Page 1

gozo The Malta Independent on Sunday 4 August 2019





The chapel where in 1883 Karmni Grima anf Franisku Portelli heard the voice of the Blessed Mother

The Assumption of Our Lady

From CHAPEL to BASILICA Ta’ Pinu church was built as the result of the mystical religious experience of a farmer’s daughter. Her name was Carmela Grima.


armela Grima, known as Karmni, was born 181 years ago on February 2, 1838, in Gharb, Gozo. Her parents, Thomas and Antonia were farmers and worked in the fields nearby; so did Karmni, as she grew up. Every day, Karmni would hear Mass in a small chapel, which had escaped demolition centuries before. In 1575 Pope Gregory XIII delegated Msgr Pietro Duzina to visit the Maltese

Karmni Grima Statue

Islands. Finding the church in a bad condition he ordered it to be demolished and its duties to pass to the parish church. But when the task began the workman making the first strike broke his arm. Everyone saw this as a sign the church should not be demolished and it became the only chapel on the island not to succumb to similar decrees from Duzina. Already the chapel and Karmni's' destinies were becoming entwined. Twenty-three years later Pinu Gauci became the procurator of the church and changed its name to Ta` Pinu, meaning of Philip. In 1611 Gauci paid for it to be restored with a stone altar added and provided investments for liturgical services. In 1619 he commissioned the painting for the main altar, The Assumption of Our Lady, by, Bartolomeo Amadeo Perugino. One day in 1883, as Karmni was returning home from the fields, she passed the chapel, as usual, and heard a voice asking her to "Come ... come

today. For a whole year, you will not be able to return." Naturally she was terrified but she did go in. The painting of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary still hung inside and from it Karmni heard the same voice instructing her to "Recite three Hail Marys in honour of the three days that I stayed within the tomb." Soon after this Karmni became ill and was unable to return to the chapel for a year. To begin with, Karmni said nothing about her experience. But eventually she told her priest and her friend Francis Portelli, who was also devoted to the Virgin Mary. He told her that he had also heard the voice, recommending devotion to the wounds caused to her Divine Son by the weight of His cross on the way to Calvary. They both kept these events to themselves. But when Francis's mother's recovery from a disease she suffered was proclaimed a miracle a deep devotion to Our Lady of Ta' Pinu developed.

Karmni Grima portrait People started organising pilgrimages asking for temporal and spiritual favours. The church authorities built a sanctuary to house the crowds that visited daily. Karmni died aged 88, on 25 February 1922. She had been bedridden for the last 15 years of her life, but bore her suffering and passed her days at peace with herself and fully contented in the will of God. Her home was passed to the church and is now a museum, full of artifacts from her life and times. In 1993, the village school changed its to Karmni Grima, Għarb Primary School, and attached a plaque to the school's façade. In 1920, the foundation stone of the church standing in place of the chapel Karmni knew was laid. People come from around the world to visit Ta' Pinu. It is a far cry from the scene Karmni would recognise, but its purpose is the same as ever.

Dun Gerard Buhagiar at the Dar Karmni Grima Museum









A new face to a TIMELESS EPIC Vivien Hewitt

VIVIEN HEWITT returns at the Aurora, with Luke Azzopardi


llica and Giacosa’s Bohème is a timeless story of romance and loss. A struggling young writer falls for a working class seamstress with a terminal illness. Meanwhile, his wild artist friend enjoys an on-off relationship with a good-time girl who, tired of jealousy and possessiveness, finds pleasurable alternatives to his bullish chauvinism. This is the storyline of La Bohème set in a grotty Paris attic with damp creeping up the walls and huge studio windows that look out over a city of smoking chimney stacks. Theirs is a timeless story as much as Puccini’s score is immortal. Fused together, music and lyrics, bring the joint attributes that make a production indisputably epic. This is set to happen this October as the Aurora brings on board, for a second year round, worldrenowned stage director Vivien Hewitt for a new production of La Bohéme. The timelessness of Bohéme is key to her approach in what is to be her first completely new production of the title in several years. She believes that Bohéme “is a timeless opera because love-crossing boundaries, becoming strife, and

