq matul is-snin. Dorna anki diversi eżempji ta’ mtieħen li jinsabu hawn Malta u kif ukoll f’xi pajjiżi tal-Mediterran, sakemm finalment, ħriġna b’disinn li jqarreb kemm jista’ lejn l-oriġinal.”

    Fatt li ta’ min isemmi huwa illi meta dan il-grupp wasal biex jaħdem din il-mitħna, il-parti ta’ fuq, li hija l-aktar diffikultuża, spiċċat saret minn sors li ma kienux qed jistennew.

    “Kif taf inti, huma ħafna dawk li qed isegwu x-xogħol tagħna permezz tal-Facebook. Fosthom hemm Pete Hamann, disinjatur industrijali Amerikan, li tant apprezza dan il-proġett, li offra li jagħtina daqqa t’id. Hekk kif ġietna x-xoqqa f’moxtha, issuġġerejna li jaħdmilna l-parti ta’ fuq ta’ din il-mitħna li kienet tinsab fuq l-għolja tal-Isla u fi ftit taż-żmien, hu pprovdina bil-mudell 3D li ħadem apposta għalina.”

    Numru kbir ta’ figuri jagħtu l-ħajja lill-mudell

    IMG_8333Dettall ieħor li jien apprezzajt ferm kien in-numru kbir ta’ figuri li kienu qed ikomplu jagħtu l-ħajja lil dan il-mudell. Skoprejt li kien hemm madwar 400 figura mqassma bejn Kavallieri u Ottomani.

    “Dawk xtrajnihom bħala kits u issa qed niżbugħhom skont il-perjodu,” urini Alex hekk kif tani f’idejja numru minnhom.

    Id-dettall li kien fihom kien straordinarju u bla dubju maħdum b’ħila u b’paċenzja kbira.

    Mudell li jgħinek tara l-Istorja b’għajnejk

    Bħala waħda minn dawk li qed insegwi ġurnata b’ġurnata l-ġrajja tal-Assedju l-Kbir, nistqarr li apprezzajt ferm il-possibilità li nara b’għajnejja dan il-mudell u nifli d-dettalji li fih, hekk kif permezz tiegħu, stajt nifhem aħjar dak li kont qed naqra dwaru.

    Xena mill-mudell“Meta jitlesta dan il-mudell, nixtiequ ħafna nagħtuh bħala donazzjoni lil Heritage Malta sabiex b’hekk huwa jkun jista’ jservi bħala għodda edukattiva kemm għall-istudenti u kif ukoll għall-pubbliku li jżuru. Qed nittamaw li forsi dan il-mudell ikun jista’ jiġi nvolut ukoll fl-esebizzjoni internazzjonali li Heritage Malta se tkun qed torganizza fil-Palazz tal-Gran Mastru l-Belt bejn l-4 ta’ Settembru u s-6 ta’ Diċembru 2015.”

    Infatti mill-ġimgħa d-dieħla, fil-blog tal-Assedju l-Kbir ta’ Heritage Malta, www.heritagemalta.org/1565, wieħed se jkun jista’ jibda jiskopri uħud mill-oġġetti li se jkunu qed jiġu esebiti f’din l-esebizzjoni, li hi maħsuba li se tkun waħda mill-avvenimenti l-aktar importanti ta’ din is-sena relatati mal-ġrajja tal-Assedju tal-1565.

    Aktar tagħrif dwar Society for Scale Modellers – IPMS Malta jista’ jinkiseb minn SSM House, Sulphur Lane, Ħamrun, inkella permezz tas-sit www.ipmsmalta.com u l-email info@ipmsmalta.com, jew permezz tal-Facebook.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela MINN RITRATT (17 il-Parti) fit-Torċa tat-12 ta’ Lulju 2015)

    2015.07.12 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • L-età ġusta biex isir is-sess

    Jafu li qed jiksru l-liġi?

