• Mitluf wara l-ħin

    Stephen Zammit biswit il-makkinarju tal-arlogg tal-Muzew Marittimu fil-Birgu.JPGL-arlogg tal-Muzew Marittimu tal-Birgu.jpg

    L-arlogg tal-Kon-Kattidral ta' San Gwann, il-Belt Valletta.JPGL-arlogg ta' Pinto li jinsab fil-Palazz tal-President, il-Belt Valletta.JPG

    Ix-xitan ma jaħti xejn

    Qatt innutajtu li bosta drabi, l-arloġġi tal-knejjes ma jaqblux bejniethom? Meta darba staqsejt dwar dan, xi ħadd semmieli t-tradizzjoni li tgħid li dak kien ġest li jsir apposta biex iħawwad lix-xitan, sabiex jekk dan jersaq lejn il-knisja, ma jkollux idea liema wieħed minnhom kien il-ħin it-tajjeb.

    “Kollha ħmerijiet dawk!” ħatafni mill-ewwel Stephen Zammit, espert fil-qasam tal-arloġġi. “Li kieku naqbad insemmilek dwar l-għidut żbaljat li nisma’, lanqas nieqaf!”

    “Mela għandek tkun taf li meta kienu jsiru żewġ kampnari fi knisja, l-arluġġar ma kienx jagħmel żewġ magni, imma magna waħda. Għaldaqstant, meta kien jitpoġġa arloġġ fuq il-kampnar l-ieħor, dan kien isir biss għall-bilanċ tal-estetika. Infatti, bosta drabi l-minutieri tal-arloġġ l-ieħor kienu jkunu biss miżbugħa fuq il-ħajt u ġeneralment dawn kienu juru nofsinhar.”

    L-arloġġ tal-Mużew Marittimu

    Qatta’ ħamiem inħasdet, tgerrxet u taret il-bogħod hekk kif ħabta u sabta, mill-kampnar li konna ħdejh, bdew ħerġin moti sbieħ u sodi.

    “Xi ġmiel hux?” staqsini Stephen hekk kif rama jgħodd bil-mod id-daqq tal-qniepen. Il-ħoss waqaf eżatt kif waqaf jgħodd hu.

    “Dak nafu bl-amment jien,” qalli hekk kif beda jispjegali x-xogħol li kien wettaq fuq l-arloġġ li jinsab fuq il-bejt tal-bini tal-Mużew Marittimu li jinsab il-Birgu.

    “Oriġinarjament, dan l-arloġġ li nħadem fid-19 il-seklu, kien jinsab ġewwa kampnar żgħir li kien iħares fuq Baċir Numru 1. Imbagħad, wara li tmexxa għal hawn, l-uċuħ ta’ dan l-arloġġ bdew jagħtu fuq Bormla, l-Isla u l-Belt Valletta.”

    Mitluf wara l-arloġġi sa minn ċkunitu

    “L-ewwel interess fl-arloġġi tqanqal fija meta bdejt immur nisma’ l-quddies fil-knisja ta’ Ħ’Attard. Ta’ tifel li kont, affaxxinajt ruħi bl-arloġġ li kien hemm fil-kampnar,” beda jirrakkuntali Stephen.

    “Imbagħad, meta kelli madwar 11 il-sena, tħajjart nibda nsewwi l-iżveljarini li kienu jaħdmu bil-ħabel. Kull wieħed li kont insib wieqaf kont niftħu u noqgħod ninnutah sabiex nipprova nifhem għaliex ma kienx qed jaħdem. Ftit ftit bdejt nintebaħ bil-partijiet li ma kienux f’posthom jew li jkunu tkissru. Hekk kif kont nagħraf li kien hemm xi parti miksura, kont immur nordnaha mingħand aġent tal-ispare parts tal-arloġġi li kien hemm il-Belt. U meta din tasal, kont nara li npoġġiha f’postha u l-arloġġ jerġa’ jaħdem.”

    Minn hemm ma damx ma dar għall-arloġġi tal-idejn, li għalkemm kienu iżgħar u b’hekk kien jeħtiġielhom iktar attenzjoni, xorta waħda sab irkaptu tagħhom. Stqarr li kienet l-hena tiegħu meta kien jerġa’ jisma’ t-tektik regolari ta’ arloġġ li ma kienx jaħdem għax b’hekk kien iħoss li reġa’ tah il-ħajja.

    Involut fl-arloġġi tal-knejjes b’mod aċċidentali

    Is-snin gerrbu u Stephen kompla jinvolvi ruħu f’din is-sengħa tat-tiswija tal-arloġġi.

    Ġara li darba minnhom, ir-Reverendu Kanonku Louis Suban, li dak iż-żmien kien il-Kappillan tal-Imsida, iltaqa’ maz-ziju ta’ Stephen fejn fosthom qallu kemm xtaq isib lil xi ħadd li kien kapaċi jsewwielu l-arloġġ antik tal-parroċċa li nħadem fit-18 il-seklu.

    “Zijuwi rrakkommandani għalkemm ma qallux li jien kont in-neputi tiegħu u l-kappillan ikkuntattjani. Min-naħa tiegħi, ħassejtni tassew eċitat li kont ser naħdem fuq arloġġ daqstant antik. Mort narah u sibt li kellu xi partijiet li kienu ddeterjoraw biż-żmien. U wara li bdiltlu u rranġajtlu dak li kien hemm bżonn, dan l-arloġġ prezzjuż reġa’ beda jaħdem u hekk għadu s’issa!” qalli kburi.

    L-arluġġara Maltin ta’ dari

    “Inzerta li Fr. Suban għandu interess fl-arloġġi minħabba li l-antenati tiegħu kienu jagħmluhom. Infatti kienu huma li ħadmu l-arloġġi tal-parroċċa ta’ Marsaxlokk u ta’ Ħal-Safi. Inċidentalment xi familjari tiegħu ħadmu anki fuq dan l-arloġġ,” spjegli Stephen hekk kif ħareġ ċavetta mill-but u daħħalni fil-kampnar sabiex nara mill-qrib l-istruttura tal-mekkaniżmu tal-arloġġ.

    Qatt ma rajt magna daqstant kbira ta’ arloġġ u f’għajnejja dehret pjuttost ikkumplikata. Intant, fuq parti minn dan il-mekkaniżmu stajt nara l-firma mnaqqxa – Brothers Suban. Malta. 1896.

    “Ġeneralment, kemm l-arluġġara u kif ukoll dawk li jagħmlu xogħol ta’ tiswija fuqhom kienu jħallu marka apposta sabiex jiddokumentaw xogħolhom,” fehemni Stephen hekk kif ipponta subgħajh lejn firma oħra.

    Did-darba kien hemm miktub: Matthew Dutton. London. 1810.

    “B’dan il-mod insibu min bena s-sistema oriġinali, meta u fejn. Permezz ta’ dawn l-indikazzjonijiet, sirt konxju minn kemm kellna arluġġara u nies li jsewwu l-arloġġi matul dawn l-aħħar sekli f’pajjiżna. Imma sfortunatament, mhux kulħadd kien iħalli l-firma tiegħu u b’hekk, għalkemm ikun ċar li min ħadem l-arloġġ kien Malti, ma jkollniex idea dwar min kien eżatt.”

    Stephen kompla jfehemni dwar kemm iħossu ddiżappuntat meta jisma’ lil ċerti persuni jitkellmu dejjem fuq l-istess arluġġara, bħallikieku ma kienx hemm oħrajn ukoll.

    “Ngħidu aħna, ħafna jsemmu lil Michelangelo Sapiano peress li hu kien tassew prolifiku fil-qasam tal-arloġġi. Però dan inzerta għex fi żmien meta kien hawn għatx kbir għall-arloġġi u hu għaraf jisfrutta l-opportunità. Infatti, Sapiano ħadem madwar 21 arloġġ ta’ diversi parroċċi f’Malta, inkluż dak ta’ Ħal-Luqa.”

    “Jiena ħdimt fuq l-arloġġ li hemm Ħal-Luqa ta’ Sapiano u hemmhekk rajt b’għajnejja u missejt b’idejja l-inġenjosità li kellu dal-bniedem. Immeraviljajt ruħi hekk kif bdejt nifli s-sistema li ħadem fil-mekkaniżmu ta’ dan l-arloġġ sabiex biha jirregola tliet minutieri tal-ħin u waħda li turi d-data.”

    Madanakollu, skont Stephen, Sapiano tħarreġ f’din is-sengħa mal-familja Tanti li mmanifatturaw madwar sebgħa arloġġi tal-knejjes, fosthom dak tal-Qrendi u ta’ Ħal-Tarxien. Però dawn ftit li xejn qatt issemmew.

    “U mhux dawk biss. Hemm ħafna aktar arluġġara Maltin li ma nitkellmux dwarhom. Fosthom hemm Demanuele li ħadem l-arloġġ tal-parroċċa ta’ Ħaż-Żabbar, Muscat li mmanifattura l-arloġġ taċ-Ċitadella t’Għawdex u ċertu Gauci li ftit nafu dwaru.”

    Il-mekkaniżmu tal-arloġġi

    Għal dawn l-aħħar tletin sena, Stephen kellu l-opportunità li jaħdem fuq l-arloġġi ta’ diversi parroċċi u lwogi oħra u għalhekk biż-żmien, huwa rabba’ istint naturali ta’ kif jagħraf bejn ix-xogħol ta’ arluġġar u ieħor. Fl-istess ħin, huwa dara jagħraf ċerta uniformità bejn il-bażi ta’ kull struttura mekkanika tal-arloġġi u b’hekk isawwret fih l-esperjenza neċessarja biex isewwi l-arloġġi kollha li jsib quddiemu.

    “Ħares lejn dawn it-tliet sezzjonijiet tal-arloġġ,” talabni Stephen. “Innota kif dik tan-nofs hija mdendla ma’ pendlu sabiex tirregola l-ħin, filwaqt li s-sezzjonijiet l-oħra qegħdin hemm biex imexxu l-kwarti u s-siegħat.”

    Matul din id-diskussjoni tagħna, konna akkumpanjati mit-tektik regolari tal-arloġġ. Iżda f’daqqa waħda, parti mis-sistema ċċaqalqet u f’kemm trodd salib, il-mekkaniżmu kollu donnu ħa l-ħajja, hekk kif aktar sezzjonijiet mill-istruttura metallika bdew jimxu, jduru u jperpru, filwaqt li lieva twila bdiet tiġbed u timbotta l-imrietel tal-ħadid mal-qniepen li kien hemm il-fuq, sabiex dawn idoqqu u jimmarkaw il-ħin.

    It-tnejn skittna għal mument sabiex napprezzaw is-sengħa ta’ min ħadem dik is-sistema.

    “Probabbli inti taħseb li jiena drajthom dawn l-esperjenzi u li allura m’għadhomx jimpressjonawni,” kiser is-silenzju Stephen, hekk kif id-daqq tal-qniepen waqaf u l-apparat reġa’ kkalma għat-tektik tal-polz regolari tiegħu. “Però kif qed tara għadni nsibhom affaxxinanti wisq u għalkemm ilni snin naħdem fuqhom, baqgħu jimmeraviljawni.”

    Jista’ jkun li bla ma jaf, Stephen jinħakem ukoll mill-ġibda naturali li jħoss lejn it-toni mużikali li tħaddem is-sistema, hekk kif apparti dax-xogħol, huwa wkoll vjolinista mal-Orkestra Filarmonika ta’ Malta.

    “Niġi nirregola dan l-arloġġ darba f’ġimgħa,” qalli Stephen hekk kif beda jimmanipula t-tliet piżijiet tal-arloġġ u jien erħejtilha nsegwi dak li kien qed jagħmel.

    Invenzjoni ġdida biex l-arloġġi jaħdmu weħidhom

    “Sa ftit tas-snin ilu, parti mix-xogħol tas-sagristana kien li jagħtu l-ħabel lill-arloġġi tal-knejjes. Ngħidu aħna sal-2008, l-arloġġ li hemm fil-Kon-Kattidral ta’ San Ġwann il-Belt, kien jingħata l-ħabel kuljum sabiex juri l-ħin tajjeb.”

    “Apparti li dan kien strapazz inutli fuq in-nies involuti, il-konnessjoni kontinwa mas-sistemi ta’ dawn l-arloġġi setgħet ukoll tqanqal xi ħsarat. Kien għalhekk li meta fl-2008 ġejt imsejjaħ biex nirrestawra dan l-arloġġ, issuġġerejt li miegħu tintrama wkoll sistema sabiex dan jibda jieħu l-ħabel b’mod awtomatiku perjodikament u b’hekk ħadd ma jkollu għalfejn jimmanipulah. Naturalment, minn żmien għal żmien, xorta waħda jkollu bżonn xi arranġamenti żgħar; bħal meta jkun irid jaqleb id-data minn xahar għall-ieħor peress li mhux ix-xhur kollha għandhom l-istess tul ta’ ġranet.”

    L-istess sistema saret ukoll fuq l-arloġġ maestuż magħruf bħala Ta’ Pinto li jinsab fil-Palazz tal-President ġewwa l-Belt Valletta.

    “Jiena kelli x-xorti nirrestawra dak l-arloġġ li għandu mekkaniżmu interessanti ferm. Infatti jekk tħares sewwa lejh tara li dan l-arloġġ ma jimmarkax biss il-ħin imma anki x-xahar, il-ġurnata u saħansitra l-fażijiet tal-qamar. Biex juri l-ħin, għandu biss minutiera waħda tas-siegħat u dik turik li l-arloġġ huwa antik ħafna. Infatti kelli naħdem b’reqqa kbira fuqu minħabba li ż-żmien għamlu fraġli ħafna,” fissirli Stephen.

    “Li kieku kellek tara l-makkinarju ta’ dan l-arloġġ, kont tista’ tapprezza s-sistema li tmexxi kollox, fosthom anki l-figuri li jdoqqu l-qniepen. Infatti, l-erbgħa figuri tal-metall għandhom kontra-piż kull wieħed li jiġbidhom lura u jimbuttahom il-quddiem fuq il-qniepen sabiex jindaqqu. Il-figura tax-xellug u l-oħra tal-lemin idoqqu l-kwarti b’mod alternat fuq qniepen differenti, filwaqt li ż-żewġ figuri tan-nofs idoqqu l-istess qanpiena tas-siegħa u jalternaw ukoll. Ta’ min jgħid illi din is-sistema ta’ alternazzjoni mhux qiegħda hemm sempliċiment bħala disinn imma għax l-arloġġ ma jiflaħx jerfa’ żewġ affarijiet f’salt.”

    Ġieli sakkruh fil-knisja

    “Ma nixba qatt inħares lejn l-arloġġi u wisq anqas nitkellem dwarhom,” stqarr Stephen hekk kif ta daqqa t’għajn tal-aħħar lejn l-arloġġ tal-Mużew Marittimu u għalaq il-bieb warajh.