sometimes ending in tragedy, is part of our everyday life. I have spent my entire professional life working with Puccini and I first did Bohème as a teenage props lady in a production in Belfast. Yet wherever or however you do the opera – my last production in 2018 was for the state-of-the-art Seoul Arts Center – the opera is full of universal values that know no barrier of time or place. The mad joys of youth and the discovery that life is fragile are experiences that belong to every human life from Paris to Buenos Aires and from Milan to Beijing, as the hundreds of performances of Puccini’s opera worldwide, every year prove to us.” Quite naturally and unsurprisingly, knowing Aurora and the opera-in-Gozo factor, one question automatically pops up: So how do you make the new production of La Bohéme, new… unique and unusual? Hewitt is set to explore the autobiographical elements that abound in the opera. Rather than reading the score and the plot as the audience would, she explores these masterpieces from the point of view of who composed them and tries to make them part of her emotional truth. In fact, she states, she thinks we need to get away from cliché and into the real Paris and Milan of the times of Puccini and his companions. Thus, the Aurora’s new Bohéme will be set in the 1880’s Paris of Puccini rather than in the 1850’s Paris of Henri Murger’s original short stories and drama. We expect to see Paris ‘The City of Light’, a metropolis with bustling streets and a huge amount of night life and street entertainment, very similar to Puccini’s Milan, where the composer studied at the Conservatoire from 1881 to 1884 at a time when the Victor Emanuel Gallery was brand new and the city dominated the world music market. As exciting as this gets, the Aurora Theatre administration, once again paired Vivien Hewitt with the celebrated couturier Luke Azzopardi. While opera aficionados and fashion followers alike still recall the magic of last year’s Tosca golden Te Deum, La Bohéme brings a

The 2018 successful production of Tosca at the Aurora that received rave reviews; a first time collaboration for the Aurora Opera House with stage director Vivien Hewitt and couturier Luke Azzopardi, which is set to recur this time round for La Bohéme. completely different aura, a distinctively different platform, but still a very interesting space where fashion and aesthetics can do more than just make a statement. Indeed, they carry the story with all the emotions of the original creators. Hewitt and Azzopardi have studied with attention artists like Caillebotte, Degas, Renoir and Manet, as well as many contemporary photos of the period of the Paris streets and its people. The sharp distinction between the colourless nondescript ‘worker ants’ of a drab industrial society and the colourful, transgressive personalities who dedicate their lives to the arts and performance will provide plenty of space where the Azzopardi signature is certain to flourish. Mimì, the heroine of Bohème, is the epitome of the female worker ant: modest, quiet, caring and unpretentious, while the other main female character, Musetta belongs to the exuberant world of Café Chantant and the circus arts where Eros meets commerce and social affirmation. During the opera’s short two hours of magnificent music the protagonists will make a gigantic emotional transition from the carefree, individualistic world of bohemian life to sentimental maturity. Vivien Hewitt says: “Over the years I have studied the letters of Puccini, his librettist Luigi Illica and their contemporaries, composer Alfredo Catalani and conductor Arturo Toscanini, and realised to what extent the composer and his librettist wove their own lives into the texture of the story, remembering real incidents and experiences and putting them into the storyline and text.”

The world of Puccini, Illica, Mascagni and Leoncavallo had many points in common with that of French impressionist artist like Lautrec, Renoir and Degas. The composers all played piano, in cabarets as students, and frequented night spots just as risqué as Bal Bullier, Moulin Rouge and the Circus rings of Degas and Surat’s. Puccini was fascinated by Cafe Chantant and would have wanted a chanteuse for Musetta but he knew that the conventional world of opera would never allow him such liberty. “I hope to create a Bohème that captures the spirit Puccini strived to portray and the ensemble work he knew broke all the rules of ‘stand up and sing’ heroic opera to offer the public a very intimate, almost cinematographic story about real, everyday people” she adds. Hence, the 2018 new production of La Bohéme will be set amidst the fascinating Paris architecture that sprang up during the beginning of the Third French Republic’ at the end of the life of Hausmann; architecture that was original, quirky and looked forward to the Art Nouveau movement. La Bohéme at the Aurora promises to be a rollercoaster of emotions. “There will be fun, plenty of laughs”, says Vivien Hewitt, “and at the end, I hope, many a tear shed for the death of Mimì, our gentle and courageous heroine who is the best part of every one of us”. La Bohéme is on at the Aurora theatre, on Saturday October 12, 2019 at 7:30pm. Tickets priced €80, €70, €60 and €50 are available online from www.teatruaurora.com or 79045779.





We may well be in the middle of a very hot summer, but with its famous oleander bushes, beautifully planted roundabouts and roadsides and artistic pots of shrubs Gozo still looks pretty and colourful. And for a slow stroll or somewhere to relax, Rundle Gardens is just perfect.






Landmark anniversary of ONE OF MALTA’S STAPLE INGREDIENTS While the world celebrates Man's first step on the moon, half a century ago, an even longer time span, 85 years, marks the anniversary of Three Hills Brand Kunserva.


here would we be without Kunserva? Hopefully we will never have to find out! This year’s tomato season is well underway, as it has been ever since 1930, when Gianni Magro and his sons began a new venture in the family business, that of purchasing tomatoes which were found in all local kitchens during summer. However, in those days, tomatoes were still not cultivated commercially. By 1934, after taking over the business from their father and establishing themselves as Gozo’s leading general merchants and food distributors, the brothers began another totally new venture, that of processing tomatoes into Kunserva – tomato-paste. In the beginning Kunserva was sold in tins of about three kilos and grocers would sell it by weight, wrapped in grease-proof paper. Not surprisingly it was an

immediate success and quickly became an essential item in every kitchen, locally and abroad. The ingredients are deceptively simple, plump, juicy tomatoes, picked at their absolute best with… well, that is a closely-guarded secret kept by the Magro family, who formulated the recipe. Today Kunserva is bought in tins, jars and convenient tubes. Adjustments have been made for our more health-conscious tastes and Three Hills Kunserva is available with no added salt and 30% less added sugar. There are also versions with basil and garlic, mint and onion and the Kunserva Pikkanti, for those who appreciate a variety. Eighty-five years on from the first spoonfuls of tomato paste finding their way onto hobżbiż-żejt, most of our local dishes are all enhanced by Kunserva:- Ricotta ravioli with Kunserva and garlic sauce, rabbit or octopus stew, baked pastas and soups, it just adds an extra special something!


Of course, Magro Brothers didn’t stop at just creating the best quality tomato products. Over the years other condiments, vegetables, olive oil, honey and jams, cakes and liqueurs have joined their popular range. And a special mention should go to Hanini dairy products. Years of careful research have gone into creating Hanini 100% pasteurised cheeselets, which are safe to enjoy, and still have the same great taste of Gozitan sheep’s milk cheeselets. There is a vast choice of vacuumpacked ġibniet with different flavours besides the popular fruit yogurts. But all this has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Here it is important to mention how carefully the creators of all Magro Brothers’ products allow for the health and dietary needs of their customers. Wherever possible, gluten and lactose-free versions of their products are available. Concerns over the effects of sugar and salt on

even the healthiest of us have led to the introduction of recipes that ensure these ingredients are kept to the safest levels, with low calorie alternatives. Reduced fat products and those with no artificial colours and preservatives are also high on the company’s agenda. The nutritional information, including a health guide portraying the recommended daily allowance for a balanced diet, appears on the majority of the Group’s products. “No one should have to sacrifice their favourite foods to live a healthier lifestyle”, says John Magro, Managing Director.


The whole range of Magro Brothers’ products is produced at The Magro Food Village. Kicking off with a magnificent multimedia tour at Savina Creations workshops, it is a terrific experience to witness foods in the making from processing to packaging. Naturally, what you see will depend on the seasons and what foods are being produced in the main processing plant, the dairy and cheese-making centre and the artisan workshops, where you can follow the creation of tomato-

based products, cheeselets, infused oils and vinegars, wine and many other items. But that’s not all! We can actually visit the old Gozitan kitchen gallery, follow agrotourism lectures on traditional local farming and crops, learn about the nutritional values and cooking methods of Maltese recipes, watch original crafts in the making; participate in hands-on cooking classes with local chefs and, of course, free tasting of food and beverages produced in-house. Not every one of Gozo’s ‘famous sites’ can claim to offer something for all ages and nationalities, but a tour of The Magro Food Village surely can. Escorted by excellent, trained leaders you will be amazed how easy it is to spend hours absorbing the knowledge, visual and tasty experiences of the whole environment. For further details and to book your tour call freephone 8007 5533 or email visits@magro.com.mt.

TIME TO CELEBRATE Take part in the Three Hills special Kunserva 85th competition You could win a number of gifts including cash notes and of course the traditional Maltese clocks. Look on the inside of the sleeve on each Kunserva pack, then insert the code you find on the Three Hills Facebook Page, in the COMPETITION section. You will be notified immediately if your code is a winner or not. You can also fill in your full details on the panel of the sleeve and post it to Magro Brothers, The Magro Food Village, Xewkija, Gozo XWK 3000, where staff will take care to log in your code for you, or try your luck by sending any two Kunserva lids by post.





Aspects of GĦARB I

Photos by Daniel Cilia

n the far north of Gozo lies a village with an atmosphere all of its own. Bordered by fields; edged by cliffs and the sea, both reached via a long, quiet valley, and neighbouring Wied ilMielaħ, which now fills in for Dwejra’s Azure window. Gћarb has a very special atmosphere, not only for its residents but for visitors too. Patrick Formosa, who grew up in the village over 80 years ago, has written The History of Gћarb. It is a beautifully illustrated book which includes interviews he recorded some 50 years ago, with

several Gћarbin from the whole community and recalls a way of life that we can only imagine today. With experience and affection he shows that while, obviously, life in the village has changed; in many ways it remains fundamentally the same. Reading accounts of how people managed in what, today seem like almost primitive ways, emphasises the difficulties and limitations with which they coped. But it also highlights the value and security of living in a community which understands the need to be almost completely

self sufficient, and sees those within its environs as extended family. The stories collected are totally authentic, and can also be enjoyed through the addition of a USB stick tucked in the sleeve of the book. Readers can hear the residents‘ stories and memories, just as if they were meeting in the bakers, bar, or band club. Mr Formosa was prompted to publish this work by the fact that quite recent ways of life are rapidly become distant memories. But for the generations that make up

Gћarb’s population there are some things that show no sign of changing; their links with the important traditions they have always known – the ability to face what comes and goes; to work, study and play through ambition or simply for the sake of it; and to, in so many thoughtful and satisfying ways, welcome and help those they meet. And finally, to share the affection and pride they have in their village with those who are lucky enough to spend time there and really explore its depths.

positive ways? Foreign residents add a touch of cosmopolitanism to an otherwise provincial way of life. Għarb is a place where cultures meet, talk and live harmoniously. The fact that Gozitans often maintain residences owned by foreigners provides for possibilities of productive encounters and crosshospitality. It is not only the people of Għarb who are sharing spaces with foreigners, the latter are often opening their private spaces, formerly owned by Għarb people, including members of my family, for human encounters. While the community is heterogeneous and mobile, people are still curious about each other, and crosscultural conversations do happen. Għarb is a place where permanence meets mobility, where transience is a way of life as much as fixed presence. Goodbyes are often temporary since Għarb is revisited repeatedly because it offers the

tranquillity that has long been lost elsewhere.

GĦARB though time We asked My Formosa about growing up in Għarb and his hopes for its future. What were some of the best things you remember about growing up in Gћarb? Għarb was a quaint village with very limited communication with the rest of the world. This explains our distinctive dialect and wellpreserved traditions. I remember fellow villagers who had never stepped outside Għarb. Victoria was too far away for some. Everything revolved around the church and the Catholic calendar. The Church was ubiquitous. Play included simulations of rituals that we, as children baptised within the Catholic Church, witnessed on a daily basis. Many children had a small church or an altar to play with. Toys were mostly improvised. My favourite toy was a wooden spinning top. I distinctively remember playing on the parvis of the church of the village, in the presence of Mario and Salvino Testaferrata, teenagers back then, who came to Għarb as refugees, during World War II. While Għarb did not suffer much during World War II, it left a mark on me as a child. I remember vividly an episode where an Italian warplane was shot down. People spotted the pilot coming down with his parachute at Ta’ Għammar. Parachute silk shirts were very visible in the weeks that followed!

Schooling at Għarb is something I remember vividly and with great fondness. It was a small school, one class per grade. I remember a very good headmaster who lived in Għarb, Mr Richard Buhagiar, who used to give after-school lessons to prepare us for the Lyceum exam. Mr Buhagiar role-modelled pride, competence and dedication. Christmas, carnival, Easter and the village festa were all celebrated, with simplicity and modesty as recurrent themes. I remember the passion plays. Many people from the village took part in its production. It involved lots of preparation, from costume design to acting. Several people came to watch, including non-Gozitans. The open spaces were all communal and free for the community to enjoy. With very few cars around, wandering about the village and its surrounding fields was healthy and safe. What were the most important ways for a village like Gћarb to maintain its sense of community? As indicated earlier, Għarb was a small, tightly knit community. Solidarity was the order of the day. For example, when someone died, neighbours would cook for the family of the deceased. Since

public transport from and to Għarb was practically non-existent, save for Sundays, neighbours going to Victoria on foot would run errands for their neighbours. From hunting to popular celebrations, life was mostly shared and experienced in communion with others. Everything was cottage-based, often bartered and, given the intimacy that reflected geographical smallness and proximity, always transparent and in open view of the community. In what ways can foreign residents alter the local way of life, for good or in not so

How would you like to see Gћarb’s history continue for its locals, and those who have chosen to make the village their home? The Gћarb I lived in as a child will never come back. What I long for is an Għarb that is fully aware of its history, culture and geographical signposts; awareness that should lead to a zealous defence of its architectural heritage, streetscapes, landscapes and quaint character, with a longsighted approach to preservation and conservation that will keep Għarb on the upper rungs of the social, cultural and environmental ladder. Għarb should be a beacon to quality of life on the islands. The History of Gћarb is available from the author who can be contacted on calling 7944/0029, 9949 0191 or 9982 2805, or from Gћarb local council.





Profile for The Malta Independent