    Ritratt - zghazagh (2)Probabbilment uħud minnkhom jiggustaw jaraw ritratti bħal dawn ta’ żgħażagħ jiskopru l-ewwel imħabba tagħhom. Kuntrarjament, ċerti ġenituri, speċjalment dawk ta’ tfajliet żgħar, jafu jitmeżmżu b’immaġni bħal dawn għax ma jridux jaraw lil uliedhom f’età daqstant żagħżugħa, diġà f’relazzjoni intima. Min-naħa l-oħra, iż-żgħażagħ infushom, fosthom dawk ta’ taħt it-18 il-sena, aktarx se jqisu esperjenzi bħal dawn bħala affaxxinanti u mixtieqa. Iżda minn dawn kollha li semmejt hawn fuq, kemm minnhom huma konxji li dawn iż-żgħażagħ li qed ikunu intimi bejniethom f’età ta’ inqas minn 18 il-sena, qegħdin fil-fatt jiksru l-liġi ta’ Malta?

    Propost tibdil fil-liġi relatat mal-attività sesswali taż-żgħażagħ

    Dan l-aħħar Dr Etienne Grech li huwa Membru Parlamentari, Ċermen tal-Kumitat Parlamentari tas-Saħħa u tabib tal-familja, ħareġ bil-proposta li għandha tiġi kkunsidrata d-dekriminilizazzjoni tal-attività sesswali bejn il-minuri fl-età bejn it-13 u l-15 il-sena. Dan meta bħalissa għaddejjha wkoll diskussjoni jekk l-Età tal-Kunsens Sesswali għandiex titnaqqas minn 18 għal 16 il-sena.

    “Nistqarr li għall-ewwel, suġġeriment bħal dan, jaf jaħsad lil ħafna minħabba li se jkun hemm min jaħseb li se niftħu l-bieb għall-libertinaġġ sesswali,” spjegali Dr Grech. “Imma ninsab ċert li meta wieħed jixtarr ir-raġunijiet wara proposta bħal din, ikun jista’ jifhem u japprezza aktar il-bażi wara dan l-argument.”

    Dr Etienne Grech“Minn studji li qegħdin isiru, qegħdin naraw biċ-ċar illi mill-età ta’ 14 il-sena, numru konsiderevoli ta’ żgħażagħ qegħdin ikollhom relazzjonijiet sesswali kemm bejniethom u kif ukoll ma’ individwi ta’ età akbar. Fl-istess ħin qegħdin nirrealizzaw ukoll, illi ħafna minn dawn lanqas biss għandhom l-iċken idea li b’dan l-aġir tagħhom huma jkunu qed jiksru l-liġi; hekk kif il-liġi tagħna ma tagħtix kunsens lil dawk ta’ anqas minn 18 il-sena li jkollhom atti sesswali. Jintebħu b’dan biss jekk xi ħadd mill-ġenituri jippreżenta xi kwerela u minn hemm jibda l-inkwiet.”

    Hija kontra l-liġi li tabib jeżamina individwu taħt it-18 il-sena mingħajr il-preżenza ta’ adult

    Iżda b’tagħrif bħal dan u minħabba li hu tabib tal-familja, Dr Grech huwa konxju li din il-kwistjoni għandha riperkussjonijiet oħra.

    “Hija wkoll kontra l-liġi li tabib jeżamina jew jagħti trattament lil individwi li għadhom m’għalqux it-18 il-sena, jekk ma jkunux akkumpanjati mill-ġenituri tagħhom jew minn xi adult responsabbli minnhom,” fehemni Dr Grech.

    “Għaldaqstant, jekk tiġi tfajla ta’ taħt it-18 il-sena weħidha għandi u tistaqsini biex ninfurmaha dwar il-kontraċettivi jew biex nagħtiha r-riċetta ħalli tixtri kontraċettiv, jiena mistenni li nirrifjuta li ngħinha. Jekk le, inkun qed nikser il-liġi. Issa immaġina din is-sitwazzjoni fejn tfajla qed tgħidlek biċ-ċar li għandha l-intenzjoni li jkollha att sesswali u qed titlob biex tieħu prekawzjoni u inti trid tgħalqilha l-bieb f’wiċċha. Taħseb li billi inti ma tipprovdihiex b’kontraċettiv, lil din se twaqqafha milli tmur tagħmel li għandha tagħmel, jekk hemm bżonn anki mingħajr il-protezzjoni li xtaqet?”

