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As the second month of the year is almost over, time seems to go by extremely quickly, especially as we enter a period which will eventually lead us to the end of March, with the most joyous celebration of Christianity and in our islands. Yet Easter is a far cry away from the dull, Lenten moments we are living through now, which contrasts differently with the spontaneous revelry we have just been through during the Carnival weekend.

velop a simple hobby into a life goal.

Furthermore, Manuel Xuereb’s visit is also worth reading, as this time he discovers the Ta’ Kola windmill: an ancient relic of a period where selfsufficiency was a must, and a somber reminder of the hardships our forefathers had to endure in times of crisis. Currently under restoration, It’s this element of transition which we decided to ex- a visit to this site is a must, and we amine further in our main feature, where we discov- hope that Manuel’s feature further ered the special relationship which exists between the encourages you to do so in the near future. profanity of the Carnival period, and the strong sacred aspect of Lent, and how our forefathers managed to I wish you all a good month, and till we meet again, pass on a unique capability which allows us to em- thank you for once more reading our magazine! brace these two elements simultaneously, and transit from festivities to a ritual of purification in just a cou- Yours truly, ple of hours. Once again, Catherine Cutajar manages to surprise us with another exceptionally-vivid feature on one of our island’s last remaining farmers, whose milk products are an absolute proof a man’s harmony with nature: something which unfortunately has been replaced by the rapid production methods in order to keep up with the ever-increasing demands. On the other hand, Mariliana Debrincat spent some time to get to know artist Manwel Grech, whose name is now synonymous with excellence especially with regards to feast decorations which adorn our streets every summer. Her interview helps us discover what encouraged him to de-

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Joseph

EDITOR: JOSEPH MASINI WRITERS: JOSEPH MASINI, MARILIANA DEBRINCAT CATHERINE CUTAJAR, MANUEL XUEREB PHOTOGRAPHY: ANTHONY GRECH ARTISTIC CONSULTANT: PAUL CASSAR

COPYRIGHT © THE FEJN SE MMUR TEAM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PHOTO COPYRIGHT © ANTHONY GRECH PHOTOGRAPHY (AND THE RESPECTIVE PHOTOGRAPHERS). NO PART OF THIS MAGAZINE MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION.

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inside 06 A seamless transition 10 15

This month’s main feature focuses on the unique relationship which our forefathers managed to forge between the joyous revelry of Carnival and the sombre devotion of Lent, separated by just a few hours. This transition is one which is truly unique to our islands and culture.

Back to those days CATHERINE CUTAJAR got the opportunity to interview one of Gozo’s last remaining farmers, whose dairy products are a symbol of a harmonious relationship with nature.

Pushing the past back to the present For February’s feature, MANUEL XUEREB paid a visit to the “Ta’ Kola” Windmill in Xaghra, which he discovered to be nothing but a relic of a time in which selfsufficiency was a must, and hardship a rule, not an exception.

20 A leap of faith.. ends in success!

In this month’s “Artist of the Month” feature, MARILIANA DEBRINCAT gets to know artist Manwel Grech better. His name is now synonymous with excellence, especially when it comes to feast decorations which adorn our streets each year.

23 Cultural Journal

Revisit last January’s events in our Cultural Journal!

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For this month’s main feature, JOSEPH MASINI discovers the rich and unique diversity which dominates the month of February. From joyous festivities to heartfelt devotion, this month is truly a feast for the eyes and an element worth examining further.

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a seamless

transition


“February is a constant reminder of what hundreds of years of cultural and artistic development has given our generation today.�

Despite

the ceaseless wintery chill which still dominates our atmosphere, February brings about one of the most significant cultural, traditional, and religious transitions of the year. Nowhere else in our calendar do we have a period so full of stark contrasts and significant differences as this month, which is characterised by two extremes, which have however learnt to coexist and embrace one another in a way which is unique only to our islands. Today, February is still renowned for Carnival as much as it is known for Lent: merriness and sombre devotion are still teaming up one of the most unique and colourful elements in our annual calendar. For generations, this seemingly-sensitive, but actually strong balance has been preserved by people young and old alike. There remains to this day no clear separation between the festive revelry of the Carnival weekend, and the devotional, dull moments which follow barely hours apart. With the majority of people participating rather actively in both, the line between the two remains as fine as it was centuries ago, proving a traditional characteristic of ours which amalgamates the sacred with the profane. Actually, one