    “Kull meta mmur naħdem fuq xi arloġġ, ma nkunx nista’ nirreżisti t-tentazzjoni li nibqa’ hemm siegħa oħra ħalli nikkonferma li kollox qed jaħdem tajjeb. Bla ma naf kif, nintilef u kultant imn’Alla li ċċempilli l-mara biex turini li sar il-ħin.”

    “Saħansitra sakkruni darbtejn fi knisja għax wara s-siegħat kollha li qattgħajt hemm fuq, insew li kont għadni fil-kampnar,” qalli Stephen filwaqt li daħak waħda bil-qalb.

    (Dan l-artiklu jifforma parti mis-sensiela KOBOR IL-MALTI (26 parti) fit-Torċa tas-16 ta’ Novembru 2014)

    2014.11.16 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • A medal for silver

    Joseph Aquilina (Photo - Anton Aquilina).jpgAquilina at work (1) (Photo - Anton Aquilina).jpg

    Aquilina's oil lamp - a gift to the Queen (Photo - Department of Information).JPGA silver sugar-basin produced by Aquilina (Photo - Joseph Aquilina).JPG

    Within his small workshop in Zejtun, 68 year old silversmith Joseph Aquilina, can still do wonders with precious metals. Having worked as a silversmith from age 14, he has gained so much mastery in this trade that one of his creations was donated to Queen Elizabeth II during the celebrations of Malta’s Independence in 1964. Nowadays, his expertise is particularly focused on the restoration of antique objects which adorn our churches.

    Aquilina learnt this trade from his father Joseph who was originally from Cospicua. Before World War II, Cospicua was renowned for some of the most skillfull silversmiths who eventually had to move to other areas in Malta when this zone became a target to heavy attacks and bombardments.

    From early childhood, Aquilina was very interested in his father’s work and he spent hours observing him working silver items in his shop at St Mary Square in Zejtun. At age 12, he used to rush at the shop immediately after school in order to join silver beads together to produce rosaries for his father’s clients.

    Aquilina knew that he was hooked to this trade but he never dreamt that at age 14, he would be obliged to choose between attending school and becoming a silversmith! It all happened when one day, a social service inspector called at their shop and found him doing some work. It was useless to insist that the boy was only helping his father because the inspector maintained that if the boy wanted to stay in the shop, he had to register for employment within 15 days. And that was the end of his schooldays.

    “School meant nothing to me at that time and I thought that it was a great opportunity to start doing what I was really passionate about. However, when in later years I had to manage my business and was faced with several difficulties due to my brief education, I realized that leaving school at such an early age was definitely a huge mistake,” admitted Aquilina.

    His father was greatly disciplined in his trade and he demanded the same diligence from his son. Above all, he wanted to pass to him all the knowledge that he had inherited from past generations. Yet this was no easy task since the silversmith’s trade expands vastly and covers areas which include work in silver, gold, filigree and the setting of diamonds.

    “Nowadays, most silversmiths choose to specialize in just one of these sectors, but when I was learning the trade, one had to learn to deal with all these areas in order to become a professional. It took long years until you were regarded to be competent enough to open your own business. That was why it was necessary to start at a very young age in this trade and to take matters very seriously.”
    Interestingly, Aquilina succeeded to attain his father’s complete trust by disobeying him.

    “My father expected utter attention during work, both because he wanted the final product to be impeccable, and also because the slightest mistake could be very costly, especially when we were using gold. He put so much pressure upon me that at first, I felt terrified of him and I did not dare to do anything which he did not ask for.”

    Yet one day, Aquilina felt confident enough to try his luck by operating the soldering equipment which his father had adamantly prohibited him to use. Indeed, whilst his father went to church to attend a Lent sermon, Aquilina asked his mother to give him her gold wedding ring in order to cut it in half and reconstruct it again. His mother accepted without a second thought and Aquilina hurried to the workshop, broke the ring in two, switched on the gas, prepared the soldering equipment and trembling with excitement, he quickly joined the two parts together. He did such an excellent job that his mother could not identify any signs that her ring had been broken, and when she told her husband about this and he inspected the ring, a bright smile lit on his face. His son had finally made it!

    From then on, Aquilina had his father’s complete respect and he started to produce his own creations for their clients. He had learnt this trade in the traditional way where everything was done by hand, and to keep in line with this method, he decided to focus on the antique style. This stratagem worked perfectly with those connoisseurs who appreciated refined local craftsmanship.

    “I am proud to say that many of my works can be found among the collections of several local and foreign distinguished individuals. Most of my creations consisted of antique Maltese style coffee sets which included only three items: a coffee pot, a sugar-basin and a milk jug, since tea was not popular back then.”

    Some of Aquilina’s works have often been selected to be given as gifts to foreign individuals.

    “I made a particular silver sugar-basin for a group of Drydocks’ workers who wanted to give it to their British Admiral when he ended his job in Malta. Yet surely, the most popular item that I produced, was the 14 inch oil lamp which the Government of Malta ordered directly from me during the period of the 1970s and 1980s in order to consign it to the foreign delegations who visited our country.”

    Meanwhile, even though throughout the years, there were many machines available which could ease the difficulty of the job and hurry the flow of work, Aquilina always refused to use them.

    “That is the only way of keeping the profession’s prestige and the value of your creations,” Aquilina insisted. “When this type of work is done by machines, the product will loose all its significance because nothing can replace the creative fabrication of the human hand. A handmade product is unique because one can rarely create an object exactly like another. Contrarily, the very precision of objects which are executed by machines will simply turn them into ordinary copies.”

    In order to design and work his particular creations, at times Aquilina had to manufacture his own tools. Yet apart from the ingeniousness required in order to assemble these devices, it was fascinating to know the stories behind the origin of some of the material.

    “Look at these heavy hammers and feel how heavy they are,” he told me with a mischievous look as he brought them near. “I bet that no one would ever guess what they are made of until I tell them myself!”

    Certainly, I did not have the slightest idea.

    “These were some of the huge bolts that formed part of the ‘Angel Gabriel’; the Greek tanker which in 1969 got shipwrecked near the area of the ex-Jerma Palace Hotel in Marsascala. I obtained them when the ship was being broken down into pieces in order to clear the coast.”

    Another curious fact about this trade is that whenever a new silversmith is authorized to start his/her business, he/she is given a personal stamp with which to mark each object that they make. This stamp will be unique and it cannot be transferred to another person. Therefore, each silversmith’s work can always be recognized, no matter how much time elapses.

    In order to explain better, Aquilina referred to an old and rare book ‘The Goldsmiths of Malta and their Marks’ (1972) which was published by Chev Victor Fredrick Denaro; a pioneer in the study of ancient silver in Malta. In this book, one finds significant information about the ancient trade of silversmiths which goes back to the period of the Knights of St John. Meanwhile, this publication includes also all the local silversmiths’ stamps together with their relevant details; starting from the Knights period up to 1972.

    “This book is very precious to me particularly because it helps me to identify the silversmiths of the antique objects which I work on. This will also determine the period of the objects’ manufacture with more precision, and thereby I can understand better which materials and which procedures were involved in its making,” explained Aquilina.

    The restoration of antique metal objects requires high expertise and attention since one small mistake could ruin them completely. Indeed, in these last years Aquilina was responsible for the restoration of various treasured items which include: the restoration of the silver crown of the icon of the Madonna of Carafa that is located within the Co-Cathedral of St John in Valletta, the restoration of the silver leaves that form part of the decoration of the relic of St John the Baptist which is situated in the Museum of the same Co-Cathedral, and in the restoration of the sword of the titular statue of St Catherine in the Parish of Zejtun.

    (This article was published in the ‘Art, Antiques and Restoration’ Supplement of The Times of Malta dated 12th November 2014)

    2014.11.12 / no responses / Category: Times of Malta

  • Iċ-Ċiniż li baqa’ Malta

    Il-President Anton Buttigieg qed jghaddi l-Midalja lill-Ambaxxatur tac-Cina f'Malta.JPGL-ex Ministru Reno Calleja qed jghaddi l-Midalja lill-armla tal-inginier Xu Huizhong.JPG

    Il-qabar ta' Xu Huizhong.JPG

    Il-Ħadd li għadda bosta minna erħejnilha lejn iċ-ċimiterji ta’ madwar il-gżejjer tagħna sabiex insellmu lil qrabatna jew lil xi ħbieb li m’għadhomx magħna.

    Ħafna kienu dawk li ħadu magħhom bukketti sbieħ ta’ fjuri kkuluriti u jfuħu sabiex jitpoġġew fuq l-oqbra safrana tal-ġebla kiesħa tal-franka jew fuq l-irħam samm abjad karti jew iswed daqs il-lejl. Ġest li apparti t-turija ta’ rispett u mħabba, donnu jipprova wkoll jagħti l-ħajja fejn jidher li m’hemmx.

    Oħrajn ħadu ħsieb ukoll inaddfu l-oqbra billi naqqew xi ħaxix ħażin li kiber maż-żmien jew bidlu xi ritratt li jkun sfar bis-snin.

    Eluf ta’ xemgħat ħomor inxtiegħlu sabiex bil-fjamma tagħhom kiebja jakkumpanjaw it-talb impespes jew fil-qalb li ntqal għall-bżonnijiet tal-erwieħ.

    Id-dmugħ ġelben fuq ħaddejn bosta individwi. Anki fuq ta’ dawk li qrabathom ilhom snin li ħallewhom imma li l-firda baqgħet tqanqalhom.

    Insibhom interessanti wisq dawn ir-ritwali tas-soċjetà tagħna li tibqa’ tgħożż lil dawk li ħabbet anki wara mewthom; kultant anki billi tibqa’ titrattahom daqs li kieku għadhom ħajjin.

    Miexja matul it-trejqat taċ-ċimiterju tal-Addolorata, stajt ninnota dawn il-ġesti kollha. Qalbi ngħafset għal dawk l-oqbra li baqgħu għera għax donnu ħadd ma mar iżurhom. Imma mbagħad ċertu dati li qrajt fuqhom tawni x’naħseb li forsi dik il-familja ntemmet u b’hekk, ma fadalx aktar min iżurha.

    L-oqbra ta’ Xu Huizhong u Gu Yanzhao

    Wasalt quddiem l-oqbra li mort inżur jien: dak ta’ Xu Huizhong u ta’ Gu Yanzhao, iż-żewġ inġiniera Ċiniżi li mietu f’pajjiżna waqt li kienu qed jaħdmu fuq il-Baċir Numru 6. Filwaqt li Xu kien miet mewta traġika, Gu kien ħalliena minħabba kawża ta’ mard.

    Ir-ritratti tagħhom ħarsu lejja u jiena sellimtilhom f’isem pajjiżhom u f’isem pajjiżi. B’turija ta’ rispett, poġġejt bukkett kriżantemi bojod u sofor li skont l-użanza Ċiniża jissimbolizzaw in-niket u s-swied il-qalb. Imbagħad skont il-kultura tiegħi, tlabt lil Alla biex jagħtihom il-mistrieħ ta’ dejjem.

    Niftakar li meta staqsejt lil xi individwi Ċiniżi, l-għala dawn iż-żewġ persuni ndifnu hawn Malta u ma ttieħdux lura f’pajjiżhom, huma kienu nfurmawni illi kienu l-familjari tagħhom stess li għażlu hekk. Skont il-kultura Ċiniża, dawn kellhom jindifnu fil-pajjiż li ħadmu għalih għax hekk biss setgħu jistrieħu fil-paċi ta’ dejjem: billi meta jitlesta l-proġett li kienu ġew biex jaħdmu fuqu, huma jkunu għadhom ‘preżenti’ fuq l-istess art. Barra minn hekk, il-familjari xtaqu wkoll li permezz ta’ din id-deċiżjoni, dawn l-għeżież tagħhom jibqgħu jiġu miftakra b’rispett mill-poplu li huma kienu marru biex jagħtuh daqqa t’id.

    Xorta waħda, tħassibt dwar x’iħossu llum il-familjari ta’ dawn l-individwi li kellhom iħallu lil min ħabbew daqstant il-bogħod minn arthom.

    Midalja tal-Qadi tar-Repubblika għall-inġinier Xu Huizhong

    Dal-ħsieb ma ħallinix bi kwieti u għalhekk iddeċidejt li nitkellem mal-ex-Ministru Laburista, Reno Calleja, li fl-1979, kien intbagħat mill-Prim Ministru Duminku Mintoff sabiex jagħti l-Midalja tal-Qadi tar-Repubblika lill-familjari tal-inġinier Xu Huizhong peress li huwa tilef ħajtu traġikament fis-16 ta’ Marzu 1979 waqt li kien qed jaqdi dmiru fil-bini tal-baċir.

    “Dik hija ġurnata li jiena ma ninsa qatt!” stqarr mill-ewwel Calleja hekk kif bdejna nitkellmu. “Anzi, nista’ ngħid li personalment ngħodd dak il-mument bħala l-akbar wieħed fil-karriera politika tiegħi. Napprezzah tant għax dakinhar ħassejt li jien kont parti mill-istorja ta’ pajjiżi fejn Malta kienet qed tagħti ġieħ kbir lil ħaddiem barrani wara mewtu, minħabba li hu miet waqt li kien qed jgħin lil pajjiżna.”

    Il-ftehim ta’ għajnuna bejn Malta u ċ-Ċina

    Calleja jiftakar sewwa ż-żmien meta kien qiegħed isir il-ftehim maċ-Ċina sabiex din tgħin lil pajjiżna jiġi fuq saqajh.

    “F’dawk is-snin anki ċ-Ċina kienet relattivament fqira iżda xorta tat daqqa t’id lil Malta. U huwa f’ġesti bħal dawn li tara l-veru ħbiberija ta’ pajjiż: meta jgħinek f’mumenti meta lanqas hu ma jkun jiflaħ wisq,” sostna Calleja.

    “Il-pass għaqli li kien għamel Mintoff, meta xahar wara Nixon, fl-1972, tela’ ma’ delegazzjoni Maltija sabiex jiltaqa’ ma’ Mao Zedong, kien ġie apprezzat wisq. U grazzi għal din id-deċiżjoni, għadna ngawdu l-frott ta’ ħbiberija kbira ma’ dan il-pajjiż li llum stagħna sewwa.”

    Għadd ta’ ħaddiema Ċiniżi jgħinu fil-bini tal-Baċir Nru. 6

    “Apparti li kienu tawna għajnuna finanzjarja, iċ-Ċiniżi għenuna ħafna billi bagħtu fostna għadd ta’ ħaddiema tekniċi sabiex iwettqu numru ta’ proġetti kbar f’pajjiżna, fosthom il-Baċir Numru 6,” kompla jispjegali Calleja.