    Żgħażagħ li jiddarsu mill-preżenza tal-ġenituri

    “Għalkemm individwi ta’ din l-età jkunu lesti li jersqu għand tabib tal-fiduċja tagħhom biex jistaqsu għal pariri bħal dawn, uħud mill-istess żgħażagħ mhu se jitkellmu qatt dwar dan is-suġġett fil-preżenza ta’ xi ħadd mill-ġenituri tagħhom. U b’hekk is-sitwazzjoni kif inhi, qed titfagħhom f’riskju ta’ mard sesswali, tqala mhux mixtieqa u problemi oħra.”

    Fil-fatt, waqt punti relatati li tqajjmu mill-Kunsill Nazzjonali Żgħażagħ intqal illi jekk titnaqqas l-età tal-kunsens sesswali u b’hekk dawn it-tip ta’ relazzjonijiet ma jibqgħux jitqiesu bħala illeċiti, probabbilment aktar żgħażagħ ser ikunu lesti li jfittxu informazzjoni adegwata mingħand nies professjonali. Madanakollu, huma saħqu wkoll illi tibdil bħal dan jista’ jpoġġi f’riskju akbar lil nies vulnerabbli, u li għalhekk il-leġiżlazzjoni tal-protezzjoni tat-tfal għandha tkompli tiġi nfurzata. Barra minn hekk, huma għafsu fuq il-bżonn ta’ aktar edukazzjoni dwar dawn it-temi sabiex iż-żgħażagħ ikunu kapaċi jsiru aktar assertivi ħalli jirriffjutaw azzjonijiet mhux mixtieqa.

    Malta fost il-ftit pajjiżi bl-ogħla età tal-kunsens sesswali fl-Ewropa

    Dwar dan is-suġġett, Dr Joanne Cassar, lekċerer fil-qasam tal-Istudji taż-Żgħażagħ u l-Kommunità, ippreżentat xi punti sinifikanti minn servej nazzjonali li sar fl-2012 mill-Ministeru tas-Saħħa bl-isem ‘Tagħrif Sesswali, Attitudnijiet u Kondotti’. Fost ir-riżultati ta’ dan l-istħarriġ ġie indikat illi 41% taż-żgħażagħ Maltin ta’ età bejn 16 u 18 il-sena diġà kellhom relazzjoni sesswali. Fost ir-raġunijiet prinċipali l-għala sar l-ewwel att sesswali, iż-żgħażagħ irrispondew hekk: 47.5% għax kienu jħobbu s-sieħeb/sieħba tagħhom; 44.7% għax dak kien il-pass naturali li kien imiss fir-relazzjoni tagħhom; u 25.4% għax ħassew li kellhom l-età ġusta biex ikollhom din l-esperjenza. Minn dawn 41.6% użaw il-kondom waqt l-ewwel relazzjoni sesswali tagħhom, mentri l-oħrajn ma ħadu l-ebda prekawzjoni. Fost dawn iż-żgħażagħ li kellhom relazzjoni sesswali, 82.5% qablu li jeħtieġ li tkun tħobb lis-sieħeb/sieħba tiegħek biex tagħmel dan l-att. Intant, din ir-riċerka uriet ukoll illi fost il-pajjiżi Ewropej, Malta, it-Turkija u l-Vatikan kellhom l-ogħla età, dik ta’ 18 il-sena, f’dak li hu kunsens sesswali. Biex insemmi xi pajjiżi oħra: fi Spanja, din l-età tinżel għal 13; fil-Ġermanja, 14; fl-Iżvezja 15; fl-Iżvizzera, 16; u fl-Irlanda, 17.