can even argue that in the past, the transition between Carnival and Lent was even more defined, with the custom of burning the Carnival King (karru) to symbolise the end if merriment, no longer being practiced for quite some time. Though both elements are worldwide phenomena, the way with which we practice and react to them is quite unique. Needless to say, today we can boast with one of the most spectacular and historic Carnivals in Europe, dominated by an element of spontaneity which makes us different from our competition. The high degree of involvement should not only make us proud because of sheer numbers, but also for its voluntary nature which however does not diminish, even slightly, the passion with which thousands of people prepare for this weekend from months beforehand. The love some locals have for this festival is self-evident as one sees them dancing joyfully or proudly parading their costumes around the main streets of our island. However, less than a day after the revelry ends, we not only managed to return back to our normal routine, but plunge head-first into a long period of sobriety, sacrifice, abstinence, and prayer: perhaps the most exNOVEMBER 2012

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treme scenario one could ever think of when coming up with an opposite to the joyfulness of the Carnival festivities. Yet, despite appearing as a difficult transition to accomplish in just a few hours, this ritual has become so much engrained in our lifestyle, that we find it only natural to go to Church and take part in the ‘purifying’ rite of having ashes put on our foreheads, and being reminded that we must tend to matters of the some more than those of the body. After this day, a dark, deep violet replaces the multicolour façade of our culture, and as pilgrims on this earth, we follow our faith leaders in a period of serious reflection

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in preparation for Christianity’s greatest mysteries. With these two completely different sides, February is a month worth examining over and over again. It is a constant reminder of what hundreds of years of cultural and artistic development have given our generations today. Truly, this month is a yearly reminder of why we are diverse as a nation and unique as a people which has learnt to harmonise pleasure with prayer.


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back to those days... produce a wide array of dairy products. The number of people doing this kind of work has decreased drasFor yet another month, CATHERINE CUTAJAR’s ar- tically, and therefore, we were truly lucky to get this ticle helps us discover a world of talent and artisan opportunity to discover such an ancient ritual. skills which unfortunately are diminishing by the year. Zeppi Mercieca’s farm is a relic of a time when our forfathers had to be self-suffient to survive.

The Fejn se Mmur team met a rather interesting person for this month’s issue. His name is Zeppi Mercieca: a person who is still practicing the maneuver of milking sheep in the old manual manner, in order to

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Zeppi Mercieca showed us the process that needs to be done for this type of work. This requires him to do this work twice a day, in the morning and even in the evening. He continues to add that the milk is not to be touched with bare hands or any other material, in order not to contaminate it. Żeppi explains how he passes the milk through a tomos: a young sheep’s stomach which is preserved in salt after being left to dry out for around six weeks. This stomach turns the milk into ricotta which is then put into a ‘qaleb’, a small dome-


shaped plastic container. Ricotta is then dried or sold as ‘gbejniet friski’ (fresh cheeselets).

---------------------------------------------“Mr. Mercieca struggled in these hard times, but he knew that day after day, this was his job. After a day at work, he used to go home and rest, for he knew that the following day, it would be the same routine over again...” ----------------------------------------------

Mercieca has been doing this type of work since he was a child. He recalls his father doing the same thing, at a time where people had to earn their income somewhat and so started to sell the milk. He remembers also how early he had to wake up, not only to milk sheep, but also cows. This work had to be done in the early morning and during the evening, because leaving the animals unmilked for too long would end up ruining the of hobbies, he likes the work in the fields and back then he even liked hunting, though nowadays it has product. decreased quite a lot as well. However, Zeppi’s day was Regarding machinery, Zeppi says that it is helpful as always spent doing some kind of job in the primary it makes his work much easier. For instance, he is now sector, working either with animals or in the fields. able to milk more than one sheep at once, apart from the faster process of producing ricotta from the milk. Sadly, Mercieca admits that this job has decreased. He For Mr. Mercieca, although the milk is even done by recalls how back in the days, there were a lot of people machinery, the quality has remained the same high- who did this kind of job but nowadays, it is only one or two whom you’ll find still doing this job. It’s not only quality produce as before. because of the lifestyles that nowadays we conduct, Like any other type of work, at times it can get very but also due to people who find that this kind of job hard and a person might even lose hope. Mr. Mercieca does not provide enough income to live with. struggled in these hard times, but he knew that day after day, this was his job. After a day at work, he used to On the other hand, although this job has decreased a go home and rest for he knew that the following day; lot, people still find interest in knowing how this job it would be the same routine again. As for some type is done. For instance he tells our team, how Gozitans,

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Maltese and tourists alike come to his place, where he teaches them how this job works and how he does it, giving them the opportunity to even help him around by cleaning or feeding the animals. Moreover, at the end of the day, they like to get together while eating some food they cooked together.

wishes that this type of job continues to be taking care of and taught even in the future. He also adds how maybe even by tourist who might be interested to learn in this specific sector. The Fejn Se Mmur team couldn’t agree more with this conclusion, as we know how amazing the world is when diversity dominates our environIn conclusion, Mr. Mercieca ment.

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pushing present the past back to the

For this month’s article, MAN UEL XUEREB visited the “Ta’ Kola” Windmill, currently undergoing extensive restoration, and discovered a central piece of our past heritage, and a relic of a period where selfsufficiency was simply a must.

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W

elcome readers, this time for the Museum of the Month feature of the February issue, where I will embark on a similar journey to try to explain the important aspects of a particular chosen museum. However, before I commence like every time I do this segment. I will deliberate on W idea of how a museum can be interpreted. After some hard thought, the American constitution came to mind, especially since it is constantly mentioned by the US media, mostly referenced in debates. The American constitution is a written document which is stored in the National Constitution Center museum. This document which was written by the founding fathers after the successful American Revolution is what the American democracy is based on. However more exclusively than that, it dictates how the executive, legislative and judiciary bodies of the American governments are construed. I can imagine the document framed in an expensive thick glass. Also I can picture the extensive advanced security cameras securing this one-of-akind artifact, and the many bodyguards as well surrounding the museum. From this idea I can define the museum as storing something that is a national symbol with a huge historical and national importance. So important that it has to be guarded and protected so the whole nation can enjoy such a vital exhibit. The museum picked for this month has a similar tone to this definition I portrayed. The Ta’ Kola Windmill has many exhibits which were an important part of everyday life back in the day. However the whole

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museum represents a national symbol and has huge historical importance for the generations that used its services and depended on this engineering masterpiece. The windmill is a piece of engineering brought about by the new advancement in technology because of the rise of the industrial revolution. Obviously Malta, which was always conquered by the major powers throughout history, always got to progress by the introductions of new technology by its subjugators. The Heritage Malta organization which owns several museums around Malta and Gozo decided to acquire this Windmill in 1992. The Windmill was named ‘Ta’ Kola’ because Żeppu, the owner of this windmill had a father named Nikola, leading to his nickname as the son of Kola (in Maltese “it-tifel ta’ Kola”). When acquired in 1992 there were many things to review and check about this windmill. The organisation’s goal in every museum was to bring back to life such exhibits. Żeppu kept the windmill in a good condition; however there was some construction and necessary changes to be done. The windmill was built in 1780 in Xagħra, located on a rigid tall hill. During that time there was another one in Nadur, this too being on a high level to use as much wind as possible. Moreover there was another one in Għarb. The windmill in Għarb shows that there was a large population there, even though today it might be depicted as a small village. The Grandmaster Vilhena back in 1775 made an inquiry to check the condition of these three windmills, which found that the struc-


“This makes a particular noise which today’s generation will surely never hear unless it gets restored.” tures were suffering severe damage. They were all re- times of the year in the past. built in the same place and same way, except for the Xagħra one. When the Order took control of the islands, it found an older version of the windmill which did not need Some historians were asked to inspect. Thus they wind. The source of power is different, using an anicleaned the windmill and made several exhibits for mal instead of the wind that turns in circle pushing the show. These exhibits which consist of the basic house- two rocks that crush the grain. This was collected from hold necessities reveal the way of living and the many farmers, which they brought to the windmill. The Orluxurious items they had in the household. Pretty der appreciated this system which has some advantagmuch they had just the basics, with no decorations es; mainly that it did not need wind and could be built or fancy material. I also remember there was an old anywhere. However, this was not enough though. The sewing machine, obviously the first of its kind. Peo- population was constantly growing, meaning that the ple back in the 1700s only had what they needed, and demand for food was growing as well. They wanted they were content with that. They only desired cloth- to create something industrial and that could produce ing, food and water, and shelter. The main two differ- enough to meet their needs, so the windmill technoloences this windmill represents which are drastically gy was brought from Portugal. We are an island so the different from today’s generation are electricity and wind is constantly all year round. This windmill strucfood production. ture was built in stone, taken from the local industry. Luckily the resources needed to build the windmill The windmills were built to store the wheat and pro- were provided by the island because wood or timber duce it, which was the main source of food for the was not used, as the wood industry was weak. Maltese population And Gozitan populations. This was due to the fact that the islands depended on fish- The windmill was there to feed an entire village. Durery and agriculture for food production. Moreover ing the war the food was scarce and the windmill had if the fishing season was poor, the demand on agri- to be used again. Wherever the windmill resided, the cultural food soared. It was nothing compared to the families built their homes nearby. Moreover, when the same food abundance in today’s society: something Order came, they prepared the islands for any furwhich we take for granted. The scarcity of food which ther attacks or invasions which they did not experiexisted in the 1700s and almost always can be seen ence, except the French invasion and a few bombings even in one of our religious prayers where we pray for in World War II. Moreover during the 1700s people God to give us our daily bread. It is not a coincidence started leaving from the Citadel and Rabat, and settle why we pray that way, since food was scarce in certain nearby these windmills and close to the center. This NOVEMBER 2012

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which was investigated and found to have huge destructive damages. Kola was not a professional fixer; he fixed it using short-term solutions almost as patch work. However patch on patch creates a problem that requires an immense fix up to allow it to function for a long term period. This created enough incentive for a new machinery to be built based on the old style, which is currently in construction. Moreover, the second floor was in risk of breaking down. Visitors were not allowed to go up, and beacons were put in place to save it. Therefore in the future Heritage Malta will be able to make this structure in top shape and allow it to work like back in the day. Not only does Heritage Malta see this as vital necessity but it takes it as the organization’s duty on its museums to keep the exhibits in its full glory.

could explain why probably the village of Xagħra and Nadur grew so fast, together with the fact that the hills they were settling on gave them security from attacks. The windmill worked with two rocks, one made of a strong local rock, and the other from lava. The rock on the bottom is stationary and the other turns on it. The worker throws the wheat in the center of the two rocks, which enters in the center gap and gets crushed. This makes a particular noise which today’s generation will surely never hear unless it gets restored. When it turns, the wheat gets crushed, and the design allows a way for the crushed wheat to get out and get filtered to separate the bigger pieces. This was an efficient system which was depended on by many. During the English period, the rent was increased, and the owners’ monopoly on windmills previously allowed by the Order was terminated. This allowed people the incentive to built their own private windmills and bring down prices. Today, there are huge restoration plans for the ‘Ta’ Kola’ windmill. This was caused due to a huge storm. The windmill without the ‘wings’ you have a reduced imagery element which needs to be fixed to allow the Gozitan people to fully appreciate it. There were things to restore, such as the machinery,

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This museum which differs from all the previous museums I analyzed differs because one can see it from both outside and inside. However those who see the windmill everyday might neglect its symbolic relevance and what it stands for. It is a symbol of progress where today we have enough food for everyone, and electricity that is the energy used through the burning of oil, coal and gas. Life back then was a struggle just to fulfill the needs, and the many wants and luxuries of today were non-existent and unimaginable. I urge any historian enthusiast and nationalist to view this not just as any windmill but a stage where our society pushed forward, a stage which was necessary and everyday life for many. I also encourage those who visit to take some time to admire it from the outside and also from the inside when the construction is finalised and the windmill is back pushing wind out of its way. ‘Ta’ Kola’ opens from 9am to 5pm every day, Monday to Sunday. Those who wish to take a special price of 5 Euros, get to visit this museum and Ġgantija: another historical symbol of our island.


The site whe thedral is sit been also h cient temple Roman g

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A LEAP OF FAITH

success ENDS IN

and designer, and around this time of year, he is also In her February feature, MARILIANA DEBRINCAT known as a great talented make- up artist for several interviews one of our islands’ most established lucky Carnival dancers. names when it comes to the festive decorations which adorn our streets every summer. From a hobby, Manwel Grech has matured his passion for art which today forms an essential part of his life.

A

fine summery day in winter took us to the studio of a very talented artist Manuel Grech, whom we found waiting for people from Hal Ghaxaq to come and collect one of their latest works commissioned to him. Grech is a sculptor, painter

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Grech’s passion for the feast of the Assumption gave him the inspirational push to pursue such a career. He recalls how when he was young, he always loved to paint, but as he grew up he realised that he needed to do something more to those flat images and shapes on the paper: “I wanted them to pop out of the paper. I had no other option but to start working with clay”. That’s when he decided to experiment with three-dimensionality and start giving the images and designs on the paper a 360 dimension. In a very successful at-