    “Dawn il-ħaddiema Ċiniżi ħadmu spalla ma’ spalla mal-Maltin u niesna stagħnaw fil-prinċipji ta’ kif wieħed għandu jaħdem fuq xogħolu hekk kif bdew jinnutaw il-kultura tagħhom. Kultura ta’ nies li għandhom umiltà kbira, bżulija liema bħalha u sens ta’ dover qawwi lejn pajjiżhom. L-entużjażmu li l-Maltin raw fost il-ħaddiema Ċiniżi, huma u jaħdmu bi preċiżjoni u b’għaqal, anki jekk kienu qed jagħmlu dan għall-pajjiż ieħor, ispirathom biex anki huma jagħmlu bħalhom. U jekk il-ħaddiema Ċiniżi kienu qed jaħdmu b’tant dedikazzjoni biex jagħmlu lil pajjiżhom kburi bihom, anki l-ħaddiema Maltin kienu qed jistinkaw daqshom biex pajjiżhom ikun jafulhom,” qalli Calleja.

    “Meta l-Baċir Numru 6 tlesta u saret iċ-ċerimonja tal-ftuħ, jien kont hemm u naħlef li rajt lil uħud mill-ħaddiema jibku meta raw wiċċ Mintoff jixgħel b’sodisfazzjon għax-xogħol li kien twettaq minnhom kollha.”

    Reno Calleja jitla’ ċ-Ċina biex iwassal il-Midalja

    Iżda dan ir-rakkont kellu wkoll il-lat ikraħ tiegħu, fosthom din it-traġedja fejn ħalla ħajtu l-inġinier Xu.

    “Fl-1979 ġejt mistieden biex nitla’ ċ-Ċina sabiex nirrappreżenta l-Għaqda ta’ Ħbiberija bejn Malta u ċ-Ċina u kif kien mistenni, infurmajt lil Prim Ministru b’dan. Huwa qalli biex nitla’ f’April minħabba li kellu xi ħaġa f’moħħu,” ftakar Calleja.

    “Wara xi ħmistax, reġa’ sejjaħli fejn infurmani li hu kien iddeċieda li jagħti l-Midalja Għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika, fuq bażi onorarja wara mewtu, lill-inġinier Xu Huizhong, u jien kelli ntellagħha miegħi. Ftit wara, saret ċerimonja fejn il-President Anton Buttigieg għadda din il-midalja lill-Ambaxxatur taċ-Ċina f’Malta bħala rappreżentant tal-Gvern Ċiniż. Imbagħad din il-midalja ngħatat lili u jien tlajt biha ċ-Ċina.”
    Hawnhekk, Calleja ħareġ xi ritratti li kienu jfakkru dawn il-mumenti distinti.

    “Sabiex issir din l-għotja lill-familjari tal-inġinier Xu, ġiet organizzata ċerimonja kbira fis-Sala tal-Kungress ta’ Shanghai. Għal din l-okkażżjoni, jien ippreparajt id-diskors tiegħi bil-Malti u student Malti kien traduċieha għaċ-Ċiniż. Dan l-istudent kien Clifford Borg-Marks li llum huwa l-Ambaxxatur ta’ Malta fiċ-Ċina.”

    “Intant, waqt din iċ-ċerimonja kelli l-privileġġ li niltaqa’ ma’ mart l-inġinier Xu u ma’ wliedu, li kollha apprezzaw ferm dan il-ġest ta’ unur li għaddielhom pajjiżna. Madanakollu, ma nista’ ninsa qatt dak il-wiċċ sogħbien ta’ martu li rringrazzjatni u ma qalet xejn aktar.”

    Huwa għadu f’kuntatt magħhom sal-ġurnata ta’ llum.

    “Sfortunatament, sena wara li ltqajt magħha, mart Xu mietet bil-għali. Iżda wliedha żammew kuntatt miegħi u ġieli ġew Malta jżuru l-qabar ta’ missierhom. Issa bint Xu għandha tifla li nfurmatni li meta tikber tixtieq issir inġinier bħan-nannu.”

    It-tradizzjonijiet taċ-Ċiniżi

    Fatt interessanti huwa illi ċ-Ċiniżi ma jiċċelebrawx ir-ritwali tal-mejtin fl-istess żmien tagħna. Barra minn hekk, għandhom aktar minn ċerimonja waħda li tfakkar lil dawk li ħallewna.

    Il-Festival Qingming

    Fosthom hemm il-Festival Qingming, jew kif inhu wkoll magħruf bħala Il-Ġurnata tat-Tindif tal-Oqbra. Din il-ġurnata taħbat bejn ir-4 jew il-5 t’April, skont il-kalendarju tradizzjonali lunari.

    Waqt dan il-festival, in-nies jiftakru u jonoraw lill-antenati tagħhom permezz tat-talb, billi jnaddfu l-oqbra, billi jiżbgħu l-kalligrafija li tkun iċċarat biż-żmien, billi jaħarqu l-inċens u billi joffru ikel, te, xorb u aċċessorji oħra fuq l-oqbra. F’din il-ġurnata, xi nies għandhom ħabta jġorru magħhom zokk taż-żavżava sabiex iżommu lura l-ispirti ħżiena li jkunu qegħdin iduru matul iċ-Qingming.

    Peress li ċ-Qingming jibda mal-istaġun tar-Rebbiegħa, in-nies tiċċelebra wkoll dan il-jum billi tmur għal ħarġiet fil-kampanja u ttajjar il-manuċċi. Xi bdiewa jaħartu l-art proprju f’din il-ġurnata.

    Il-Festival tal-Erwieħ

    Waqt dan il-festival li jsir f’Awwissu jintwera rispett lejn il-mejtin kollha ta’ kull età. Bejn wieħed u ieħor isiru l-istess attivitajiet li jiġu ċċelebrati waqt iċ-Qingming.

    Madanakollu, hemm ukoll drawwiet oħra: bħat-tluq ta’ dgħajjes żgħar tal-karti u lanterni fuq l-ilma. Dan ir-ritwal hu maħsub biex jagħti d-direzzjoni lill-erwieħ li jiġu jżuru lill-ħajjin waqt din il-ġurnata, sabiex isibu mill-ġdid il-mistrieħ ta’ dejjem.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela KOBOR IL-MALTI (25 parti) fit-Torċa tad-9 ta’ Novembru 2014)

    2014.11.09 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • The Chinese who remained in Malta

    Il-qabar ta' Xu Huizhong.JPG

    Il-President Anton Buttigieg qed jghaddi l-Midalja lill-Ambaxxatur tac-Cina f'Malta.JPGL-ex Ministru Reno Calleja qed jghaddi l-Midalja lill-armla tal-inginier Xu Huizhong.JPG

    Last Sunday, many of us went to visit the cemeteries which are located around our islands in order to pay our respects to our dead relatives and friends.

    Many of us took with them a beautiful bunch of coloured and fragrant flowers which we left on the cold tombs made of yellowish stone or of icy white or dark black marble. Apart from showing love and respect, this gesture seemed to try to inject life where there was not.

    Others have also dedicated some time to clean the tombs by removing the weeds or by changing an old photograph with a new one.

    Thousands of red candles were lit so that their humble flame might accompany the soft prayers that were said for the deads’ souls.

    Many people had tears in their eyes. Even those whom their relatives had died a long time ago but still feel emotional at this loss.

    I find these death rituals very interesting, particularly when I observe how society continues to keep dear to its heart those who have died; sometimes even by continuing to treat them as if they were still alive.

    Whilst I walked along the paths of the Addolorata cemetery, I could notice all these customs. A pang of sadness crept into my heart when I noticed some bare tombs whom no one seemed to have visited. However, a closer look at the dates written on these tombs indicated that probably those particular families had ended and therefore nobody remained to visit.

    The tombs of Xu Huizhong and Gu Yanzhao

    I arrived in front of the tombs which I went to visit: those of Xu Huizhong and Gu Yanzhao; two Chinese engineers who died in our country whilst they were working on Dock Number 6 in Malta. Xu had died accidentally whilst Gu was deceased due to an illness.

    Their photos looked at me and I greeted them in name of their country and in name of mine. As a sign of respect, I put a bunch of white and yellow chrysanthemums on their tombs according to Chinese tradition which symbolizes sadness and grief. Then, according to my culture, I prayed to God to give them eternal rest.

    I remember that when I asked some Chinese individuals regarding why these two persons had been buried in Malta and were not taken back to their country, they informed me that this had been their relatives’ decision. This is because, according to Chinese culture, these individuals had to be buried in the country for which they were working because that was the only way how they could rest in peace: for they had to be present on the same land when the project on which they were working was successfully finished.

    Notwithstanding this, I still wondered what these persons’ relatives might have felt when they had to allow those whom they had loved, to be buried in a foreign country, and so far away.

    An honorary medal of the Republic of Malta for engineer Xu Huizhong

    I continued to think about this and so I decided to talk to ex-Labour Minister, Reno Calleja, who in 1979 was sent by Malta Prime Minister, Duminku Mintoff in order to present an Honorary Award of the Republic of Malta to the family of engineer Xu Huizhong. This honour was given to this man after he died tragically on 16th March 1979 whilst he was working at the construction of a new dock in our country.

    “That was a day which I will never forget!” revealed Calleja as soon as we started to discuss this matter. “More than that, I must say that personally, I consider that moment as the most salient one in my political career. I cherish it that much because on that day, I felt that I was becoming part of my country’s history; where Malta was presenting a very significant award to a foreign worker after his death, because he had lost his life whilst he was helping our country.”

    An agreement between Malta and China

    Calleja remembers clearly that period when China had agreed to help our country to regain its economic strength.

    “In those years, even China was a relatively poor country but it chose to help Malta all the same. It is during such moments that one can see the true friendship of a country: when it helps you in times when it is not so strong itself,” insisted Calleja.

    “The wise decision that Mintoff had made, when in 1972 he visited China with a Maltese delegation in order to meet Mao Zedong, after Nixon had did so too about a month before, was very much appreciated. And thanks to this choice, the Maltese people are still enjoying the benefit of this friendship, now that China has become a very rich country.”

    Many Chinese workers help in the construction of Dock Number 6

    “Apart from giving us financial support, the Chinese people helped us a lot by sending us many technical workers in order to attend to various important projects in Malta, including the construction of Dock Number 6,” Calleja continued to explain.

    “These Chinese workers have worked along with the Maltese labourers and our people got enriched in the principles of work as they learnt about the Chinese culture from these people. It was a culture of a people of great humility with vast enterprise together with a devotional sense of duty towards their own country. The enthusiasm shown by the Chinese workers as they worked with quality and precision, even when they were doing this for another country, inspired the Maltese to behave like them. And if the Chinese labourers were working with much dedication in order to make their country proud, the Maltese labourers were getting busy so that their country would be thankful to them,” Calleja said.

    “When Dock Number 6 was ready, I attended to the opening ceremony and I swear that I noticed many workers cry when they saw Mintoff’s face alight with satisfaction for the good job that everyone had made.”

    Reno Calleja goes to China in order to present the Medal

    Unfortunately, this fantastic narrative has also its negative side; including the instance of the death of engineer Xu.

    “In 1979, I was invited to visit China in order to represent the Malta-China Friendship Society. When I advised the Prime Minister about this, he requested me to go to China in April because he had something in mind,” remembered Calleja.

    “After a fortnight, Mintoff informed me that he had decided to give a Medal of the Republic of Malta on an honorary basis after his death to engineer Xu Huizhong and I was recommended to take it with me on my visit to China. Soon ex-President of Malta, Anton Buttigieg, organized a ceremony wherein he invited the ex-Ambassador of China in Malta, as a representative of the Government of the People’s Republic of China in order to present him with this medal. Then this medal was handed to me and I took it with me to China.”

    Here, Calleja showed me some photographs of those distinguished moments.

    “A very big ceremony was organized at the great Congress Hall in Shanghai in order to present this medal to engineer Xu’s family. For this event, I prepared a speech in Maltese which was translated in Chinese by a Maltese student. This student was Clifford Borg-Marks whom today is the Ambassador of Malta in China.”

    “During this ceremony, I had the privilege to meet engineer Xu’s widow and his children who all appreciated very much this honourable award that our country had given them. However, I can never forget the sad face of his widow who thanked me respectfully and said nothing more.”

    From then on, Calleja has kept in contact with Xu’s family.

    “Regrettably, a year after I met her, Xu’s widow died of grief. Yet her children kept in contact with me and they came to Malta in order to visit their father’s grave. Now, Xu’s grand-daughter has informed me that when she grows up, she would like to become an engineer like her grandpa.”

    Chinese traditions

    An interesting fact is that the Chinese people do not celebrate the death rituals during our same period. Furthermore, they have more than one ceremony related to paying respect to their dead.

    Qingming Festival

    Among these traditions, there is the Qingming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day. This festival takes place on the 4th or the 5th April, according to the traditional lunar calendar.

    During this festival, the people remember and honour their ancestors by praying, cleaning tombs, re-painting calligraphy on tombs, burning incense or offering food, tea, drinks and other accessories on the tombs. Moreover, on this day, some people may carry willow branches with them or hang them on their doors in order to ward off the evil spirits which may roam around on Qingming.

    Since the Qingming takes place with the beginning of the Spring season, these celebrations usually include also family outings and kite flying. Some farmers start ploughing their fields on this day.

    The Ghost Festival

    During this festival which takes place in August, people will pay respects to all deceased whether young or old. Some of the activities which take place during the Qingming are also undertaken throughout the Ghost Festival; including the offering of food and the burning of incense.

    Other celebrations could include the releasing of miniature paper boats and lanterns on water. This ritual is intended to direct the lost ghosts and spirits to their resting places as some people believe that on this day, the deceased will visit the living.

    (This article is a translation of the Maltese original version which was published in the series KOBOR IL-MALTI (Part 25) in Torċa dated 9th November 2014)

    2014.11.09 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • Imħabba sa wara l-mewt

    Il-Kuratur tal-Muzew Nazzjonali tal-Gwerra, Charles Debono, quddiem l-esebiti ta' Warburton u Ratcliffe.JPGIl-qabar ta' Wing Commander Adrian Warburton (Ritratt - Find a Grave).jpg

    Christina Ratcliffe ma' Wing Commander Adrian Warburton u l-orkestra taghha (Ritratt - Heritage Malta).jpgEman Bonnici biswit il-qabar ta' Christina Ratcliffe.JPG

    Hekk kif illum qegħdin niċċelebraw Jum l-Erwieħ kollha, deherli li għandi nippreżentalkhom ġrajja li xi ftit jew wisq, għandha x’taqsam ma’ dan il-perjodu. Madanakollu, aktar milli nikteb dwar in-niket li ġġib magħha l-mewt, permezz ta’ dan l-artiklu nixtieq nuri illi t-tmiem ta’ persuna jseħħ biss jekk din tintesa. Sakemm tibqa’ l-memorja ta’ dak li jkun almenu f’moħħ individwu wieħed, dawk li ħallewna jibqgħu ħajjin fostna daqslikieku qatt ma telqu.

    L-iskoperta ta’ din il-ġrajja seħħet bla ħsieb meta jiena mort inżur il-Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Gwerra fil-Belt Valletta. L-għan tiegħi kien li niltaqa’ mal-Kuratur Charles Debono sabiex fi ħdan iċ-ċentinarju mill-Ewwel Gwerra Dinjija li qegħdin infakkru din is-sena, nifhem aħjar x’kien li qanqal dan it-taqbid qalil.

    Il-Kuratur Debono kien infurmat sewwa dwar din l-era mdemmija u meta rani interessata biex inkun naf aktar, huwa baqa’ jdawwarni mal-mużew sabiex niddiskutu wkoll it-Tieni Gwerra Dinjija. Ma kienx hemm oġġett li ma kellimnix dwaru u b’hekk wara li lestejna, kelli materjal kemm irrid fuq xhiex naħdem.

    Iżda ġara, li fost il-memorji u l-istejjer kollha li smajt, kien hemm ġrajja ta’ mħabba li seħħet bejn il-leġġendarju Wing Commander Adrian Warburton u l-maħbuba tiegħu Christina Ratcliffe, li ma stajt inneħħija b’xejn minn moħħi. Personalment, qatt ma kont smajt b’din il-koppja u għalhekk tħajjart insir naf aktar dwarha.

    L-esebiti fil-Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Gwerra

    In-narrattiva ta’ din il-ġrajja tnisslet permezz ta’ ħames esebiti li jinsabu fil-mużew. Dawn huma: Midalja tal-Imperu Brittanniku, beritta tal-RAF, ġakketta ta’ uniformi militari, tazza tal-metall li ntrebħet waqt attività sportiva u parti minn ajruplan tat-tip P38 Lightning aircraft.

    It-tifsira ta’ dawn l-oġġetti se tifhmuha waqt li taqraw dan l-artiklu.

    Żmien li nissel l-eroj

    Hekk kif bdejt ir-riċerka tiegħi dwar Warburton u Ratcliffe, sibt li kien hemm diversi kotba miktuba dwarhom. U permezz t’hekk, bil-pass il-pass, irnexxieli nsegwi xi ftit mill-ħajja tagħhom sabiex nieħu idea dwar min kienu dawn iż-żewġ persuni u anki minn xhiex għaddew.

    Ftit ftit, ħassejtni donni miexja lura lejn is-snin erbgħin; żmien meta kemm il-pajjiż tagħna u kif ukoll niesna għaddew minn l-eħrex tbatijiet u ġew mgħasra sat-tarf tal-limiti tagħhom, sakemm finalment, minn fosthom ħarġu l-eroj.

    Adrian Warburton

    Adrian Warburton twieled f’Middlesborough, l-Ingilterra fl-10 ta’ Marzu 1918. Imma missieru Godfrey, li kien kmandat żagħżugħ tas-sottomarini u li kien diġà rċieva l-unur prestiġġjuż għas-servizz distint tiegħu (Distinguished Service Order), iddeċieda li jgħammdu ġewwa sottomarin li kien qiegħed sorġut hawn Malta.

    Jidher li bosta mill-membri tal-familja Warburton kienu magħrufa għall-atteġġjament eċċentriku tagħhom, speċjalment f’mumenti li jikkonċernaw il-gwerra. U kif kiteb l-awtur Tony Spooner, fil-ktieb tiegħu ‘Warburton’s War’, l-unuri tad-DSO kienu xi ħaġa komuni f’din il-familja.

    Infatti, akkost li Adrian Warburton ma għex ħajja twila, anki hu rċieva dan l-unur darbtejn. Fosthom, wieħed minn dawn l-unuri ngħatalu minħabba l-kuraġġ li wera waqt missjoni partikolari li suppost kellha tinvolvi t-teħid ta’ ritratti mill-ajru tal-vapuri tal-għadu. Iżda ġara li waqt din it-titjira, il-kameras ma ħadmux u meta ra hekk, Warburton niżel tant fil-baxx bl-ajruplan tiegħu minn bejn il-vapuri tal-gwerra Taljani li kienu jinsabu f’Taranto, li dawk li kienu miegħu, setgħu jaqraw isimhom u jieħdu nota tagħhom. Din l-informazzjoni wasslet biex l-armata Ingliża setgħet twettaq attakk effettiv fuq l-għadu aktar tard f’dak il-lejl.

    Warburton jgħaddi bi żbrixx bħala pilota

    It-tajba hija illi waqt it-taħriġ tiegħu biex isir pilota, Warburton ma tantx kien impressjona wisq lil dawk ta’ fuqu u għalkemm għadda mit-testijiet involuti, huwa ġab l-inqas grad possibbli. Probabbli, apparti mill-fatt li hu spiss kien jazzarda żżejjed, jista’ jkun li din kienet ir-raġuni vera l-għala huwa kraxxja kemm il-darba waqt il-missjonijiet tiegħu, għalkemm b’xi mod jew ieħor, dejjem reġa’ lura. Forsi dan kien ukoll il-mottiv il-għala meta hu baqa’ ma rritornax wara l-aħħar titjira tiegħu fl-1944, ħadd ma ried jemmen li hu kien miet….

    Warburton trasferit lejn Malta

    Kien fis-6 ta’ Settembru 1940 meta Warburton niżel fl-ajruport ta’ Ħal-Luqa wara li ġie trasferit biex jaħdem f’Malta. Huwa ma damx ma beda jiġbed l-attenzjoni fuqu minħabba li kien juri li ma jibża’ minn xejn. Ngħidu aħna, darba minnhom waqt li kien kienet fuq titjira b’missjoni li jinġibdu ritratti ta’ tkixxif fuq l-għadu, hu u żewġ suldati oħra li kienu miegħu, irnexxielhom jisparaw u jwaqqgħu ajruplan Taljan tat-tip Z.506B.

    Kif bdiet il-ġrajja ta’ mħabba

    Il-ġrajja ta’ mħabba bejnu u bejn Christina Ratcliffe bdiet meta hi sabet ruħha maqbuda hawn Malta, peress li fl-10 ta’ Ġunju 1940, l-Italja ddikkjarat gwerra lill-Ingilterra u lil Franza. Oriġinarjament, Christina kienet ġiet Malta flimkien ma’ grupp taż-żfin sabiex jagħmlu spettaklu tal-kabaret. Però meta mbagħad sabu ruħhom f’pajjiżna bla mpjieg, dawn l-artisti qabdu u ffurmaw grupp għal rashom bl-isem ta’ Whizz Bangs u bdew joffru spettaklu għat-truppi.

    Christina ma damitx ma għamlet il-ħbieb hawn Malta. Fost dawn, kien hemm il-pilota Franċiż Jacques Mehouas li waqt il-laqgħat tagħhom, kellu ħabta jsemmilha lil Warburton fejn kien jiddeskrivih bħala pilota Ingliż formidabbli u ta’ kuraġġ kbir. Ironikament, kienet il-mewt ta’ dan il-Franċiż li ressqet lill-koppja Warburton u Ratcliffe flimkien, hekk kif Adrian, li kien ukoll ħabib ta’ Mehouas, mar jagħti l-kondoljanzi lil Christina.

    F’kitbiet tagħha, Christina tistqarr li sa minn din l-ewwel laqgħa tagħhom, hi kienet diġà ntilfet wara Adrian. Fosthom tgħid illi b’dak ix-xagħar bjond, lewn id-deheb, u b’dawk l-għajnejn koħol sbieħ, stħajjlitu xi alla Grieg.

    Koppja simbolu ħaj tal-ispirtu tal-gżejjer Maltin

    Fl-1939 Warburton kien iżżewweġ lil Eileen Mitchell wara biss ftit żmien li kien ilu jafha. Imma jingħad li hu kien telaqha minnufih wara li skopra li din kienet ħbietlu li kienet iddivorzjata u li kellha wild.

    Min-naħa l-oħra, fi Christina huwa sab is-sieħba perfetta għalih u huma ma damux ma saru waħda mill-aktar koppji popolari ta’ dak iż-żmien. Bħal Adrian, Christina kienet sabiħa, kariżmatika u avventuruża. U kif iddeskriviehom tajjeb Spooner fil-ktieb tiegħu: bil-personalitajiet, bil-kuraġġ u bid-determinazzjoni tagħhom, huma saru simbolu ħaj tal-ispirtu tal-gżejjer Maltin, li ma seta’ jiġi qatt mirbuħ.

    Fil-fatt, minbarra li għall-ewwel Christina baqgħet taħdem bħala żeffiena, wara xi żmien hija vvolontarjat ukoll bħala telefonista mal-RAF. Imbagħad bdiet tagħmel ix-xogħol ta’ plotter fil-Kwartieri tal-Gwerra l-Belt, sakemm eventwalment, hija saret l-assistenta tal-Kontrullur u b’hekk kellha tabbanduna l-grupp Whizz Bangs.

    It-tmiem ta’ din il-ġrajja ta’ mħabba

    Sfortunatament, din il-ġrajja ta’ mħabba ntemmet ħesrem meta fit-12 t’April 1944, Warburton intbagħat fuq missjoni ta’ tkixxif sabiex jieħu r-ritratti minn fuq il-Ġermanja. Imma wara dakinhar, qatt ma rritorna.

    Għall-ewwel in-nuqqas tiegħu ma ttieħedx bis-serjetà għax ma kinetx l-ewwel darba li hu waqaf x’imkien apposta bla ma qal lil ħadd, ħlief forsi lil Christina; bħal meta darba niżel il-Greċja biex jixtri l-alkoħol għax f’Malta ma kellux. Iżda meta ż-żmien beda dieħel u l-ġranet inbidlu f’xhur, kulħadd beda jispekula x’seta’ ġara. Fosthom kien hemm min qal li Warburton kien wettaq suwiċidju għax kien xeba’ f’din il-ħajja ta’ gwerra. Imbagħad, kien hemm ukoll min ġietu l-idea li dan tant xeba’ minn Christina li kien iddeċieda li jiskappa u jisparixxi, forsi anki għax kellu xi tfajla ġdida…

    Intant, wara dan l-inċident, Christina nbidlet drastikament. Il-ġirien tagħha jiftakru li kienet inqatgħet għal kollox min-nies. Bdiet tippreferi tgħix ħajja iżolata fl-appartament tagħha li kien jinsab f’7/3, Vilhena Terrace, Triq Vilhena, il-Furjana. Kull ġurnata kienet tgħaddiha tistenna li jħabbat il-bieb u li ssib lil Adrian quddiemha. Bdiet anki tagħtiha għax-xorb u ftit ftit spiċċat b’ta’ fuqha senduqha.

    Ċertament, kienet tassew ħasra li mara bħal dik, li fl-1943 kienet onorata bil-Midalja tal-Imperu Brittaniku bħala rikonoxxenza għas-sehem tagħha waqt it-Tieni Gwerra Dinjija, tiġi f’dan l-istat. Matul ħajjitha, Christina ddeċidiet li tagħti b’donazzjoni din il-midalja tagħha flimkien ma’ parti mill-uniformi u t-tazza li kienu tal-għażiż Adrian tagħha lil Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Gwerra fil-Belt Valletta, sabiex b’hekk, il-ġrajja tagħhom tingħaqad flimkien ma’ dik tal-pajjiż li huma kienu ltaqgħu u nħabbu fih.

    Warburton jinstab

    Kien biss fl-2002 meta nkixef id-destin ta’ Warburton. Dan seħħ meta Frank Dorber, riċerkatur tal-avjazzjoni, skopra l-fdalijiet ta’ dan il-pilota ġewwa kabina ta’ ajruplan imwaqqgħa, li kien midfun f’madwar żewġ metri fond, f’għalqa ġewwa l-villaġġ Egling an der Paar li jinsab fil-Bavarja, 34 mil bogħod minn Munich.

    Wara li saret eżaminazzjoni tal-ajruplan imġarraf, instabu numru ta’ toqob tal-balal ġewwa wieħed mill-iskrejjen tiegħu u dan indika li l-għadu kien spara fuq Warburton u waqqgħu. Eventwalment, minħabba l-ġrajja li semmejna hawn fuq u l-involviment tiegħu f’pajjiżna, parti minn dan l-ajruplan, ngħatat bħala donazzjoni lill-Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Gwerra fil-Belt u din ngħaqdet mat-tifkiriet li kienet ħalliet Christina.

    Sadanittant, skont ir-regolamenti tal-Commonwealth, fl-14 ta’ Mejju 2003, Warburton ġie onorat b’funeral formali u ġie midfun fiċ-Ċimiterju tal-Gwerra tal-Commonwealth f’Durnbach, fis-Sezzjoni 11, Row H, Qabar Nru. 27. Fatt kurjuż huwa li għal din iċ-ċerimonja, attendiet ukoll martu Eileen li ħafna kienu ilhom li għodduha b’mejta.

    X’ġara minn Christina?

    Naturalment, wara din is-sejba, dawk li kienu jafu bil-ġrajja ta’ din il-koppja, bdew jistaqsu x’kien sar minn Christina Ratcliffe?

    Waqt ir-riċerka tiegħi, sibt illi Christina kienet ġiet midfuna fiċ-ċimiterju tal-Addolorata u wara li kont qrajt tant dwarha, ħassejt l-obbligu li mmur inżurha.

    Għalhekk, fthemt mal-ħabib tiegħi Eman Bonnici li huwa l-Assistent Librar taċ-Ċimiterju tal-Addolorata u riċerkatur ta’ dan is-sit, sabiex jakkumpanjani sal-qabar tagħha. Miegħi ħadt ukoll bukkett fjuri sabiħ b’turija ta’ rispett lejn din il-mara li waqt din il-gwerra, apparti li ħabbet lil Warburton, ħadmet ukoll għal pajjiżi u għenet lil niesi.

    Skont in-notamenti taċ-ċimiterju, jidher li Christina Ratcliffe mietet fl-1988 u ndifnet f’qabar fis-sezzjoni tal-Commonwealth. Iżda aktar tard, fl-1993, il-fdalijiet tagħha nġabru u ndifnu mill-ġdid f’qabar privat li nxtara minn xi familjari tagħha. Dan jinsab fid-Diviżjoni tal-Lvant, Sezzjoni MA-D, Qabar Nru. 4.

    Bonnici infurmani wkoll illi skont deffien mill-Furjana li kien jgħix fl-istess blokka ta’ Christina, din il-mara tant kienet ftaqret, li l-ġirien kellhom jiġbru somma bejniethom sabiex jingħatalha funeral xieraq.

    Viċin ir-ritratt tagħha, ilmaħt il-kitba ‘Christina of George Cross Island’ u hemmhekk erħejt il-fjuri tiegħi. F’qalbi xtaqt bi ħrara kbira li hi kienet qed tarani ħalli tifhem li għadha ma ntesietx.

    Għalkemm forsi ma tantx hawn Maltin li jafu b’din il-ġrajja, Bonnici qalli li numru ta’ barranin, l-aktar mill-Ingilterra u mill-Iskozja, regolarment iżuru l-qabar tagħha bħala sinjal ta’ rispett lejn eroina li għarrfet tħobb tant anki waqt żmien daqstant turbulenti. Fuq kollox, huma sikwit jistaqsu, jekk finalment wasalx iż-żmien biex dawn iż-żewġ maħbubin, anki jekk wara mewthom, jingħaqdu mill-ġdid flimkien?

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fit-Torċa tat-2 ta’ Novembru 2014)

    2014.11.02 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • Far more than walking on a winter wonderland

    Going on a husky sleigh-ride in Santa's village.JPGEnjoying toboganning rides on slope.JPG

    Moving around on a tobogann.JPGGoing for a reindeer-sleigh ride.JPG

    We had always wished to spend Christmas in some foreign land in order to see how this event is celebrated in other countries. Ideally this place had to be similar to the ones that we saw on Christmas cards; that is with wooden log cabins, fire-places and much much snow.

    Eventually, a brilliant idea came to our mind! What if we went to visit Santa’s land itself in Lapland, Northern Finland?

    Although many of us have grown up to believe that Father Christmas is just a legend, my daughter and I are sure that he is real. Well, he comes to visit us each year and he always leaves a lovely present for Martina. So surely, after ten annual visits to our home, we decided that it would be nice of us to exchange the courteousy.

    That was how we found ourselves at Gatwick airport being led away from the usual crowded queues by a special officer who rang a bell in order to call for those whose destination was Ivalo airport.

    Soon, several families with excited children joined the group and off we went on a charter airplane which was waiting to take us to this magical land. Everything was superb from the start, even this flight which was completely dedicated to entertain the children with enjoyable games. Then, when we were approaching land, all the children turned to the airplane’s window in order to watch for Santa’s flying sleigh. We did not succeed to see it but deep beneath the fluffy white clouds, there appeared a strange landscape of dark land, remarkably patterned with plentiful shiny rivers and lakes. So that was how the Arctic Circle looked!

    Our airplane landed smoothly down at Ivalo’s minute airport in Lapland, North Finland and soon we found ourselves walking in the crunchy snow. Mischievous, brightly dressed elves slid out together with our luggage and greeted us with playful tricks, whilst a traditionally dressed Finnish Sami, who forms part of the indigenous people of this area, welcomed us to his land in the company of a large reindeer. A coach transferred us to the tourist resort in Saariselkä which was only 25 minutes away.

    Since in Saariselkä, the temperature goes down well beyond zero degrees, we had to pack a couple of cosy clothes in our luggage. However, on arrival, everyone was provided with a complimentary thermal outer-suit, along with woolen socks, snow boots, outer gloves and hats, in order to guarantee a comfortable stay since there the temperature could go down to -30 degrees celcius.

    There is a good choice of hotels wherein to spend this holiday: starting from Santa’s Kieppi which is built in the traditional Finnish style, and moving on to the modern style Santa’s Holiday Club which includes an indoor pool with waves and chutes. We chose to stay in Hotel Kieppi because we considered it to be more authentic. Its owner, Matti Välitalo, informed us that in Finnish, the word ‘kieppi’ referred to the burrow where animals hibernated during winter, and surely this place was warm and snug contrasting to the icy coldness outside.

    Between the beginning of December and the first days of January, Saariselkä experiences the polar night as the sun does not rise. However the place does not lie in total darkness since the light of the moon, the stars, and the magnificent Northern Lights are reflected by the snow, and therefore one can move around easily at whatever time. During this period, at about ten in the morning, the dusky blue sky turns into an unusual blend of silver and blue colours which is later imbued with different hues of blue and red, until at about three in the afternoon, when it starts getting dark again. This entire ambience felt strange at first but once we got used to it, it enhanced each and every moment and turned it into a unique Christmas experience. We really felt as if we had stepped into another world.

    Even the activities that we could do were extraordinary and it didn’t take very long to see the adults being transformed into joyful and happy children. It’s bound to be! For how can one resist the feeling of a true white Christmas whilst squishing or toboganning in the milky Arctic snow? We were provided with free toboganns from our hotel and Martina took the opportunity to be pulled all along the way. I have to admit that it was somewhat frightening at first because we had never experienced this sport. But when we saw very young children shooting down confidently, we walked up the small snowy hill and off we went. Oh my! It felt like flying! An amazing experience! Anyhow, we lost count how much rides we did.

    Each time we travelled by coach, our guides made their utmost in order to help us feel the Christmas spirit. Once more, we found the atmosphere quite captivating as we sang heartily a couple of old Christmas songs along with people coming from various countries around the world, under a sky packed with twinkling stars.

    However surely, the best moment of this holiday for each visitor, whether adult or young was the special visit to the village of Father Christmas in the Arctic Circle. Here, with activities ranging from ice fishing, toboganning, reindeer sleigh rides, snow hockey, skidoo rides, and an igloo bar, who can wish for more? Yet there was more! In fact, after providing us with the required instructions, we were offered to drive a pack of huskies in the snow. My husband controlled the huskies and my daughter and I huddled up in the sleigh wrapped up in reindeer skin. What a delight!

    Still, more followed since each family, at some point or another, was secretly and quickly hurried upon a snowmobile-sled in order to search for the elves who knew how to point the way to Santa’s log cabin which was craftily hidden in the icy woods. It was a really enthralling experience to enter into the warmth of Santa’s magical hut and to find him sitting in his huge wooden chair amid a multitude of colourful presents. Martina was dumbfounded as she noticed that Santa was holding and reading her own hand-written letter which she had sent him some days ago by post from Valletta! When she found some courage, she told him that many of her friends told her that he did not exist.

    “Well now you have seen that I do!” he told her warmly as he laughed heartily and gave her a beautiful teddy bear. Martina hugged Santa as if to check that she was not dreaming and she even kissed him on the cheek. Once our private meeting with Santa was over, we were taken back to the rest of the group but Martina was simply entranced by this experience.

    On Christmas day, we attended a gala dinner where we discovered that in Finland, ham is the Christmas food specialty. However we were treated to a bountiful meal of different meats and fish, together with a selection of pastries and delicious wild berries.

    We surely missed the company of our dear family members and the sweet presence of baby Jesus in his crib which was nowhere in sight in these locations. Yet in Saariselkä everything was designed to entertain visitors and one will absolutely not have time to feel a trace of sadness.

    We spent only four days in Santa’s Lapland but the surrealism of the place mystified the aspect of time and we felt as if we belonged there. Surely no other Christmas will ever match this one.

    (This article was published in the Travel Supplement of The Sunday Times of Malta dated 2nd November 2014)

    2014.11.02 / no responses / Category: The Sunday Times - Articles

  • Fixing Time

    Stephen Zammit standing near the clock of the Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa (Photo - Fiona Vella).JPG

    I met Stephen Zammit on the roof of the Malta Maritime Museum in order to watch closely the mechanism of the British 19th century clock which he has restored last year. This was certainly an exclusive moment since I was clearly warned that Zammit is very possessive of ‘his’ clocks.

    In fact, there was a magnificent view of the Vittoriosa Marina but Zammit’s eyes and admiration were dedicated only to the imposing clock tower which was sheltering the elaborate clock’s mechanism within its walls.

    “Originally this clock was located within a small steeple which overlooked dock number one,” he informed me. “After it was moved here, the dials of this clock face Cospicua, Senglea and Valletta. Apart from its mechanism, Heritage Malta restored also the dials of this clock according to how it looked originally in old pictures and paintings; that is with a black face and with gold numbers and dials. Isn’t it a beauty now?”

    Zammit has always been fascinated by clocks. His first interest was sparked off by Ħ’Attard’s parish’s tower clock where he attended church as a small boy.

    At only 11 years of age, he started to open the wind-up alarm clocks which they had at home in order to observe their components. Soon, he ventured to repair some of these clocks by noting what was out of place or what was broken.

    “When I found a missing or a broken part, I used to go and order it from a clock spare-parts’ agent in Valletta,” he reminisced. “From him, I learnt and memorized the names of each item until eventually I got to know each section of a clock.”

    Later on, he turned to watches which were much smaller and required more attention. It was his utter joy to hear an old watch ticking again after he sorted out its malfunctioning part.

    He became involved in church clocks incidentally, when Rev. Can. Louis Suban, who was the parish priest of Msida, asked Zammit’s uncle whether he knew someone who could repair the 18th century parish clock.

    “My uncle recommended me and Fr Suban contacted me. I was delighted to work on such an antique clock! When I went to see it, I noticed that the clock had severely deteriorated parts, both due to the natural elements and also because of wear and tear. After these were replaced, the clock came back to life and it is still working,” he said proudly.

    “Fr. Suban has a keen interest in clocks since his ancestors used to produce clocks for churches including those of the parishes of Marsaxlokk and Ħal-Safi. Incidentally, they also made some repairs on this clock here,” Zammit said as he pulled out a key and let me in to see the mechanism’s structure.

    He pointed at a section among the intricate metal configuration where there was the engraved signature – Brothers Suban. Malta. 1896.

    “Generally, all clock makers and repairers leave an identifying mark in order to record their work,” he told me as he indicated another signature. “This inscription reveals who constructed this system, where and when – Matthew Dutton. London. 1810.”

    By detecting these clues on several clocks, Zammit became aware of the various clock makers and repairers that we had in Malta along the centuries.

    “I feel very disappointed when I hear people talking only about particular clock makers and ignore all the rest as if they never existed,” he proclaimed.

    “For example, many know about Michelangelo Sapiano because he was one of the most prolific workers in the sector of clock making. Indeed, he was lucky enough to live in a time when there was a great demand for church clocks and he made the best of this opportunity.”

    In fact, Sapiano was behind the construction of around 21 clocks of various parishes, including that of the parish of Ħal-Luqa.

    “When I was called to repair Sapiano’s clock in Ħal-Luqa, I could clearly understand the genius of this man. I was enthralled to follow his thinking through his work and to notice how he maneuvered a system so that the mechanism’s structure regulated three different time dials and another one which showed the date.”

    According to Zammit, Sapiano learnt this trade from the Tanti family who manufactured about seven local parish clocks, including those of Qrendi and Ħal-Tarxien. Yet somehow, clock enthusiasts who admire and talk much about Sapiano, seem to know nothing about his predecessors.

    For more than thirty years, Zammit had the opportunity to work on several huge parish clocks and by time, he acquired an instinctive ability of how to recognize the various clock makers. Likewise, he became inherently skilled in repairing the different systems by getting acquainted to the standard form of the core of these structures and also to the evolving variables of each constructor.

    Zammit used the clock in front of us in order to help me to understand how it functioned.

    “As you can see, there are three sections,” he said. “The one in the middle is connected to a pendulum so that it could regulate the time. The other sections are the ones which moderate the quarters and the hours.”

    All along our discussion, we were accompanied by the regular ticking of the clock. Yet, suddenly, a sudden twitch on one of the gear wheels seemed to awaken the whole mechanism as many more items of the metallic structure moved, rotated and flapped, whilst a lever pulled and pushed high up to the iron hammers and instilled them to bang on the bells in order to mark the time.

    We both stood in reverent silence as the bells chimed gracefully and their melodious echo slipped in the small room.

    “You would probably think that by now I have got used to this experience,” Zammit broke the silence, once the bells stopped ringing and the apparatus calmed down to its regular ticking. “However, as you can see, I am still completely bewitched by the spell of these compositions.”

    Being also a violinist with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, he is naturally enraptured by the involvement of the musical tones which are operated by this system.

    “I come to regulate this clock once a week,” Zammit informed me as he started to manipulate the three weights of the clock.

    I stood back and observed as he made the necessary adjustments. From the mechanism’s obliging response, I seemed to sense an aura of a corresponding comradeship.

    “Each time that I go to do some work on a clock, I just can’t resist the temptation to stay for another whole hour in order to confirm that everything is working well. There were even moments when people forgot that I was in the clock tower and locked me in the church,” he admitted as he chuckled warmly.

    There was again an abrupt movement within the clock’s structure. Another quarter of an hour had passed and the system activated itself again. This time, I was not taken by surprise. Like Zammit, I was simply spellbound.

    (This article was published in the Business of Time supplement that was issued with The Times of Malta dated 30th October 2014)

    2014.10.30 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • Maċ-ċaqċiq taċ-ċombini

    Margaret Farrugia (Photo - Fiona Vella).JPGA baby dress made from Maltese lace (Photo - Fiona Vella).JPG

    An original piece of Maltese lace (Photo - Fiona Vella).JPGA fan in Maltese lace (Photo - Fiona Vella).JPG

    Jingħad li s-sengħa tal-bizzilla ġiet introdotta f’Malta fi żmien il-Kavallieri ta’ San Ġwann. F’dak il-perjodu, il-bizzilla kienet meqjusa bħala xi ħaġa prestiġġjuża ferm peress li kienet għalja ħafna. Kienu jilbsuha kemm l-irġiel u kif ukoll in-nisa nobbli, kollha b’kompetizzjoni bejniethom dwar kemm se jperrċu bizzilla fuq ħwejjiġhom sabiex juru kemm jesgħu bwiethom. Uħud minn dawn l-individwi għadna nistgħu narawhom jiddandnu bil-bizzilla tagħhom sal-ġurnata ta’ llum permezz tal-kwadri tagħhom li tpittru f’dawk is-snin.

    Illum is-sinifikat tal-bizzilla nbidel ħafna u daqstant ieħor il-moda tagħha. M’għadikx tara rġiel jilbsu l-bizzilla u n-nisa li jżejjnu biha l-ħwejjeġ tagħhom, naqsu ferm. Nazzarda biex ngħid illi ħafna minna, ngħoddu l-bizzilla bħala xi ħaġa ta’ dari, filwaqt li nqisu lin-nisa li jaħdmu l-bizzilla fuq it-trajbu bħala rappreżentazzjoni ta’ sengħa tradizzjonali.

    Esebizzjoni u kompetizzjoni tal-bizzilla fil-Każin Malti

    Madanakollu, hekk kif il-ġimgħa li għaddiet mort inżur l-esebizzjoni tal-bizzilla li kien hemm fil-Każin Malti, l-Belt Valletta, fejn iltqajt mal-organizzatriċi tagħha, Margaret Farrugia, intbaħt li kelli idea pjuttost żbaljata dwar il-valur kontemporanju tal-bizzilla u s-sengħa tagħha.

    Nibda biex insemmi illi l-faxxinu tal-arkitettura u tal-ambjent tal-Każin Malti xeraq ferm ma’ din l-esebizzjoni rikka li kienet tikkonsisti minn madwar 150 biċċa xogħol tal-bizzilla. Infatti waqt din l-intervista, smajt kummenti favorevoli ħafna mill-pubbliku li attenda.

    Kien hemm kemm Maltin u kif ukoll barranin li daħlu jiflu l-bizzilla esebita. Fost dawn, sirt naf li kien hemm ukoll uħud mill-parteċipanti ta’ din l-esebizzjoni, li kienet ukoll kompetizzjoni, li kienu qegħdin jixtarru aktar mill-qrib liema kienu l-isbaħ biċċiet fil-fehma tagħhom.

    “L-għan prinċipali ta’ din il-kompetizzjoni huwa li naraw lin-nies jikkompetu bejniethom dwar min se joħroġ bl-iktar bizzilla oriġinali u sabiħa,” stqarret Margaret. “Kien hemm żmien meta l-bizzilla kienet ser tmut mewta naturali minħabba li beda jonqos l-interess fiha. Iżda llum hawn numru ta’ individwi li qed jipprowovuha mill-ġdid u b’hekk l-involviment fis-sengħa tal-bizzilla qiegħed jerġa’ jitrawwem.”

    Din il-kompetizzjoni tal-bizzilla bl-isem ta’ The Malta Lace Competition ġiet imnhedija għall-ewwel darba tmien snin ilu mill-Markiż Nicholas De Piro.

    “Il-bizzilla minn dejjem kienet għal qalbi iżda kien meta ltqajt ma’ żewġi li bdejt nersaq lejha aktar mill-qrib. Maż-żmien tgħallimt is-sengħa tal-bizzilla u mbagħad għent lil ħaddieħor jitħarreġ fiha. Kont ukoll nifforma parti mill-bord li rregolarizza l-kriterji li jiddefinixxu l-bizzilla Maltija u li waqqaf il-Malta Lace Standard. Għal xi żmien kont ukoll responsabbli mill-assessjar tar-rapporti tal-istudenti tas-City & Guild Creative Skills Certification – Regional Bobbin Lace. Fis-sena 2000 twaqqfet il-Malta Lace Guild u għal disgħa snin konsekuttivi organizzajt l-esebizzjoni bl-isem Malta Lace Day,” spjegatli Margaret.

    “Ormaj kelli esperjenza ta’ aktar minn 40 sena fil-qasam tal-bizzilla u għalhekk, darba minnhom, il-Markiż Nicholas De Piro stedinni biex nibda nieħu ħsieb proġett li hu ħareġ bih. Il-Markiż għandu għal qalbu ħafna s-sengħa tal-bizzilla u bħali kien kuntent li din kienet reġgħet bdiet tqum fuq saqajha. Madanakollu hu xtaq joħloq xi tip ta’ inċentiv sabiex jitħajjru aktar nies lejn il-bizzilla u b’hekk nibtet l-idea ta’ din il-kompetizzjoni. Kien b’hekk li jiena sibt ruħi norganizza l-esebizzjoni/kompetizzjoni The Malta Lace Competition.”

    “Għal dawn l-aħħar snin, il-kompetituri kienu jġibu x-xogħolijiet tagħhom f’Casa Rocca Piccola u mbagħad dawn kienu jiġu esebiti f’żewġt ikmamar ta’ din id-dar ħalli l-parteċipanti jkunu jistgħu jaraw ix-xogħolijiet li jkunu ttellgħu. Pero’ meta bdejna naraw l-interess dejjem jiżdied, tant li dawn il-kmamar ma baqgħux jesgħuna, xtaqna nsibu post akbar sabiex idealment anki l-pubbliku jkun jista’ jżur dawn ix-xogħolijiet. B’hekk, għall-ewwel darba dis-sena, ftaħna l-esebizzjoni fil-Każin Malti u ninsabu kuntenti ferm bl-ammont ta’ nies li qed iżuruha.”

    Il-Ħadd li għadda aktar minn 30 rebbieħ ta’ diversi kategoriji qasmu bejniethom bi €3000 premijiet li sponsorja HSBC Bank (Malta) għal din il-kompetizzjoni.

    In-negozju tal-bizzilla fis-snin ta’ qabel

    Intant, waqt din id-diskussjoni Margaret qaltli li minn ċkunitha kienet tħossha affaxxinata meta kienet tara n-nisa Għawdxin jaħdmu l-bizzilla quddiem il-bieb tad-dar tagħhom.

    “Kont nintilef inħares lejhom u kont nistagħġeb kif jirnexxielhom ilaħħqu ma’ dawk il-mijiet ta’ ċombini li jkollhom imdendlin. Darba minnhom iltqajt ma’ anzjan Għawdxi u staqsejtu jekk kienx hemm xi ħadd li jgħallem il-bizzilla. Hu laqqgħani ma’ waħda u għalkemm għall-ewwel bżajt li ma kienx ser jirnexxieli nitgħallem, ma domtx ma sibt irkaptu,” ftakret Margaret.

    “Fis-snin 30, il-familja ta’ żewġi kellhom casa bottega quddiem il-knisja tal-Karmnu fi Strada Teatru, l-Belt. Huma kienu jimpurtaw id-drappijiet u l-ħajt tal-bizzilla u anki jbiegħu l-bizzilla. Dak iż-żmien, kienet xi ħaġa komuni li wieħed ikun joqgħod fis-sular ta’ fuq, filwaqt li s-sular t’isfel tad-dar ikun ħanut.”

    Ftit ftit Margaret ġiet introdotta wkoll f’dax-xogħol hekk kif f’xi Sibtijiet, bdiet titla’ Għawdex ma’ xi ħadd minn ħutha ħalli twassal l-ordnijiet tal-ħajt tal-bizzilla lin-nisa Għawdxin. U minn hemm bdiet tifhem aħjar kemm kienet tinħadem il-bizzilla f’Għawdex u kif kienet qed tiġi kkumerċjalizzata.

    It-tpartit tal-bizzilla mal-merċa

    “Niftakar li fis-snin sittin, fost il-klijenti tagħna kien hemm Għawdxi, ċertu Ġużeppi l-Qass, li kellu ħanut tal-merċa fi Pjazza Savina r-Rabat, Għawdex. Dan kellu ftehim man-nisa Għawdxin sabiex huma jkunu jistgħu jpartu l-bizzilla li kienu jaħdmu ġewwa d-djar tagħhom mal-prodotti tal-merċa fil-ħanut tiegħu. Imbagħad hu kien jinżel Malta darba fil-ġimgħa b’din il-bizzilla sabiex ibiegħha fil-ħanut ta’ Fedele, li kien in-nannu ta’ żewġi,” bdiet tirrakkuntali Margaret.

    “Imbagħad aħna konna ngħaddu din il-bizzilla lill-kunventi tas-sorijiet sabiex dawn jimmuntawha fuq id-drapp bl-idejn ħalli b’hekk inżommu l-prestiġju tal-prodott li jibqa’ kollu kemm hu maħdum bl-idejn. Wara, konna nbiegħu dawn il-prodotti lill-Maltin jew lit-turisti.”

    Meta miet Fedele, dan il-ħanut għalaq u minflok, Margaret baqgħet tieħu ħsieb ix-xogħol tal-bizzilla mid-dar tagħha.

    Il-bizzilla bħala parti mill-wirt kulturali tagħna

    “Jiena għadni għaddejjha b’dax-xogħol għax nemmen bis-sħiħ li m’għandniex inħallu dan il-wirt kulturali tagħna jintilef. M’għandix ħanut imma n-nies jafu bija u naħdem skont l-ordnijiet li jkolli. Meta jkolli ordnijiet kbar, għandi wkoll lista ta’ nisa li jaħdmu bizzilla sabiħa u nqassam ix-xogħol bejnietna kif ikun jeħtieġ biex inlaħħqu mat-talba ta’ dak li jkun.”

    Infatti l-fama ta’ Margaret waslet ukoll s’għand l-ogħla awtoritajiet lokali hekk kif mhux darba u tnejn li xogħolijietha jiġu ordnati mill-Gvern Malti sabiex dawn jiġu rregalati lid-dinjitarji li jżuru pajjiżna.

    “Għandi l-unur ngħid ukoll illi diversi palazzi hawn Malta, fosthom dak ta’ San Anton u Verdala, huma armati bil-bizzilla tiegħi. Barra minn hekk, kelli l-privileġġ illi naħdem il-bizzilla għall-ilbies formali tal-ewwel imħallef mara, Anna Felice, fejn ix-xogħol sar b’disinn tiegħi li kien jinkorpora fih fjuri, is-salib ta’ Malta u għamla ta’ miżien tal-ġustizzja bi stil barokk.”

    “Intant, is-sena li għaddiet ħdimt ukoll il-bizzilla għal velu tat-tieġ fejn ikkuppjajt fjura mill-libsa u mbagħad ħdimt fjura wara fjura matul il-bordura kollha. Domt madwar ħames xhur għaddejjha fuqu fejn b’kollox ħadt mat-800 siegħa!”

    Meta wieħed jagħraf l-ammont ta’ siegħat li jirrikjedi dan ix-xogħol jifhem aħjar il-għala l-bizzilla hija meqjusa bħala xi ħaġa rikka u ta’ valur.

    “Il-bizzilla trid ħafna passjoni u mħabba biex taħdimha għax tirrikjedi ħafna attenzjoni u ħin. Imma mbagħad, meta tara l-oġġett lest, jagħtik sodisfazzjon kbir, mhux biss għax jiġi sabiħ iżda wkoll għax taf li permezz tiegħu, inti qed iżżomm ħajja tradizzjoni antika Maltija,” saħqet Margaret.

    It-tagħlim tal-bizzilla

    Skoprejt li Margaret għadha tgħallem il-bizzilla privatament u għalhekk staqsejtha x’età u x’karatteristiċi jrid ikollu persuna biex jitħajjar għal din is-sengħa.

    “M’hemm l-ebda limitu ta’ età. Infatti, mhux darba u tnejn li jipparteċipaw it-tfal f’din il-kompetizzjoni u naturalment, biex nagħmlulhom il-qalb, aħna naġevolawhom daqsxejn,” qaltli. “Anki xi rġiel hemm li jaħdmu l-bizzilla u infatti dis-sena għandna xi xogħol li nħadem mill-irġiel. Però l-maġġoranza huma nisa ta’ bejn il-35 u l-65 sena.”

    Għalkemm forsi hemm min minnkhom li huwa xi ftit nervuż u allura jaħseb li dax-xogħol ma jgħoddx għalih, Margaret żguratni illi fir-realtà l-ħidma tal-bizzilla tikkalmak peress li jkollok bżonn tikkonċentra ħafna fuq li qed tagħmel. U b’hekk għal ftit tal-ħin, tkun tista’ tinsa l-problemi l-oħra kollha.

    Bejn bizzilla u oħra

    Aħna u nduru mal-bizzilla esebita, Margaret bdiet tfehemni aktar fid-dettall dwar id-differenza li kien hemm bejn xogħol u ieħor. F’ħin minnhom, waqafna quddiem libsa tal-magħmudija maħduma b’ħajt ta’ kulur abjad silġ li kienet tidher fina mmens.

    “Tidher daqstant fina għax hija maħduma b’ħajt irqiq ħafna. Dan it-tip ta’ ħajt jagħti lill-oġġett aktar preġju minħabba li huwa aktar metikoluż biex taħdmu u għalhekk ix-xogħol jieħu aktar żmien. Apparti minn hekk, min ħadem din il-libsa, għaqqad b’galbu kbir l-istrixxi tal-bizzilla flimkien sabiex ipproduċa din il-meravilja,” urietni kburija Margaret.

    Biex inkun nista’ nifhem aktar xi trid tgħid, hija ħaditni nara xogħol li kien maħdum b’ħajt eħxen u hemmhekk stajt nikkonferma illi għalkemm il-bizzilla xorta waħda kienet sabiħa, id-dettall ma kienx qed joħroġ ċar daqs kemm kien f’xogħolijiet oħra fejn intuża ħajt irqaq.

    “Dawn huma l-karatteristiċi li jkunu qed iħarsu lejhom dawk li jiġġudikaw ix-xogħolijiet rebbieħa. Il-materjal li jintuża għal bizzilla jaffetwa ħafna x-xogħol finali. Ngħidu aħna l-ħajt tal-għażel iżomm il-bizzilla wieqfa u sabiħa, mentri l-qoton iħalli xogħol mitluq.”

    Innutajt li kien hemm bizzilla ta’ kuluri diversi u kelli kurżità jekk dan jaffetwax il-valur tal-oġġett.

    “Il-kuluri li jintużaw ma jagħmlu l-ebda differenza fil-valur. Però, jista’ jkun li l-bizzilla s-sewda hija xi ftit aktar apprezzata minħabba li mhux kulħadd kapaċi jaħdimha. L-iswed hu kulur imprekattiv biex taħdem bih u trid tkun tassew professjonali biex taħdmu. Infatti, ftit huma li jużaw dak il-kulur u għalhekk il-bizzilla ta’ dak il-lewn hija mfittxija ferm minn uħud.”

    Xtaqt naf jekk hemmx differenza bejn il-bizzilla Maltija, dik Għawdxija u dik barranija.

    “M’hemmx differenza bejn il-bizzilla Maltija u dik Għawdxija, ħlief li l-Għawdxin tgħallmu jikkummerċjalizzawha aktar minna l-Maltin. Madanakollu hemm varjanza bejn il-bizzilla Maltija u dik barranija minħabba li nużaw tip ta’ trajbu differenti,” fehmitni Margaret.

    “It-trajbu tagħna huwa magħmul miz-zkuk tal-iżbul imnixxef. Għandu forma pjuttost dejqa u huwa twil madwar 22 pulzier. Għaldaqstant, il-bizzilla li nipproduċu aħna hija magħrufa bħala ‘continuous lace’ għax tinħadem għad-dritt u tibqa’ nieżla fit-tul. Dan ifisser li aħna ma nistgħux indawwru t-trajbu u nkabbru l-bizzilla kemm irridu, kif jagħmlu f’pajjiżi oħra bi trajbi differenti.”

    Margaret spjegatli kif l-għodda prinċipali fis-sengħa tal-bizzilla huma t-trajbu, iċ-ċombini, il-labar, il-ħajt u x-xempju (id-disinn).

    “Il-bizzilla hija maħduma b’żewġ tipi ta’ punti li huma: il-punt u n-nofs punt. Dan tal-aħħar joħloq toqba. U mbagħad skont kif iddawwar iċ-ċombini joħroġ id-disinn.”

    Il-valur tal-bizzilla llum

    Fl-esebizzjoni kien hemm kull xorta ta’ xogħol. Lili laqtitni ferm umbrella kbira tal-bizzilla li ridt sebgħa għajnejn biex tħares lejha, aħseb u ara biex taħdimha! Pero’ kien ghad fadalli mistoqsija ttambar f’moħħi: il-bizzilla għadha valida llum?

    “Jien għandi kollezzjoni kbira ta’ bizzilla u jekk tiġi d-dar, qisha mużew. Għaldaqstant, kull fejn insib opportunità nħobb nilbes il-bizzilla. Għandi kappa tal-bizzilla li tiġbed tassew l-għajn u ħafna jistaqsuni dwarha meta noħroġ biha,” qaltli Margaret. “Hija ħasra meta wieħed ikollu xi bizzilla antika u jħalliha magħluqa ġo xi kexxun għax hekk tittebba’ biss tista’ u mbagħad ikun tassew diffiċli li wieħed inaddafha. Irridu niftakru li dawn l-affarijiet ħadu siegħat twal biex inħadmu u għalhekk imqar b’rispett lejn min ħadimhom, għandna ngħożżuhom u ngawduhom. Il-bizzilla hija xi ħaġa femminili għall-aħħar u personalment naħseb li hija xi ħaġa ta’ faxxinu kbir.”

    “Bħala validità tal-bizzilla, nistgħu ngħidu li fil-qasam ekkleżjastiku, il-bizzilla baqgħet dejjem iżżomm postha, kemm minħabba li baqgħet tintuża fil-paramenti tal-qassis u anki fl-aċċessorji li jintużaw fuq l-artali. Imbagħad hemm ukoll l-ilbiesi tal-magħmudija u tat-tieġ, ix-xallijiet u l-veli. Barra minn hekk, issa qed taqbad ukoll id-drawwa illi jingħata kwadru bl-arma tar-razza maħduma bil-bizzilla.”
    Domna ħafna aktar nimirħu dwar is-suġġett tal-bizzilla, sakemm finalment wasalt biex nitlaq.

    “Dawn is-snajja u t-tradizzjonijiet antiki għandhom jibqgħu jinteressawna għax huma parti essenzjali minn dak li jagħmilna Maltin,” saħqet Margaret. “Għalija m’hemmx kuntentizza isbaħ minn dik li jkollok il-ħin biex tpoġġi fuq siġġu komdu ġewwa bitħa għad-dell ta’ xi siġra sabiħa u toqgħod taħdem il-bizzilla għall-kwiet, bis-silenzju miksur biss miċ-ċaqċiq ħelu taċ-ċombini.”

    Għal aktar informazzjoni dwar il-bizzilla jew dwar din il-kompetizzjoni annwali, tistgħu ċċemplu lil Margaret Farrugia fuq 99206273.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela KOBOR IL-MALTI (24 parti) fit-Torċa tas-26 t’Ottubru 2014)

    2014.10.26 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • Missieri kien enigma

    Paul George Pisani biswit il-mafkar ta' missieru Gorg Pisani.JPGGorg Pisani.jpeg

    Xandir minn Ghawdex ghal Ghawdex.jpeg

    Din il-ġimgħa ddeċidejt li nlaqqgħakhom man-Nutar Paul George Pisani li huwa iben il-mibki poeta magħruf Għawdxi, Ġorġ Pisani. Iltqajna fl-uffiċċju tiegħu li jinsab fil-proprjetà fejn hu kien jgħix flimkien mal-ġenituri tiegħu fi Triq Putirjal, ir-Rabat, Għawdex. Faċċata, donnu biex iżomm għajnejh fuq il-post li għex fih għal bosta snin, stajt nilmaħ il-mafkar tal-bronż ta’ Ġorġ Pisani li tpoġġa hemmhekk fit-23 ta’ Ġunju 2001.

    Bħas-soltu, apparti li segwejt il-kitbiet tal-poeta, għażilt ukoll li niltaqa’ mal-uniku iben tiegħu sabiex permezz tad-diskussjoni tagħna, nifhem aħjar min kien dan il-persunaġġ. Huwa tassew illi x-xogħolijiet ta’ artist jistgħu jirriflettu wħud mill-emozzjonijiet u l-perspettivi tiegħu. Madanakollu, jiena nemmen li ħadd ma jista’ jiftaħlek tieqa intima fuq individwu, aktar minn dawk li jkunu għexu miegħu.

    Għal bosta drabi, Paul stqarr illi għalih missieru kien enigma peress li kien bniedem riservat ħafna. Iżda xorta waħda, mal-mogħdija tad-diskursata tagħna, feġġu rivelazzjonijiet interessanti li komplew għanew il-ġrajja ta’ min kien il-poeta Ġorġ Pisani; punti li nittama li xi student tal-Malti għad jitħajjar jistudja aktar fil-fond dwarhom.

    Ħass is-sejħa reliġjuża

    Twieled ir-Rabat, Għawdex fis-6 ta’ Mejju 1909. Tgħallem fl-iskola primarja tal-Gvern u fil-Liċeo t’Għawdex.

    Jidher li f’żogħżitu huwa kellu xi delużjoni ta’ mħabba li kidditu ħafna tant li rari tkellem dwarha ħlief permezz tal-iżvog f’xi poeżiji, fosthom ‘Għanja Moħbija’ u ‘Kelma Nassiesa’.

    Kien f’dan il-perjodu wkoll li huwa beda jieħu t-taħriġ biex isir patri.

    “Fl-adoloxxenza tiegħu missieri ħass is-sejħa reliġjuża u beda n-novizzjat mal-Patrijiet Franġiskani Kapuċċini fejn kellu l-isem ta’ Fra Alipju,” qalli Paul. “Hemmhekk huwa għamel studji avvanzati fil-letteratura klassika u fit-teoloġija, filwaqt li beda jikteb poeżiji bil-Malti fir-rivista tal-Franġiskani Kapuċċini ‘L-Immakulata’.”

    Iżda kif qal Carm C. Cachia f’kitba tiegħu dwar dan il-poeta, “Donnu lanqas fil-protezzjoni ta’ dan il-post qaddis, ma sab il-paċi interna li kien qed ifittex.”

    U infatti, wara xi żmien, Pisani ħalla l-kunvent.

    Sar għalliem

    “Wara li ħalla l-kunvent, missieri beda l-karriera tiegħu bħala għalliem. Fl-1935 huwa nħatar bħala l-ewwel surmast tal-Malti fil-Liċeo t’Għawdex. Kien f’dan iż-żmien li huwa ntroduċa l-istudju tal-Malti fis-Seminarju t’Għawdex.”

    Waqt il-gwerra

    “Fl-1940, fl-eqqel żmien tal-gwerra, huwa ġie msejjaħ Malta biex jaħdem fid-Dipartiment tal-Informazzjoni fejn ħadem bħala traduttur u ko-editur tal-ħarġa Maltija tal-’Information Service Bullettin’. Barra minn hekk, huwa kien jgħallem it-Taljan u l-Malti fl-iskola sekondarja tal-bniet fil-Belt Valletta, filwaqt li ntroduċa l-istudju tal-Malti lill-istudenti tal-Kunvent Sacred Heart f’San Ġiljan,” kompla jirrakkuntali Paul.

    Sehem kbir fil-ġabra tal-qamħ f’Għawdex

    “Meta fl-1942 missieri ġie maħtur Assistant Information Officer għal Għawdex, huwa fetaħ Information Bureau kważi fl-irħula kollha t’Għawdex. Kien f’dan iż-żmien li huwa kellu sehem kbir fil-ġabra tal-qamħ mingħand il-bdiewa Għawdxin.”

    Minn kliem Paul intbaħt li dan kien perjodu sinifikanti ħafna fil-ħajja ta’ missieru.

    “Ma kienx faċli li tikkonvinċi lill-Għawdxin biex joħorġu l-qamħ li kienu kabbru, ħażnu u ħbew. Meta bajda ta’ tiġieġa kienet tiswa prezz għali mmens, tista’ timmaġina kemm kien il-valur tal-qamħ! L-Għawdxin huma nies li tgħallmu jfendu għal rashom għax fuq dil-gżira, matul is-snin, spiss intelqu għal rieħhom. Kulħadd kien jara kif jiżra’ xi ħaġa u jrabbi xi annimal biex ikollu l-provvisti meħtieġa. Għalhekk meta l-awtoritajiet bdew jipprentendu l-qamħ mingħandhom, kien bħallikieku riedu jeħdulhom it-teżori tal-familja,” spjegali Paul.

    Jidher li mhux darba u tnejn li l-qiegħa saħnet għax il-pressjoni minn Malta kienet kull ma tmur tiżdied minħabba li l-ikel fil-gżira prinċipali kien għoddu spiċċa għal kollox u kien hemm bosta li kienu qed jgħoddu ruħhom b’mitlufa.

    “Kulħadd kien jaf li l-Għawdxin kellhom il-qamħ mistur. Imma x’setgħu jagħmlu? Jidħlu għalihom bl-armi biex jeħduhulhom? Fi żmien ta’ gwerra? Meta għandek bżonn in-nies miegħek u mhux kontrik? Kienet sitwazzjoni iebsa u infatti darba minnhom, kienu għoddhom ħaġġruh lil missieri meta mar jipprova jkellem lil xi bdiewa biex jagħtuh il-qamħ għall-Maltin!” kompla Paul.

    Imma sa fl-aħħar, Pisani rnexxielu jsib mezz tajjeb kif jieħu li jrid…

    “Beda jiftiehem mal-arċipriet ta’ kull knisja sabiex jgħid lin-nies li wara l-barka tal-quddiesa, se jkun hemm xi ħadd barra biex ikellimhom. Hu kien joqgħod jistenna n-nies barra fuq iz-zuntier u bil-kalma kollha kien jispjegalhom illi jekk ma kienux se jgħinu permezz tal-qamħ tagħhom, Malta kien se jkollha ċċedi u tiftaħ il-bibien għall-għadu. Apparti minn hekk, huwa beda jistaqsihom jekk kellhomx bżonn xi razzjon għalihom minn Malta ħalli meta jitla’ bit-trakk għall-qamħ, itella’ miegħu dak li jkunu talbuh. B’hekk l-irjus irtabu u l-affarijiet irranġaw ruħhom. Dawn l-esperjenzi kienu eventwalment nebbħuh biex fl-1945 jikteb id-dramm ‘Il-Ġabra tal-Qamħ’.”

    Wara l-gwerra

    “Meta ntemmet il-gwerra, missieri reġa’ daħal għalliem u beda jgħallem il-Malti, ir-Reliġjon, l-iStorja u l-Latin fil-Liċeo t’Għawdex. Sadanittant, huwa baqa’ jaħdem ukoll fid-Dipartiment tal-Informazzjoni u ħafna għadhom jiftakru l-filmshows li kien jorganizza wara nżul ix-xemx fil-pjazez t’Għawdex sabiex jeduka l-poplu u jżommu aġġornat dwar il-ġrajjiet kurrenti. Barra minn hekk, fil-Banca Giuratale fir-Rabat, Għawdex, huwa fetaħ uffiċċju ċentrali b’kamra għall-qari attrezzata ħafna fejn wieħed kien isib jaqra ġurnali, rivisti u kotba dwar suġġetti varji. Fuq inizzjattiva tiegħu wkoll, kienu nstallati loudspeakers tar-Rediffusion fil-pjazez t’Għawdex mnejn il-poplu kien jisma’ l-aħbarijiet u l-avviżi tal-Gvern,” qalli Paul bi kburija lejn ix-xogħol siewi li wettaq missieru.

    Wieħed mill-pijunieri tax-xandir f’Għawdex

    Għalkemm personalment seta’ kien riservat, ċertament Pisani kellu ħeġġa liema bħalha biex itejjeb il-qagħda tal-Għawdxin u tal-gżira t’Għawdex. Infatti hu kien ukoll wieħed mill-pijunieri tax-xandir f’Għawdex.

    “Kien hemm refuġjat Malti f’Għawdex, ċertu Vella, li meta missieri wrieh bix-xewqa li kellu li jsib mezz kif ixandar xi programmi minn Għawdex għal Għawdex, dan ħareġ b’sistema rudimentali li kienet taħdem bil-linji tat-telefon u permezz tiegħu, missieri beda jxandar il-programmi u jinstema’ fil-pjazez.”

    Id-dramm li daħlu fl-inkwiet

    Fl-1945 Pisani ppubblika l-ktieb ‘L-Għid taż-Żgħożija’ li fih hemm uħud mill-aqwa xogħolijiet tiegħu. Infatti, poeżija minnhom li ġġib l-istess isem, akkwistatlu t-titlu tal-Poeta taż-Żgħożija. Fil-prefazju tal-ktieb il- Prof. Ġużè Aquilina kiteb hekk: “Tneħħi… l-waqtiet suwed ta’ qtigħ il-qalb jew disperazzjoni, l-akbar motiv tal-poeżija ta’ Pisani tibqa’ ż-żgħożija qalbiena li tħares ‘il quddiem mimlija ħeġġa u mgħaġġla fit-tiġrija tal-ħajja.”

    Iżda apparti xogħol ieħor li kiteb fl-istess żmien, żgur li xejn ma ħalla mpatt fuq Pisani daqs id-dramm ‘Is-Sengħa tal-Imħabba’….

    “Missieri kien isiefer ħafna u spiss kien jieħu l-opportunità biex imur jara xi dramm barrani. B’hekk, huwa ġie espost għat-teatru tal-kontinent. Ġara li darba ġietu f’rasu li jikteb id-dramm ‘Is-Sengħa tal-Imħabba’ li kien jitratta t-tema ta’ familja li titfarrak meta tidħol bejniethom it-tielet persuna. Id-dramm kien jispiċċa bi tmiem negattiv li jqanqal bosta mistoqsijiet. Inzerta li dan ix-xogħol għoġob lil xi studenti universitarji u dawn iddeċidew li jaħdmuh fir-Radio City l-Ħamrun,” beda jgħidli Paul.

    “Il-busillis beda meta dan id-dramm ġie rrekordjat għar-Rediffusion u allura daħal fid-djar kollha. U hemm qam pandemonju sħiħ għax kien hemm min tkaża bis-suġġett tad-dramm. Ngħiduha kif inhi, illum tidħak jekk tarah. Imma f’dak iż-żmien, għalkemm kulħadd kien jaf li kien hemm il-problemi fil-familji, in-nies kienet taħbihom taħt it-tapit bla ma ħadd kien jipprova jara kif se jsolvihom. Mhux talli! Imma għamluha tabù li titkellem dwarhom!”

    Iżda agħar minn hekk, skont Paul kien editorjal pjuttost kiefer li ġie ppubblikat f’Leħen is-Sewwa li nkorla lil missieru u affettwalu wkoll saħħtu, anki jekk is-soltu ma kien iħalli xejn ikiddu.

    “Min kiteb l-editorjal, b’malizzja semma’ li ma kienx sewwa li għax ikollok esperjenza ħażina f’ħajtek, tmur iċċappasha fuq il-palk. Naturalment kien qed jirreferi għall-istorja ta’ mħabba li kellu missieri f’żgħożitu. U din tant tagħtu ġewwa, li għamel libell lill-ġurnal, għalkemm xorta tilfu għax l-imħallef qal f’sentenza klassika li ma kienx sewwa li fuq il-palk tipproġetta sitwazzjonijiet mhux feliċi tal-ħajja!”

    Jidher li maż-żmien dan l-inċident twarrab mal-ġenb, tant li Pisani kompla jikteb fl-istess ġurnal għal diversi snin wara. Madanakollu, Paul ma jistax jifhem kif mument sinifikanti bħal dan li juri l-ewwel ċaqliqa lejn ir-realiżmu fid-dramm Malti mhux qed jiġi kkunsidrat fil-kotba ta’ llum li jitrattaw l-Istorja tad-dramm f’Malta.

    “Jiddispjaċini meta jiġri dan. Mhux għax qed nitkellem dwar missieri. Imma għax mhux qed niktbu b’mod onest u mhux qed nagħtu kreditu lil min ħaqqu. Uħud donnhom għandhom l-għan li jsemmu biss lil dawk il-kittieba u l-poeti li ġew wara l-gwerra filwaqt li qed iwarrbu lill-oħrajn li ġew qabilhom daqslikieku dawn ma jgħoddu xejn biex wasalna fejn wasalna llum. Ħażin nagħmlu jekk ninsew li mingħajr il-passat m’hemmx preżent,” sostna iben Pisani.

    Iżżewweġ ta’ 54 sena

    Fl-1963 Ġorġ Pisani jiżżewweġ lil Rose nee’ Formosa minn Kerċem, li kienet 32 sena iżgħar minnu. Sena wara kellhom lil Paul u t-tnejn rabbewh f’għożża liema bħalha.

    Kont kurjuża jekk bħala iben, hu qattx ħass il-piż ta’ missier li kien daqstant popolari f’Għawdex?

    “Jiena tlajt b’ċertu reverenza u sottomissjoni edukata lejn il-ġenituri tiegħi u qatt ma ħabbatthom. Nistqarr li kont inħoss xi ftit responsabbiltà għall-fatt li l-missieri kienu jafuh ħafna nies u ma ridtx li nħammarlu wiċċu b’xi mod,” ftakar Paul.

    Staqsejtu wkoll jekk qattx xtaq li laħaq lil missieru f’età iżgħar?

    “Ħa nghidlek, l-aktar li nixtieq hu li għadu ħaj,” irrispondini kemmxejn imqanqal. “Qattgħajt tfulija sabiħa ferm miegħu. Veru li lħaqtu ta’ età kbira imma mbagħad gawdejt mill-fatt li ma damx ma ħareġ bil-pensjoni u allura kellu ħafna ħin għalija. Infatti spiss kont noqgħod niġri ma’ djulu u min jaf kemm laqqgħani ma’ nies li llum huma miti bħal Mary Meylak, Erin Serracino Inglott, Frenċ tal-Għarb eċċ.”

    “Konna mmorru wkoll għall-passiġġati twal fil-kampanja Għawdxija li tant kienet għal qalbu. Kien miġbud ħafna wkoll lejn l-Istorja u infatti kiteb diversi poeżiji relatati fosthom ‘Il-Ġgantija t’Għawdex’, tant li hemm min isibu wkoll bħala l-Poeta tal-Istorja. Madanakollu jien aktar naħseb li kien jixtieq jibqa’ magħruf bħala l-Poeta t’Għawdex. Kellu mħabba kbira għal dil-gżira kif jixhdu bosta mix-xogħolijiet tiegħu, fosthom l-’Innu Għal Għawdex’ li hawnhekk għadu jindaqq meta jispiċċa xi programm tal-banda u warajh jindaqq l-Innu Nazzjonali.”

    Kien kuġin ta’ Carmelo Borg Pisani

    Skoprejt fatt ieħor dwaru li probabbilment ftit jafuh.

    “Missieri baqa’ reliġjuż ħafna, anki wara li ħareġ mill-kunvent. Fil-fatt naħseb li l-għeżeż ħaġa li ħalla fija kien ir-rispett lejn ir-reliġjon, apparti li derrieni wkoll b’ċertu awto-dixxiplina u valuri sodi. Intant, kull fil-għaxija konna ninxteħtu ngħidu r-rużarju flimkien u hekk kif inlestu konna ngħidu wkoll Ave Maria għall-mejtin tagħna. Niftakar li missieri kien isemmihom kollha wieħed wieħed kuljum: il-ġenituri, in-nanniet, iz-zijiet, il-kuġini eċċ. Fosthom dejjem kien isemmi lil ċertu Karmenu li kont naf li kien kuġin tiegħu imma xejn aktar,” irrakkuntali Paul.

    “Però jidhirli li darba minnhom ikkuntattjah il-kittieb Lawrence Mizzi peress li kien qed jagħmel xi riċerka dwar Carmelo Borg Pisani u kien sar jaf li missieri kien prim kuġin tiegħu. Huwa talbu għal xi informazzjoni dwaru imma akkost li s-soltu missieri dejjem jgħin lil kulħadd, lil dan talbu biex lil Borg Pisani jħallih jistrieħ. Għandek tkun taf li missieri kien espert tal-arti diplomatika ta’ kif ma jweġibx mistoqsija jekk jiddeċiedi hekk. Ħadd ma kien jaf li dan l-individwu kien jiġi minna għax missieri qatt ma kien isemmieh ma’ ħadd. Lanqas magħna ma kien jitkellem dwaru. Qatt ma kkummenta dwar jekk kienx jikkunsidrah bħala traditur jew xi ħaġ’oħra. Donnu għalih kien biss membru tal-familja – il-kuġin.”

    Kien gwida ta’ personalitajiet importanti

    “Dari d-Dipartiment tal-Informazzjoni kellu taħt il-ġurisdizzjoni tiegħu wkoll it-turiżmu. Għaldaqstant, parti minn xogħol missieri kien li jdawwar personalment m’Għawdex lil bosta personalitajiet importanti u anki lill-aġenti tal-ivjaġġar li kienu qegħdin jiskopru lill-gżira. Fatt interessanti huwa li baqa’ jagħmel dan ix-xogħol sa meta kellu 80 sena, anki jekk bla ħlas. ‘U dak il-pajjiż għandu bżonnu!’ kien jgħidli meta ġieli lmentajt miegħu.”

    Awtur Prolifiku

    Ġorġ Pisani ppubblika tmien kotba ta’ poeżiji, sitt drammi, ġabra ta’ novelli, ġabra ta’ essejs, żewġ rumanzi u żewġ ġabriet ta’ leġġendi Għawdxin. Barra minn hekk, wara mewtu, fis-sena 2000 il-Prof. Oliver Friggieri stampa antoloġija mill-kotba kollha ta’ Pisani bl-isem ‘Ġorġ Pisani – Poeżiji’ filwaqt li ibnu Paul ippubblikalu l-ktieb ‘Id-Duwa tal-Maddalena’ li kien jikkonsisti f’ġabra ta’ tagħrif folkloristiku. Iżda fir-realtà ibnu stqarr miegħi li hemm ħafna aktar x’jiġi ippubblikat.

    Rispett

    Matul ħajtu, Pisani rebaħ bosta konkorsi u premijiet letterarji. Ngħata l-premju governattiv ‘Malta Literary Award’ u l-premju internazzjonali ‘Città di Valletta’. Fl-1986 inħatar membru għal ħajtu tal-Għaqda Poeti u fl-1992 il-Gvern Malti onorah bil-Midalja Għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika. Fl-1997 il-Kunsill Lokali tal-Belt Victoria onorah b”Ġieh il-Belt Victoria’.

    Ġorġ Pisani miet fl-24 ta’ Frar 1999. Skont ibnu, il-funeral tiegħu kien xhieda tar-rispett li n-nies kellha lejh hekk kif kienu bosta dawk li attendew għall-quddiesa li ġiet ikkonċelebrata minn 61 saċerdot.

    Fl-2006 segwitu martu Rose iżda għal Paul, il-memorja tal-ġenituri tiegħu hija ħajja daqs qatt qabel.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela KOBOR IL-MALTI (23 parti) fit-Torċa tad-19 t’Ottubru 2014)

    2014.10.19 / no responses / Category: Torca - Features & Articles

  • Għad-dell tal-Mitħna tax-Xarolla

    Il-Mithna tax-Xarolla.JPGJimmy Vella flimkien max-xogholijiet tieghu.JPG

    hmar tas-salib.JPGxadina.JPG

    Carmel Bonello juri kif jinbidel in-naghal ta' ziemel.JPGIkel tradizzjonali Malti.JPG

    Nhar il-Ħadd 12 ta’ Ottubru, 2014, il-Kunsill Lokali taż-Żurrieq flimkien mal-Fondazzjoni GAL Xlokk organizzaw attività bl-isem Għad-dell tal-Mitħna.

    L-għan prinċipali ta’ din l-attività kien li jingħata ġieħ lil wirt kulturali u storiku tar-raħal taż-Żurrieq. Għaldaqstant infetħu xi siti storiċi għall-pubbliku, ittellgħu wirjiet artistiċi u esebizzjonijiet artiġġjanali, filwaqt li kien hemm ukoll is-sehem ta’ gruppi ta’ żeffiena, daqqaqa u għannejja. Ma naqsitx ukoll l-għażla ta’ ikel Malti.

    Is-sindku taż-Żurrieq, Ignatius Farrugia, kien kuntent ferm bl-attendenza qawwija tan-nies.

    “Dawn l-attivitajiet kienu possibbli bil-għajnuna ta’ GAL Xlokk li tawna daqqa t’id sabiex inġibu fondi Ewropej taħt il-Programm tal-Iżvilupp Rurali LEADER, kif ukoll bl-għajnuna tas-Segretarjat Parlamentari Għall-Presidenza tal-Unjoni Ewropeja 2017 u Fondi Ewropej,” spjega Farrugia.

    “Ħdimna ħafna biex niġbdu n-nies għal din l-attività li ddedikajna għall-mitħna tax-Xarolla u għalhekk qed napprezzaw li n-nies irrispondew bi ħġarhom. Għażilna lil din il-mitħna peress li hija waħda mis-siti prinċipali li għandna fiż-Żurrieq u nemmnu ħafna li din tista’ sservi bħala attrazzjoni kemm għan-nies tal-lokal, kemm għal bqija tal-Maltin u kif ukoll għat-turisti li jiġu jżuru dawn l-inħawi.”

    “Dan l-aħħar għamilna appell fost iż-Żrieraq sabiex jgħinuna narmaw il-kmamar kollha tal-mitħna b’għamara antika. U anki hawnhekk kellna rispons tajjeb, tant li min illum se jżur il-mitħna, se jkun jista’ jaraha armata bħal kif kienet tkun dari, meta t-taħħan kien jgħix ġewwa l-mitħna stess. Barra minn hekk, ħsibna biex intellgħu tours b’xejn fil-mitħna ħalli l-pubbliku jkollu l-opportunità biex isir jaf xi informazzjoni interessanti dwar dan il-post. Fuq kollox, il-Kuratur tal-Mitħna tax-Xarolla, George Sammut, li jiġi wkoll mill-familjari li dari kienu jieħdu ħsieb il-mitħna, se jkun qiegħed juri kif din kienet tiffunzjona snin ilu.”

    Sfortunatament, il-maltemp li ħakem lill-pajjiż il-Ħadd ta’ qabel, ħalla l-impatt tiegħu anki fuq din il-mitħna.

    “It-tromba li qala’ l-maltemp, ħakmet il-paletti tal-mitħna u kkaġunat ħafna ħsara. Minn sitt paletti kien baqa’ tnejn biss sewwa iżda waqt li xi ħaddiema kienu qed jirranġawhom, dawn waqgħu għal isfel u kellna xorti li ma weġġa’ ħadd. Hija ħasra li ġara dan għax qabel seħħ dan il-fatt, il-mitħna kienet għadha tiffunzjona perfettament. Madanakollu, aħna diġà ħadna azzjoni sabiex din tiġi rrestawrata mill-ġdid,” temm jgħid Farrugia.

    Intant, mijiet ta’ nies, inkluż barranin ħatfu l-opportunità biex jidħlu u jaraw il-mitħna tax-Xarolla li kienet imżejjna bl-għamara tal-epoka. Sadanittant, il-pubbliku seta’ jsegwi wkoll l-fdalijiet ta’ oqbra antiki li jinsabu biswit il-mitħna.

    Għal din l-okkażżjoni, infetħet ukoll il-kappella ċkejkna ta’ Sant’Andrija li wkoll qiegħda viċin tal-mitħna. Peress li dan il-post rari jkun miftuħ, anki hawn in-nies daħlu biex jaqtgħu l-kurżità. Infatti, flispazju ċkejken ta’ din il-kappella, wieħed seta’ jara esebizzjoni interessanti ta’ diversi xogħolijiet maħduma mis-sulfarini li ġiet imtellgħa minn Jimmy Vella.

    “Dan hu passatemp tiegħi li jagħtini ħafna sodisfazzjon, anki għax permezz tiegħu, jiena noħloq affarijiet li huma konnessi mal-kultura taż-Żurrieq u b’hekk dawn il-mudelli jservu wkoll bħala promozzjoni għall-wirt kulturali tagħna,” saħaq Vella.

    Il-wirja kienet tinkludi mudelli tal-mitħna tax-Xarolla, tat-torri ta’ Bubaqra u tan-Nigret, il-Knisja ta’ Santa Marija ta’ Bubaqra, il-Parroċċa ta’ Santa Katarina taż-Żurrieq, karozza tal-linja mill-antiki, ajruplan tal-gwerra u dgħajjes tas-sajd tradizzjonali.

    “B’kollox għandi 31 mudell u din is-sena rbaħt l-unur tal-Malta Records għalihom,” qal Vella.

    Kien hemm ħafna aktar x’tara fl-inħawi tal-mitħna tax-Xarolla hekk kif xi individwi oħra ħolqu attrazzjonijiet varji. Toni Frendo kellu ħmar griż mhux tas-soltu, magħruf bħala ‘tas-salib’, filwaqt li Pawlu Cachia kellu xadina l-ġmiel tagħha. Min-naħa l-oħra, Carmel Bonello beda juri lill-pubbliku kif jitbiddel in-nagħal taż-żwiemel u l-għala jsir dan. Gruppi oħra kienu lebsin ta’ suldati u kien hemm anki min kien qiegħed jagħmel il-bizzilla. Xi individwi lebsin tal-epoka komplew jagħtu l-ħajja lil dawn l-attivitajiet.

    (Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fil-gazzetta KULĦADD tad-19 t’Ottubru 2014)

    2014.10.19 / 1 response / Category: Torca - Features & Articles