    Ma tistax titfa’ liż-żgħażagħ kollha f’keffa waħda

    Ritratt - zghazagh (3)Cassar qalet illi meta l-attività sesswali titqies bħala xi ħaġa tajba miż-żgħażagħ ta’ 16 il-sena, dan l-aġir jista’ jiġi kkunsidrat bħala parti mill-iżvilupp tagħhom bħala individwi. L-esplorazzjoni tagħhom fil-qasam tas-sesswalità tgħinhom jistabilixxu sens akbar ta’ identità hekk kif huma jkunu qed jesperjenzaw is-sodisfazzjon tal-intimità sesswali u ta’ relazzjonijiet interpersonali. Skont din il-perspettiva, stqarret Cassar, mhux addattat li wieħed jikkriminalizza lil dawn iż-żgħażagħ minħabba l-atteġġjament sesswali tagħhom. Iżda min-naħa l-oħra, hija semmiet li wieħed ma jistax jitfa’ ż-żgħażagħ kollha f’keffa waħda peress li mbagħad issib ukoll individwi tal-istess età li għalihom esperjenza ta’ relazzjoni sesswali lanqas biss joħolmu li jgħixuha għalissa, għax mhumiex lesti għaliha u għax pjuttost hi xi ħaġa li tbeżżagħhom.

    Jeħtieġ tissaħħaħ l-edukazzjoni dwar is-sesswalità u s-saħħa riproduttiva

    Anki l-psikoterapista Amanda Grech taqbel li għandu jinħoloq bilanċ bejn li nsegwu lil dawn iż-żgħażagħ imma li fl-istess ħin, inħallulhom l-ispazju fejn jikbru. Hija spjegat kif skont ċerti studji li saru jidher illi jeżistu numru ta’ fatturi li jistgħu jbassru l-possibilità li xi żgħażagħ jistgħu jidħlu għal relazzjoni sesswali kmieni ħafna fil-ħajja. Fost dawn hemm dawk li jgħixu ma’ ġenitur wieħed, dawk li għandhom ġenituri b’attitudni sesswali permessiva, u dawk li kienu vittmi ta’ esperjenzi trawmatiċi waqt it-tfulija tagħhom, partikolarment f’każ ta’ abbuż sesswali. Għaldaqstant, hija tirrakkommanda illi għandha tissaħħaħ aktar l-edukazzjoni dwar is-sesswalità u s-saħħa riproduttiva, u li din għandha tiffoka partikolarment fuq it-tip ta’ familji li semmiet fuq. Barra minn hekk, jgħin ukoll jekk tingħata iżjed għajnuna relatata mat-tagħlim tal-kapaċitajiet ġenitorjali ħalli b’hekk ikun hemm aktar ġenituri mgħarrfa dwar dan il-qasam.

    Tista’ tiżżewweġ ta’ 16 imma twettaq is-sess ta’ 18

    Dun Joseph Mizzi, id-Direttur ta’ Kana, irrimarka wkoll dwar id-diskrepanza li teżisti bħalissa fejn wieħed jista’ jiżżewweġ fl-età ta’ 16 il-sena, jekk ikollu l-permess tal-ġenituri tiegħu, imma fl-istess ħin imbagħad teżisti liġi oħra li tgħid li l-età tal-kunsens sesswali hija dik ta’ 18 il-sena. U din ir-realtà toħloq inkonsistenza u konfużjoni.

    Min-naħa l-oħra, huwa tkellem ukoll dwar il-preokkupazzjoni li jekk titbaxxa l-età tal-kunsens sesswali, dan jista’ jinċentiva u jħajjar aktar attività sesswali barra miż-żwieġ. Għaldaqstant huwa saħaq illi f’każ li titbaxxa din l-età, l-istat, il-Knisja, l-NGOs, u l-korpi kollha konċernati m’għandhom qatt jieqfu mill-kampanja soda u intensiva ta’ edukazzjoni u formazzjoni tal-karattru tat-tfal, l-adoloxxenti u ż-żgħażagħ tagħna. Fl-opinjoni ta’ Mizzi, is-suġġett tal-Personal, Social and Careers Development (PSCD) li qed jiġi mgħallem fl-iskejjel tagħna, qed imiss wisq ħafif ħafif mat-tema tas-sesswalità u b’hekk jiddubita kemm huwa effettiv.