tempt to realise his wish, he contacted Joe Camilleri, an artist who specialised in figurines (‘pasturi’) and who was giving a course at that period. Basically that’s how his career began to shape up and flourish. However he didn’t stop at just that. When together with his friends, they started meeting up to work for the feast of Santa Marija, he was inspired to start working on sculptures for the traditional pedestals. Apart from Joe Camilleri, he also had the opportunity of being taught by Alfred Camilleri Cauchi. When performing such work Grech explains how everything has to be modelled in clay first in order to take the shape and later start working on fibre glass. Recently, he was taught the art of papier-mâché (‘kartapesta’) by Aaron Camilleri Cauchi, which is a really antique profession. He admits that at first he was a bit sceptical on working with this technique instead of fibre glass, however he started to find this form of art to be more interesting than the one he used before, mostly because one cannnot add any extra details after finalising the form with clay, but this becomes possible when one is working with papier-mâché. Manuel is really attracted to Baroque Art. “Baroque “... he always loved to paint, but Art is a genre that helps me express myself more than any other genre.” He tells us that although Baroque art as he grew up, he realised that he has certain rules that an artist has to abide by, it still needed to do something more to does not block one’s creativity. Jokingly he adds that “after spending a year working on Baroque art, de- those flat images and shapes on the signing carnival costumes comes about as a break to paper ...” me.” He furthers that Baroque gives sculpture a touch of dramaticism. When working on the crib, he tells us how he always induces that sense of sadness that peo- this type of glue one starts to bring out the detail in ple interpret as happiness, however through this sad- the body, followed by another type of glue which is ness he really aims in making people realise that the used in finalising the product. child has indeed sacrificed himself for us. In 2010 Grech produced his first life-sized statue, that While at the studio, we also had the opportunity to of the Nativity. From that year many more opporget to know the art of papier-mâché. First, one has to tunities to produce life-sized statues started coming get hold of some traditional newspaper material, cut- his way. Right now in Malta he has around 25 village ting them into pieces, damping them with some water feasts that give him commissions, including Hal Tarxand then mixing them together with the brace. After ien, Hal Ghaxaq, Bormla, Fgura and Qormi. He even modelling the body in clay, the chalk is formed in clay showed us the designs of his works for the feasts from and left to dry. Afterwards the paper pulp mixture, his portfolio, whilst explaining how he gets the idea which is now like paste, is put in the chalk form. After from real life people. In fact, he even modelled one the chalk body is strengthened from the inside with of his pieces on his niece when she was two years old. the mixture, it is then strengthened from the outside This piece can be found on one of the trofej in Zejtun. with ‘kolla taz-zibeg’ (a special collate). When using He also showed us the designs of his feast flags (banNOVEMBER 2012

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dalori) including those for the Naxxar and Tarxien feasts. While showing us his various commissions for the feast of Tarxien, he explains how it was the second village that gave him commissions. They gave him enough work for approximately one year, and that’s when he decided to give up his work as manager and take a leap of faith into the future.

learnt with other people, and very recently his wish was realised as he was called to teach at the school of art in Ghajnsielem . He teaches about twenty-five people. To Grech “it is a very nice experience, and in the same time I get to break the normal routine of always working in the studio.”

Grech regards the future as if opening a parcel, not Grech tells us how his opportunity of being taught by knowing what to expect next. “In this year’s parcel it such great artists like the Camilleri Cauchis , made was the statue of Pius IX for the feast of Hal Tarxien, a him feel the want to be able to share what he had statue which technically will be bigger than life size.”

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journal CULTURAL JANUARY 2013

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FEAST OF ST JOHN BOSCO The last weekend of January brought about the traditional feast of St John Bosco, celebrated by the community residing near the Oratory which bears the same saint’s name. The procession with the statue of the saint toured around the main streets of Victoria in the evening, after a solemn high mass in the morning. The statue depicting St John Bosco which is used in the procession held each year in January.

G.P.A. ESTABLISHED January saw the establishment of the Gozo Photography Association: an organisation of locals whose passion for photography and everything related to this artistic sector inspired them to create such a group. The Association held its constituent general meeting, during which the official statute was approved. Some of the members of the newly-created Gozo Photography Association (GPA) pose for a photograph during Carnival.

CARNIVAL EXHIBITION HELD Leading photographer Tonio Schembri organised an exhbition entitled “Apokreas” at the Banca Giuratale. Featuring carnival shots by Schembri himself, this exhibition was opened by the Hon. Minister Giovanna Debono, and intended to collect funds which were then donated to the local charity “Puttinu Cares” which helps children suffering from cancer, as well as their parents and families. The exhibition was also open during the Carnival period in Gozo.

Hon. Minister for Gozo Giovanna Debono opening the exhibition “Apokreas” (Credit: DOI) NOVEMBER 2012

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Fejn se Mmur Magazine - Issue 15