    Ma jemminx li s-soluzzjoni tinsab fit-tnaqqis tal-età tal-kunsens

    Min-naħa tiegħu, George Buttigieg, Konsulent fl-Ostretiċija u Ġinekologu, jelenka dawn l-erbgħa argumenti favur li l-età tal-kunsens sesswali titniżżel għal 16 il-sena:

    1. li Malta tiġi uniformi mal-parti l-kbira tal-Ewropa;
    2. li din il-bidla tirrifletti l-aġir sesswali taż-żgħażagħ Maltin fil-preżent;
    3. l-eliminazzjoni jew tnaqqis ta’ każijiet li jitressqu quddiem il-qrati taħt l-Att 203 (sitwazzjonijiet li umanament ma jagħmlux sens iżda li jistgħu jitressqu la l-liġi hi kif inhi); u
    4. il-faċilità tal-kura medika assoċċjata ma’ problemi sesswali fiż-żgħażagħ taħt it-18 il-sena li ma jersqux liberament għal din il-kura.Madanakollu, Buttigieg ma jemminx li s-soluzzjoni tinsab fit-tnaqqis tal-età tal-kunsens imma li jingħata għarfien u saħħa lill-prinċipju tal-age banding li jgħaqqad ir-rispett tan-natura umana fis-seklu 21 flimkien mal-ħarsien tal-vulnerabbilità sesswali taż-żgħażagħ tagħna.

    L-ebda liġi mhu se twaqqaf liż-żgħażagħ milli jwettqu s-sess

    Ritratt - zghazagh (1)Fil-fehma tiegħu, bosta żgħażagħ m’humiex konxji minn dak li tgħid il-liġi. Iżda anki jekk ikunu jafu, ma jaħsibx li dawn se jagħtu każ jew li se jibżgħu mill-liġi. Lanqas ma jaħseb li jekk tinżel l-età tal-kunsens sesswali għal 16 il-sena, se tiżdied aktar it-tqala fost iż-żgħażagħ għax fir-realtà, jidhirlu li qegħdin f’dinja fejn kulħadd jagħmel dak li jfettillu bla ma joqgħod jagħti każ x’jgħidu t-tobba jew il-politikanti.Personalment, fir-realtà li qed ngħixu fiha, l-aktar ħaġa neċessarja b’mod immedjat hija li niffaċilitaw l-aċċess għall-għajnuna medika għaż-żagħżagħ ta’ 16 il-sena billi nħalluhom fil-libertà li jmorru għand tabib għall-kontraċezzjoni, pariri relatati u kura ta’ mard li jista’ jirriżulta mill-attività sesswali.

    Il-professjoni medika qiegħda tiġi mxekkla mill-liġi

    Ċertament, dan l-aħħar argument tqajjem ukoll mill-Kunsill Mediku ta’ Malta minħabba li bħalissa, il-professjoni medika qiegħda tiġi mxekkla mill-liġi milli tgħin lil dawn iż-żgħażagħ f’dak li għandu x’jaqsam mas-saħħa sesswali, peress li kif diġà semmejt qabel, mhux permess li tabib jara żagħżagħ taħt it-18 il-sena mingħajr il-preżenza ta’ adult. B’hekk, kemm is-saħħa sesswali taż-żgħażagħ u kif ukoll il-kommunità nnifisha qegħdin ikunu f’riskju, anki għax individwi li jkollhom xi problemi ta’ mard jew infezzjonijiet relatati mas-sess, ma jistgħux jersqu għand tabib u b’hekk tinħoloq ħafna tbatija inutli u tixrid ta’ dan il-mard mhux ikkurat.Wasal iż-żmien li naffaċċjaw ir-realtàBħala ġenituri taż-żgħażagħ tagħna, huwa ideali li nibqgħu noħolmu li wliedna se jistennew l-età ġusta sabiex ikollhom l-ewwel esperjenza ta’ relazzjoni sesswali. Madanakollu, ir-riċerka li qed issir qiegħda turi realtà differenti fejn numru konsiderevoli taż-żgħażagħ ta’ llum qegħdin jiddeċiedu li jwettqu dan l-att, akkost il-konsegwenzi kollha li jista’ jkun hemm, bħall-mard u tqala mhux mixtieqa. B’hekk, naħseb li ta’ min li wieħed jirrifletti kemmxejn dwar l-argumenti li saru hawn fuq mill-esperti konċernati. 

    2015.06.28 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles