Ir-Randan Imqaddes

Ir-Randan żmien ta’ penitenza
Għall-kuntrarju ta’ żmien il-Milied.
Fih nagħmlu s-sawm u l-astinenza
Meta ġo darna nkunu għall-kwiet.
Għax matulu nfakkru t-tbatija
Li għadda minna Sidna Ġesu`
Meta miet għalik u għalija
Biex isalva `l kulħadd hu min hu.
Il-mixja tar-Randan hi twila,
Dana għaliex fiha erbgħin jum.
Iżda jekk tagħmel ftit tal-ħila
Żgur tagħmlu sagrifiċċju kuljum.
Tajjeb li nidħlu fina nfusna
Matul daż-żmien solenni, qaddis
Ħalli jekk forsi kibru rjusna
Insiru umli mill-aktar fis.
F’daż-żmien tajjeb nagħmlu ħilitna
Biex nimitaw iżjed lill-Feddej.
Nagħmlu kuraġġ ħalli b’talbitna
Insiru aħjar fiż-żmien li ġej.
Jeħtieġ li llestu għalenija
Rwieħna lkoll f’daż-żmien għall-Għid il-Kbir
U nġeddu ta’ Ġesu` t-tbatija
Għaliex hekk kien hemm miktub li jsir.

Bats at the museum

As the sun began to set, the sky darkened with the legion of bats which came out of the Rabat catacombs, noted G. Gulia in 1890 in his book Elenco dei Mammiferi Maltesi. Certainly, the tendency of these nightly creatures to live in such dreaded underground areas didn’t help them much in order not to be associated with evil and darkness. Likewise, their strange semblance, their mythical association with Dracula, and images of Satan bearing their wings, hindered even more their reputation. In Aztec and Mayan cultures, bats were deities connected to death. Yet nothing could be far from the truth since bats have a beneficial role in the earth’s ecosystem.
altThe importance of these unique flying mammals was highlighted during a recent activity which was organized by MEPA’s Environment Division in collaboration with Heritage Malta, at the National Museum of Natural History in Mdina. This annual event, recognized as Malta Bat Night, included a discussion about bats and listening to their sounds through an electronic device.
“Malta Bat Night forms part of a partnership which we have with the European Union for the Research and Conservation of Bats,” explained John Joseph Borg, Senior Curator at the National Museum of Natural History.
“Such events are aimed to inform the public about bats in the hope of removing the negative impression that people have about them. Along the years, bats have decreased considerably in Malta, both because their habitat has often been disturbed, and also due to direct acts of vandalism which were carried out upon them.”
altIndeed, Borg explained that colonies of bats have been repeatedly put on fire whilst they were resting in their caves. Others were smothered when vandals threw mud and other things at them, even though they were clearly being protected behind a gate, such as in the case of Ħasan Cave. Bats of a small colony which lived in a site that had access to a particular school, were burnt alive by school children after they captured them and drenched them in hot candle wax.
Well, after hearing these stories, it becomes very clear who the evil ones are.
 “Unfortunately our culture has taught us to fear and hate these creatures. In actual fact, their presence could be very advantageous to humans,” revealed Borg.
“Many of the bats eat insects and studies have shown that they tend to feed on species that are harmful to humans and to agriculture. Other small bats which have an elongated snout and a long tongue, act as pollinators when they enter into flower tubes to lick the pollen inside and then move onto different plants. Larger bats, which may look spooky and scary, nurture themselves on decaying fruit and therefore, they keep the fruit trees healthy.”
What about the so called vampire bats. Were they real? And do we have them in Malta?
alt“In contrast to peoples’ impression that all bats can suck blood, most of them thrive on insects, fruit, fish and frogs. The only vampire bats which feed on blood are found in South America and they are pretty small. They are nothing similar to the fictional bats that we see in films. In fact, they do not suck blood but they lick it, thanks to their anticogulant saliva which prevents the blood from clotting. They do not normally attack human beings and neither animals. However, they will feed on any animal available if it is reachable to them, including humans.”
Borg informed me that we have seven resident species of bats which are: Lesser Horse-shoe Bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), Maghrebian Bat (Myotis punicus), Grey Long-eared Bat (Plecotus austriacus), Savi`s Pipistrelle (Hypsugo savii), Kuhl`s Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus kuhlii), Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), and Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus).
alt“We have bats from all these resident species living in this museum,” smiled Borg who has an avid passion about bats. “In the underground tunnels there are the Lesser Horse-shoe and the Maghrebian Bats, whereas in the rooms of the underlying level, one finds the Grey Long-eared and the Lesser Horse-shoe Bats. Moreover, all the four Pipistrelle species have managed to make a home in some cracks of the facade and on the high beams.”
From the remains of moth wings which Borg collects from the museum floor early in the morning for his studies, he is able to identify more information about his resident bats, such as what they prey on. Interestingly, each small Pipistrelle is able to eat around 20,000 moth each night, thereby being more effective than the insect sprays which we use. Nonetheless, most people have no idea about this and when they realize that they are co-habitating with bats, hell breaks lose.
“We do receive calls from people who request us to remove bats from their properties. It is very rare that these creatures enter into homes. Usually they live in cracks in external windows or in narrow openings in facades. Some of the bats are minute in size and in fact, five of them can be placed in a matchstick box. Generally, once these people realize that these animals will be doing no harm to them or to their family, they will agree to allow them to stay. Yet there were cases when the individuals concerned were adamant that they wanted them removed.”
altIn such cases, Borg or other responsible officials will need to go and survey the bats before taking action. This involves counting them daily for a whole week in order to confirm the exact amount of bats that are roosting in this place. Once, this amount is identified, they will wait until all the bats are out at night and then they will block the nest in order not to let them in again. Eventually, when the bats will return home and realize what happenned, they will automatically move away to a second area which they tend to keep as a form of protection.
“This procedure to count bats is very important because they do not always leave the nest in the same number. Usually, a scout bat will fly out first in order to check whether it is windy and whether there are enough insects available in the area. If he returns, the others will stay inside but if he does not, they will understand that the situation is favourable and they will fly out too.”
I couldn’t help feeling impressed by these creatures. Yet more was still to come.
alt“The courting and copulation of bats takes place in autumn, between October and November. Then, as soon as the temperature drops and insects are more rare, they will fall in a state of torpidity which is a short period of sleep. During this time, the sperm with which the female has been fertilized will remain stored inside her, waiting for the right moment to come. Once the tempertaure gets warmer and insects become available, these bats will wake up and the real preganancy will start. In this way, both the mother and the offspring will have a better chance to survive.”
Although there are some who associate bats with flying mice, Borg informed me that there is nothing common between the two. While mice come from the order Rodentia, bats form part of the order of Chiroptera (meaning hand-wing).
alt“The oldest bat fossils date back to 55 million years ago where this mammal had already the shape which we know today. On the other hand, the oldest fossils which were found in Malta go back to the Ice Age at around 200,000 and 10,000 years ago. These were found during excavations at Għar Dalam and so we can say that these ancient bats remember the dwarf elephants and hippopotami roaming around. At this museum, we do hold a sample of these fossils. However, the majority of them were taken by the foreign researchers who were doing the excavations, and these passed on their discoveries to their relative museums.”
In the Mdina museum, one can also find some current bat specimens. Borg insisted that it is not the policy of the museum to capture and kill creatures in order to preserve them. So, one won’t find a specimen for each species which live in Malta. Nevertheless, the museum will do his best to assist whoever will request information about bats.
altBorg’s own interest in bats goes back to the 1980s. Originally fearful of them, he came face to face with these bats whilst he was doing bird studies and these nightly creatures were being captured accidentally in nets. At first nervous, he asked others to remove them for him, until one day, he decided to do the job himself.
From then on, he was completely captivated by them and has been studying them ever since, eager to share his knowledge in the hope of fostering more interest from the public.
It is safe to say that Malta Bat Night has certainly gone a long way towards achieving this.

Lill-Arċisqof il-Ġdid (Frar 2015)

Fil-pajjiż ilbieraħ ġriet l-aħbar
Li Scicluna l-arċisqof kien sar.
Il-Mulej kien, fl-aħħar, sema’ t-talb
Tal-Maltin kollha ħiereġ mill-qalb.
Konna ilna nistennew ix-xhur,
U ħadd minna ma kien jaf fiż-żgur
Min ser ikun tal-Knisja l-mexxej,
Wara Cremona tgħid min kien ġej?
Intgħażel minn fostna saċerdot,
Isqof diġa`, fil-valuri sod.
Ta’ Missierna San Pawl suċċessur,
Il-mexxej tal-Knisja tal-futur.
Dana għandu biss ħamsa u ħamsin,
Bniedem ħabrieki, ma jitlifx ħin.
Ċerta li se jkun bil-wisq maħbub
U li tan-nies se jisraq il-qlub.
Ċerta li se jagħmel ħafna ġid
U l-fidi fost il-poplu se jżid.
Mela, ejjew nitolbu għalih
Biex il-Mulej l-għajnuna jagħtih!
Lil Scicluna, l-arċisqof il-ġdid,
Ħerqana biex jekk Alla jrid
Narah jinħatar fi ftit ġimgħat,
Nawgura lilu l-isbaħ xewqat.

Ġuża Mifsud

Mir-raħal tas-Siġġiewi,
Mara minn fost it-twajbin
Li kien jisimha Ġuża
Twieldet ilu bosta snin.
L-iżgħar fost seba’ aħwa,
Mara xempju tal-Maltin.
Kellha dix-xebba Ġuża
Ħajja bħal tal-qaddisin.
Ma’ familtha l-Girgenti
Kuljum kienet taħdem l-art.
Kienet dejjem tmur l-għalqa
Kemm fis-sħana u fil-bard.
Hemmhekk stess fil-Girgenti,
Kienet tħobb tmur ftit sal-wied
U toqgħod tgħid xi talba
Meta fl-għalqa tkun għejjiet.
Fuq is-siġra tan-naspli
Darba waħda rat dawl kbir.
Din kienet il-Madonna
Bi lbies fuqha tassew fqir.
Riedet minnha Marija
Ħafna talb għall-midinbin.
Ġuża pinġiet did-dehra,
Obdietha bla telf ta’ ħin.
Reġgħet dehret Marija
Meta għadda iżjed żmien.
U talbitha tpinġiha,
Dan fil-Ħamsinijiet kien.
Qaltilha wkoll Marija
Li Alla riedha għaliH
Minn eta` tassew żgħira,
Hi pinġietha minnufih.
Dan tal-Konsagrazzjoni
It-titlu ma kellha qatt.
U b’hekk xerrditu Ġuża
Għax ma kien tahulha ħadd.
Minn qaddisin, `rwieħ twajba,
Minn Ġesu` kellha d-dehriet.
Fil-laqgħat fil-Girgenti
Il-kelma tagħhom fis ġriet.
Meta għalqet għajnejha
Kellha aktar minn sebgħin.
Indifnet is-Siġġiewi
Hi fis-Sitta u Disgħin.

Taqbiliet Oħra

Tumas l-iskola mar,
Lela baqgħet id-dar.
Meta għamel il-ħin 
Marru xtraw maqrut bnin.
Wenzu mar il-bandli
U nesa jilbes is-sandli
Għax ħallieh fil-kamra
Ta’ kuġintu s-samra.
Niggustah il-ġelat
Wisq iżjed mill-awrat.
Inħobb ukoll l-għaġin,
Anki xi biskuttin.
Il-ħanut tal-pjazza
Jbigħ il-karamelli,
Il-ġuġu` u t-tofi
U ftit ġugarelli.

Lil Frenċ tal-Għarb

Fi żmien il-ħakma Ingliża,
Fl-Għarb għand familja bidwija
Twieled Frenċ fost tnax-il aħwa
Minn missier u omm Għawdxija.
Dejjem kien jaħdem fir-raba’,
Beda tard l-edukazzjoni.
Kien jixbah ħafna lil ommu,
Rawmitu fid-devozzjoni.
Baqa’ għażeb meta kiber,
Kien devot wisq lejn Ta’ Pinu.
L-għalqa, l-Azzjoni Kattolka
Kien jgħaddi ħafna minn ħinu.
Kuljum hekk kif mix-xogħol jerfa’,
Kien isib lin-nies tistenna
Quddiem il-bieb tad-dar tiegħu,
Xħin tarah kienet tithenna.
In-nies kienet tfittxu ħafna
Għal kull bżonn li kien ikollha
Min għat-talb, min għall-pariri,
Kbira kienet tkun il-folla.
Kulma kellu l-għerf ta’ bidwi,
Uża l-ħxejjex naturali
Kif ukoll it-talb u l-fidi,
Fejjaq nies bħalek u bħali.
Frenċ ma damx wisq ma ħa l-fama
Mal-Maltin u l-Għawdxin ħutna.
F’qasir żmien il-fama xterdet,
Sar magħruf barra minn xtutna.
Kull donazzjoni li qala’
Qatt huwa għalih ma żammha.
Kien jerfagħha għas-Santwarju,
Għal hemm biss hu kien iġamma’.
Malta, Frenċ, qajla kien jiġi,
Imma meta għamel dana
Kien imur ma’ San Ġorġ Preca
Biex iżur lill-morda tagħna.
Huwa miet fix-xahar ta’ Mejju,
Ilu ’l fuq minn erbgħin sena.
Żgur qiegħed igawdi l-ġenna,
U hemmhekk jinsab fil-hena.
In-nies baqgħet tmur ġo daru,
Il-qima lejh għadha turi.
Għax, issa, f’mużew inbidlet
U kull Għawdxi bih hu kburi.

Wild Flowers of the Maltese Islands – Launch Friday 9 October 2015

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the successful launch held on Friday 9 October 2015 for Edwin Lanfranco and Guido Bonett’s publication Wild Flowers of the Maltese Islands and also share some photos taken.

This poem was recited during the launch by Guido Lanfranco, which we would also like to share.

(Versi miktuba f’Wied Mejxu, San Ġiljan, 2-III-1997)


Abjad, ġdid, jidher il-bini
Nieżel dejjem mal-widien,
Iżda jien sad-dmugħ jaqbiżli
Meta maħseb f’dak li kien…


Taħt il-bini hemm midfuna
Ħbieb antiki li naf jien,
Kienu jħaddru l-blat tax-xagħri,
Juru fjuri kollha lwien…


Berwieq, sagħtar u ħobbejża,
Ferla, garni u peprin,
Il-fiġġiela u l-kaħwiela,
Il-busbies bil-weraq fin…


Għansal għoli u fidloqqom,
Fejġel, klin, narċis ifuħ,
Ħabb il-qamħ, bebuna ċkejkna,
Xatbet l-andar mar, qerduh…


Dawna kienu ftit minn ħbiebi
Mal-blat xagħri mifruxin,
Iżda l-wied sar ċimiterju
Fejn hawn ħbiebi midfunin…


Guido Lanfranco

Unlocking the Great Wall’s stories

He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man’ declares a Chinese saying.
After being confronted by the challenging steps of this legenday wall, I must admit that I understand fully the meaning behind this expression.
Constructing the Great Wall of China
altThe Great Wall consists of a massive series of fortifications which extend over five thousand kilometres from east to west in north China. Since it outstretches over a number of provinces, one can visit its diverse sections from various locations. Its construction took around two thousand years and it involved the input of several dynasties which were ruling the country during different period.
Since for many years, various Chinese states were at war against each other, by the 7th century BC, the locals had already mastered an excellent skill in the building of protective walls with which to defend their villages. It was from this period that construction of the Great Wall commenced.
In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang succeeded to win over all his opponents. He unified China for the first time, established the Qin Dynasty, and became the first Emperor. To impose a centralization of authority, he ordered the destruction of various defensive walls which had been built around the country by different feudal lords. Instead, he constructed new walls which connected a number of fortifications that were situated in the northern side of his empire. These were intended to shield his people and his country from the opponent nomadic tribe Xiongnu which resided in this area (today known as Mongolia).
It was no easy feat to construct these walls in the chosen locations which winded throughout valleys or climbed across mountains. At the time, no machinery was available to facilitate this grueling work. Yet, the Chinese managed to erect these walls by utilizing the material that was available in each particular zone and by working according to the contours of the terrain.
No one knows how many people worked or died during the construction of this wall. Many insist that the total number could easily reach millions. Certainly, their effort led to the creation of a unique masterpiece which today is regarded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. In 1987, the Great Wall of China became also part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
A popular legend
altThis wall is imbued with many narratives and legends. Yet the most popular is surely that of Meng Jiang Nü; a young woman who is believed to have lived during the 3rd century BC, in the Qin Dynasty.
Her story recounts that one day, Fan Qi Liang, a young man who had been engaged to work on the Great Wall, succeeded to escape from this strenuous job. He ran with all his might along the way until at one point, he was so exhausted that he stopped to hide in the garden of Meng’s father.
The two fell in love immediately as soon as their eyes met, and some time after, they got married. Yet unfortunately, their happinness did not last long as the man was located by soldiers and he was taken back to work on the wall.
The woman waited and waited for her husband’s return. But when winter was close and he still did not come back, she sewed some warm clothes for him in order to protect him from the cold. She went in search of him at his work place but after she looked out for him wherever she could and inquired about him, she was finally informed that her husband had died and that he had been buried within the wall itself.
This tragic news shattered the woman’s spirit and she was so griefed that she spent a whole day and a whole night weeping beneath the wall. Her desperation ran so deep that suddenly, the wall in front of her crumbled and a number of corpses slid out of it.
Shocked at this gruesome scene, Meng Jiang Nü cut her finger and she allowed her blood to trickle on the corpses. At one point, she noticed that all her blood ran to a particular corpse and it was then that she recognized her husband’s body. She gathered him lovingly and gave him a decent burial. Then, she walked to a river and ended her life within.
Juyongguan Pass – Beijing
altI had read and heard so much about the greatness of this wall that when I arrived at one of its sections in Beijing, known as Juyongguan Pass, I simply stood in silence and in awe.
My eyes ran afar, up into the sky where a thick fog was hiding the highest part that was visible from the ground. Located at around fifty kilometres away from Beijing, this part of the wall is about 4000 metre long and is situated amongst the mountains of Changping District.
This pass has always been renowned for its strategic significance and its impenetrability. Notwithstanding this, in 1644, a group of rebellious farmers led by Li Zicheng, managed to enter into Beijing by overcoming this area. It is said that this happenned not because of any weakness in the wall but due the fact that the local people were too impoverished to resist.
Today, Juyongguan Pass is distinguished for its lovely scenic views of the surrounding forests, particularly since these change their colours according to season.
Experiencing the magic of the Great Wall
We arrived at nine in the morning in order to avoid the crowds but there were already many visitors climbing the wall. The weather was not very welcoming as it was drizzling and the fog made it difficult to take very good photos. Yet nothing could stop us from climbing that legendary wall which we had all dreamt so much about!
altUp we went the first steps but soon we realized that it was not going to be that easy to climb too far. For the Great Wall’s steps were constructed in differing heights in order to make it difficult for the enemy to run up and make a surprise attack. Whilst some of the steps were low, others were quite high and after a short time, if you’re not the sporty kind, you’ll definitely find yourself out of breath.
Step after step, we arrived at the first tower which consisted of a number of small rooms. I decided to check out a set of narrow stairs which led to the tower’s roof and from there, the overview of the open landscape was even more splendid. I looked around in a blending state of rapture, wonder and disbelief as I imagined that this could have been the same view that the legendary soldiers watched over. For a moment, time seemed to stop and the present melted into the past as I simply stood there holding on to the ancient stones.
I could have stayed there to absorb within me all the history of the place but the group needed to move on and so, we climbed further. Over all, the set up of the wall repeats itself as its length is divided into steps and a number of towers. Yet I can say that I would have continued to climb all day if we did not have planned to visit other sites.
Going down the steps was relatively easy but by then, the place had become quite crowded with people of all nationalities who came to visit.
A love bound to eternity
altAs I stole a last glance at this architectural and historic marvel, I noticed a quantity of lovelocks that were fastened to chains running along the Great Wall. On a closer look, I found out that these were decorated with heart designs and the names of couples were engraved on each of them. Our guide told us that those lovelocks formed part of an old Chinese tradition which stated that if a couple wrote their names on a lock and closed it on this chain, their love would be eternal, just like the destiny of this mythical wall.
(This article was published in the Travel Supplement of the Sunday Times of Malta dated 21st June 2015)

L-Attakk fuq l-Isperun tal-Isla

Għal dawk kollha li tinteressahom l-Istorja ta’ Malta, din is-sena hija waħda sinifikattiva ħafna, peress li qed jiġi kkommemorat l-450 anniversarju mill-Assedju l-Kbir li seħħ fil-gżejjer tagħna fl-1565. Diversi kotba, lekċers, blogs, u attivitajiet relatati ma’ din it-tema, qegħdin ikomplu jqanqlu l-entużjażmu sabiex wieħed isir jaf aktar dwar din il-battalja qalila, fosthom għaliex seħħet, kif żvolġiet, min ħa sehem, x’kienu l-istrateġiji użati, u kif finalment il-Kavallieri ta’ San Ġwann u l-Maltin ħarġu rebbieħa akkost id-diffikultajiet kollha.
Sabiex jirrakkuntaw dawn il-fatti, nibtu wkoll numru ta’ paġni fuq Facebook u permezz tagħhom, wieħed jista’ jara biċ-ċar li mhumiex il-Maltin biss li qed jinvolvu ruħhom f’din il-kommemorazzjoni, imma anki għadd ta’ individwi minn madwar id-dinja kollha. B’hekk, din il-ġrajja tal-Assedju, qed isservi wkoll biex tiġbed l-attenzjoni tal-barranin lejn il-gżejjer tagħna u possibbilment, uħud minnhom jafu jitħajru jżuruna.
Mudell li juri l-attakk fuq l-isperun tal-Isla
altWaħda minn dawn il-paġni tal-Facebook hija ‘The assault on the Spur, Isla, 15th July 1565’ li permezz ta’ bosta ritratti, qed turi u tispjega pass pass, it-tnissil u l-kostruzzjoni ta’ diorama, jew mudell, tal-isperun tal-Isla. Għall-ewwel, segwejt dan il-grupp permezz tar-ritratti li kien qed itella’. Iżda eventwalment, tant sibt ix-xogħol li kien qed jitwettaq intriganti, li deherli li kien jixraq li mmur nagħtih titwila ħalli narah b’għajnejja.
“Huma ħafna dawk li qed juru x-xewqa li jiġu jaraw dan il-mudell,” stqarr Alex Schembri, President ta’ Society for Scale Modellers – IPMS Malta. “Napprezzaw ferm li l-pubbliku qiegħed isegwi x-xogħol tagħna b’tant ħeġġa u qed nagħmlu minn kollox biex sal-15 ta’ Lulju, inkunu nistgħu nvarawh ftit billi nippreżentaw diversi ritratti tiegħu.”
Society for Scale Modellers – IPMS Malta
Society for Scale Modellers ġiet imwaqqfa f’Jannar tal-1981. L-għan prinċipali ta’ dan il-klabb dejjem kien li jgħolli l-livell tal-iscale modelling f’pajjiżna sabiex jikkompara ma’ dak internazzjonali. Infatti l-klabb huwa affiljat mal-International Plastic Modellers Society li għandha rappreżentanti tagħha f’diversi pajjiżi madwar id-dinja.
L-iscale modelling jieħdok sa fejn trid
“Għalkemm dan il-qasam ġeneralment jitqies bħala passatemp, aħna xorta waħda nagħtuh attenzjoni kbira billi naraw li x-xogħol isir bi professjonalità. Imma fir-realtà, l-iscale modelling jieħdok sa fejn trid u infatti fost il-membri, għandna numru minnhom li huma esperti tassew, tant li rebħu diversi kompetizzjonijiet barra minn Malta. Oħrajn saru jipproduċu l-prodotti tagħhom u jbigħuhom.”
Kull sena, din is-Soċjetà torganiżża esebizzjoni bix-xogħlijiet li jkunu saru mill-membri tagħha u f’dak iż-żmien, ikun hemm numru ta’ nies li jitħajru jingħaqdu magħha.
“Idealment l-età tal-membri tagħna tibda minn 17-il sena sabiex wieħed jilħaq jitrawwem f’dan il-qasam. Niltaqgħu darba f’ġimgħa ħalli nuru x-xogħlijiet li qed nagħmlu u flimkien niddiskutu x’jista’ jsir aħjar. Hawnhekk kulħadd ikollu l-preferenzi tiegħu: min jaħdem il-mudelli tal-ajruplani, min il-figuri, min il-karozzi, oħrajn inġenji tal-baħar eċċ. U għalhekk, wieħed jgħin u jgħallem lill-ieħor sabiex il-mudell tiegħu jkun aktar perfett u komplet.”
Proġett li ġabar flimkien lill-membri kollha
altFil-fatt, matul dawn l-aħħar xahrejn, prattikament il-membri kollha qegħdin jagħtu daqqa t’id biex jissawwar dan il-mudell imdaqqas tal-isperun tal-Isla.
L-għażla ta’ din it-tema oriġinat minn Ivan Cocker, wieħed mill-membri.
“Dehrilna li peress li dis-sena qed nikkommemoraw l-450 anniversarju mill-Assedju l-Kbir, kien jixraq li niddedikaw xi biċċa xogħol għalih. Wara li ddiskutejt din l-idea ma’ sħabi u mal-Kuraturi ta’ Heritage Malta, Emmanuel Magro Conti u Liam Gauci, l-għażla tagħna waqgħet fuq l-isperun tal-Isla minħabba li fuq dan il-post ta’ Don Francisco de Sanoguera kien hemm il-konċentrament tal-attakk u anki peress li dan il-lwog kien l-uniku wieħed waqt dan l-assedju li ġie attakkat kemm mill-art u kif ukoll mill-baħar,” spjegali Ivan.
Ir-riċerka involuta biex isir dan il-mudell
Hekk kif intażel il-lwog li kienu se joħolqu l-mudell tiegħu, bdiet riċerka sfiqa ħalli tinkiseb kemm jista’ jkun informazzjoni, l-aktar minħabba li llum ftit li xejn fadal minn dan l-isperun.
“Irreferejna ma’ għadd ta’ kotba, mapep, mużewijiet, u pitturi sabiex inkunu nistgħu noħolqu mudell kemm jista’ jkun viċin għal dak li kien jeżisti tassew f’dak il-perjodu. Ngħidu aħna biex bdejna nibnu l-isperun, imxejna mal-ktieb ta’ Balbi, li kien suldat li ħa sehem f’dan l-assedju. Rajna wkoll pjanti ta’ llum tal-Isla peress li sirna nafu li l-pedament tal-isperun għadu hemm. Fittixna wkoll kotba tal-istorja u tal-fortifikazzjonijiet li jsegwu dak li seħħ wara l-assedju ħalli b’hekk nagħrfu x’kienu dawk ix-xogħlijiet li saru wara, kemm mill-Kavallieri nfushom u kif ukoll mill-Imperu Ingliż.”
Mudell maħdum fuq skala 1:72
Huma użaw ukoll il-pjanti biex jiffurmaw l-iskala tal-mudell 1:72 ħalli b’hekk janalizzaw ukoll sa fejn se jkopri.
alt“Ma stajniex nagħmlu l-Isla kollha, naturalment. Għalhekk iffukajna fuq l-isperun, u permezz tal-pjanti, ħriġna bl-iskala. Ħdimna b’reqqa kbira imma mbagħad kien hemm mument fejn kellna nagħlqu għajnejna. Dan seħħ pereżempju fil-każ tal-mitħna li fir-realtà kienet tinsab aktar lura minn fejn tidher fil-mudell. Madanakollu, peress li l-imtieħen lagħbu parti importanti f’din il-battalja, anki peress li biswithom, l-Ordni kellha l-kanuni, ma kienx jagħmel sens li nħalluha barra,” infurmani Oliver Mifsud hekk kif beda jurini kif qed jinħadem dan il-mudell.
Sabiex il-mudell ma jkunx tqil wisq, il-pedamenti tiegħu tfasslu mill-ġablo u mbagħad fuqu beda l-kisi ta’ materjal ieħor ħalli jiġu ffurmati l-art u l-fortifikazzjoni. Imbagħad, biex il-lewn ta’ dawn jiġi jixbah lill-ġebla tal-franka Maltija, ġie xkatlat il-ġebel fil-wiċċ, mejun ukoll miż-żebgħa ħalli joqrob aktar lejn ir-realtà.
Kull parti tal-mudell għandha l-istorja tagħha
Dawruni ftit mal-mudell biex inkun nista’ nifli d-dettalji li fih. Intbaħt li skont minn fejn tħares lejn dan il-mudell, tkun tista’ ssegwi parti mill-ġrajja ta’ dak li seħħ f’dan il-post waqt l-assedju.
“Biex inkunu aktar preċiżi, segwejna wkoll mill-qrib kif saru l-attakki fuq dan l-isperun, ħalli b’hekk nagħrfu aħjar fejn saru l-ħsarat u t-tifrik, fejn tpoġġa ċertu lqugħ għad-difiża, fejn kien hemm il-katina biex iżżomm ix-xwieni tal-għadu milli jidħlu, u fejn il-Gran Mastru Jean de la Valette ordna biex isir l-ostaklu fil-baħar li kellu jtellef lit-Torok milli jersqu bid-dgħajjes tagħhom,” qalli Ivan.
Minkejja t-tiftix u r-riċerka, xorta jibqgħu numru ta’ mistoqsijiet dwar uħud minn dawn li semmejt peress li issa għadda ħafna żmien u wieħed ikollu joqgħod biss fuq dak li jirnexxilu jsib.
Skoperti fatti kurjużi waqt il-ħidma ta’ dan il-mudell
alt“L-ostaklu fil-baħar huwa eżempju minnhom,” fissirli Ivan. “Biex fassalnieh, qgħadna ħafna fuq id-dettalji ta’ Balbi. Imma aħna u naħdmuh, ma stajniex nifhmu l-għala dan l-ostaklu ma sarx biex ikopri t-tul kollu tal-art imma tħalliet parti mikxufa minn fejn wieħed seta’ jidħol.”
“Intant, meta bqajna niflu dan id-dettall, sibna li fejn inbena l-ostaklu, il-baħar kien aktar baxx, filwaqt li fil-parti l-miftuħa, il-baħar kien fond. Għalhekk, komplejna deħlin nistħarrġu l-istorja u ma domniex ma skoprejna li għall-attakk tal-15 ta’ Lulju 1565 fuq dan l-isperun tal-Isla, il-Kmandanti Ottomani kienu bagħtu suldati li ma jafux jgħumu ħalli b’hekk ma jkunux jistgħu jirtiraw billi jgħumu lura.”
Uħud mill-membri li nġabru ħdejna ammettew illi qabel bdew jaħdmu fuq dan il-mudell, ftit li xejn kienu jafu dwar din il-parti tal-istorja ta’ Malta. Imma issa kien xort’oħra hekk kif bdew jinteressaw ruħhom dejjem aktar u l-għatx għall-informazzjoni kulma jmur dejjem jikber.
Parti mill-mudell tal-mitħna maħdum minn disinjatur industrijali Amerikan
altBiċċa xogħol oħra li qanqlet riċerka kienet il-mitħna.
“Ma stajniex noqogħdu biss fuq l-affreski ta’ D’Aleccio peress li fix-xogħlijiet tiegħu, dawn l-imtieħen ivarjaw. Jidher ċar li f’dan il-każ, l-artist uża l-immaġinazzjoni tiegħu u għalhekk aħna ridna nsibu x-xbieha reali tagħhom,” fissirli Alex.
“Inxtħetna nirriċerkaw dan is-suġġett u sibna li l-imtieħen tar-riħ ma kinux inbidlu wisq matul is-snin. Dorna anki diversi eżempji ta’ mtieħen li jinsabu hawn Malta kif ukoll f’xi pajjiżi tal-Mediterran, sakemm finalment, ħriġna b’disinn li jqarreb kemm jista’ lejn l-oriġinal.”
Fatt li ta’ min isemmi huwa illi meta dan il-grupp wasal biex jaħdem din il-mitħna, il-parti ta’ fuq, li hija l-aktar diffikultuża, spiċċat saret minn sors li ma kinux qed jistennew.
“Kif taf inti, huma ħafna dawk li qed isegwu x-xogħol tagħna permezz tal-Facebook. Fosthom hemm Pete Hamann, disinjatur industrijali Amerikan, li tant apprezza dan il-proġett, li offra li jagħtina daqqa t’id. Hekk kif ġietna x-xoqqa f’moxtha, issuġġerejna li jaħdmilna l-parti ta’ fuq ta’ din il-mitħna li kienet tinsab fuq l-għolja tal-Isla u fi ftit taż-żmien, hu pprovdiena bil-mudell 3D li ħadem apposta għalina.”
Numru kbir ta’ figuri jagħtu l-ħajja lill-mudell
altDettall ieħor li jien apprezzajt ferm kien in-numru kbir ta’ figuri li kienu qed ikomplu jagħtu l-ħajja lil dan il-mudell. Skoprejt li kien hemm madwar 400 figura mqassma bejn Kavallieri u Ottomani.
“Dawk xtrajniehom bħala kits u issa qed niżbuhom skont il-perjodu,” wrieni Alex hekk kif tani f’idejja numru minnhom.
Id-dettall li kien fihom kien straordinarju u bla dubju maħdum b’ħila u b’paċenzja kbira.
Mudell li jgħinek tara l-Istorja b’għajnejk
Bħala waħda minn dawk li qed insegwi ġurnata b’ġurnata l-ġrajja tal-Assedju l-Kbir, nistqarr li apprezzajt ferm il-possibbiltà li nara b’għajnejja dan il-mudell u nifli d-dettalji li fih, hekk kif permezz tiegħu, stajt nifhem aħjar dak li kont qed naqra dwaru.
alt“Meta jitlesta dan il-mudell, nixtiequ ħafna nagħtuh bħala donazzjoni lil Heritage Malta sabiex b’hekk huwa jkun jista’ jservi bħala għodda edukattiva kemm għall-istudenti kif ukoll għall-pubbliku li jżuru. Qed nittamaw li forsi dan il-mudell ikun jista’ jiġi nvolut ukoll fl-esebizzjoni internazzjonali li Heritage Malta se tkun qed torganizza fil-Palazz tal-Gran Mastru l-Belt bejn l-4 ta’ Settembru u s-6 ta’ Diċembru 2015.”
Infatti mill-ġimgħa d-dieħla, fil-blog tal-Assedju l-Kbir ta’ Heritage Malta,, wieħed se jkun jista’ jibda jiskopri uħud mill-oġġetti li se jkunu qed jiġu esebiti f’din l-esebizzjoni, li hi maħsuba li se tkun waħda mill-avvenimenti l-aktar importanti ta’ din is-sena relatati mal-ġrajja tal-Assedju tal-1565.
Aktar tagħrif dwar Society for Scale Modellers – IPMS Malta jista’ jinkiseb minn SSM House, Sulphur Lane, Ħamrun, inkella permezz tas-sit u l-email, jew permezz tal-Facebook.
(Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela MINN RITRATT (17 il-Parti) fit-Torċa tat-12 ta’ Lulju 2015)

Mad-Daqq tal-Banda

altSa mill-ibgħad snin tal-eżistenza tiegħu, il-bniedem kien affaxxinat bil-kapaċità tiegħu li joħloq ħoss, liema abbiltà eventwalment evolviet fil-mużika. Maż-żmien, ġew żviluppati konsiderevolment anki l-istrumenti mużikali, sakemm illum, teżisti għażla vasta ta’ tipi differenti.

Firxa minn dawn l-istrumenti varji huma użati mill-baned tagħna li llum saru jiffurmaw parti mill-wirt kulturali tagħna. Infatti, ir-ritratti tal-bandisti Maltin saru sinomini mal-esebizzjonijiet fotografiċi li jkunu relatati mat-tradizzjonijiet u l-kultura lokali.

Hekk kif issa beda l-istaġun tal-festi, tħajjart nesplora kemxejn id-dinja tal-banda u tal-bandisti. Kif stennejt, ħarġu dettalji u rakkonti tassew interessanti.

Il-festa tar-raħal isservi bħala xrara

Il-folla numeruża kienet qed tifraħ u ċċapċap hekk kif l-istatwa tal-patruna tfaċċat glorjuża fil-bieb tal-parroċċa taż-Żejtun. Għadd ta’ bnadar kbar u kkuluriti kienu qed iżejnu l-bjut tad-djar u tal-każini tal-madwar, iperpru sbieħ fis-sema kaħlana. It-tiżjin tat-triqat kompla jagħni din l-atmosfera ferriħija tal-festa li kienet qed tiġi ċċelebrata. Iżda bla dubju, dan l-ambjent allegru kien jonqoslu ħafna mill-briju li kieku ma kienx għall-mużika sabiħa tal-banda.

Kien waqt mument distint bħal dan, lura f’Novembru tal-1973, meta Alexander Vella u ħuh Raymond, flimkien ma’ grupp ta’ ħbieb oħra, iddeċidew li jibdew jagħmlu parti minn dan l-ispettaklu billi jingħaqdu maż-Żejtun Band Club. Alexander, li kellu 15-il sena dak iż-żmien, jiftakar li missieru ħa gost ferm b’din l-aħbar, l-aktar minħabba li hu stess kien ilu membru f’din is-soċjetà għal bosta snin. Madanakollu, huwa ma naqasx milli jwissi lil uliedu li jekk tassew riedu jirnexxu f’dan il-qasam, huma kellhom jibdew mill-ewwel jieħdu l-affarijiet bis-serjetà u jintefgħu jistudjaw.

Opportunità għal min xtaq jitgħallem idoqq

Ma kienx diffiċli biex tiġi aċċettat bħala membru fiż-Żejtun Band Club peress li l-għan prinċipali ta’ din is-Soċjetà li twaqqfet fl-1933, minn dejjem kien li jagħti l-opportunità lil kull min xtaq jitgħallem idoqq xi strument tal-banda. Infatti, l-istudenti kienu jiġu mgħallma bla ħlas minn għalliema u maestros professjonali, u hekk kif kienu jaqbżu l-aspett teoretiku, is-Soċjetà kienet saħansitra tislifhom strument sabiex idoqqu bih. B’dan il-mod, is-Soċjetà kienet tispera li l-quddiem għad tħajjar lil dawn l-individwi biex jingħaqdu magħha bħala mużiċisti tal-banda, ħalli b’hekk din tkompli ssaħħaħ ir-reputazzjoni tagħha b’membri validi.

Ridt tkun tassew determinat biex tibqa’

altĊertament, sa mill-ewwel lezzjoni, Vella ntebaħ li din ma kienetx se tkun biċċa xogħol faċli.

“Ridt tkun tassew determinat li tingħaqad mal-banda biex tibqa’ għaddej bl-istudju, l-aktar għaliex qabel jagħtuk l-istrument li mingħalik kont se tibda ddoqq, kien jeħtieġlek titgħallem bl-amment in-noti tal-mużika,” stqarr Vella.

“Qatt qabel ma kont tgħallimt il-mużika u għalkemm kieku ried, missieri seta’ jħarriġni, huwa rriffjuta li jagħmel dan. Minflok insista li noqgħod attent waqt il-lezzjoni u li nisma’ sew x’kellu jgħidli l-għalliem. Niftakar li darbtejn biss azzardajt nistaqsih xi ħaġa wara li ma fhimtx x’għamilna fil-lezzjoni imma fiż-żewġ okkażżjonijiet, huwa ċanfarni u wissieni biex ma naħlix il-ħin tal-għalliem tiegħi. Wara dakinhar, qatt ma ppruvajt nistaqsih xi ħaġa oħra u kont nara li nifhem sew dak li jsir fil-klassi.”

Il-bużillis kien li din l-attitudni ddixxiplinata kienet teżisti anki fil-klassi

“L-għalliem tagħna, Edgar Lowell, kien maestro mill-aqwa imma kien bniedem tassew strett. Kien jippretendi li l-istudenti jattendu regolarment għall-lezzjonijiet u li jsegwuhom b’attenzjoni kbira. Ma ninsa qatt meta fl-ewwel lezzjoni, hu fetaħ idejh beraħ quddiemna u hekk kif beda jipponta lejn subgħajh, qalilna li Alla kien tana ħames swaba’ b’erbgħa spazji bejniethom sabiex niftakru dejjem li kien hemm disgħa noti mużikali bażiċi.”

Ridt tuża l-istint

“Minn dakinhar konna mistennija naħdmu iebes u nimxu ‘l quddiem mingħajr ma jkollna għalfejn nistaqsu wisq għall-għajnuna. Kellna nidraw nużaw l-istint tagħna u widnejna biex nifhmu l-ħsejjes u r-ritmi mużikali korretti. Żball wieħed waqt il-lezzjoni kien ikun biżżejjed biex l-għalliem jaqbdek u jibgħatek id-dar bla kliem u bla sliem ħalli tmur tistudja mill-ġdid id-dar. Dak iż-żmien, it-tifħir ma kienx jeżisti u kont tirrealizza biss li kont sejjer tajjeb meta l-għalliem kien jagħtik titgħallem in-noti li jmiss. Dak kollox!”

Wara erbgħa snin taħriġ, Vella beda jdoqq maż-Żejtun Band Club u ma damx ma beda jservi wkoll ma’ baned oħra. Illum, fl-età ta’ 53 sena, huwa għandu esperjenza ta’ 37 sena ma’ din il-banda u kapaċi jdoqq diversi strumenti. Bi gratitudni lejn din is-Soċjetà li tagħtu tant, fl-2012 hu flimkien ma’ martu Jane, rregalaw sett ta’ bandalori tal-bellus meħjutin bir-rakkmu tad-deheb, bħala tifkira tal-involviment tiegħu magħha, waqt iċ-ċelebrazzjoni tat-80 anniversarju mit-twaqqif tagħha.

Bidla fil-kultura

altMaż-żmien dan l-atteġġjament inbidel kompletament, hekk kif stajt nifhem meta tkellimt ma’ Isaac Scicluna; tifel ta’ 11 il-sena li hu l-iżgħar bandist ta’ din is-soċjetà.

Fatt kurjuż huwa li Scicluna tħajjar jissieħeb maż-Żejtun Band Club eżatt bl-istess mod kif ġralu Vella; jiġifieri, waqt il-festa ta’ Santa Katarina tal-2011. Bħal Vella, hu wkoll kellu xi membri tal-familja li kienu jdoqqu, fosthom lil missieru, lil nannuħ u lil bużnannuħ li kollha kienu bandisti ferventi. L-istess bħal sieħbu akbar minnu, Scicluna ħassu pjuttost konfuż meta fl-età ta’ 8 snin daħal għall-ewwel darba biex jitgħallem ma’ din is-Soċjetà u sab ruħu affaċċjat bin-noti tat-teorija flok bl-istrument li xtaq!

Iżda t-tixbiħ ma’ Vella s’hawn jieqaf peress li bil-bidla fil-kultura, li fil-preżent aktar tikkunsidra li tgħin milli li żżomm dixxiplina iebsa, huwa jsib għajnuna kbira kemm mill-ġenituri tiegħu u kif ukoll mill-għalliem meta jkollu bżonn l-assistenza tagħhom.

“Fl-ewwel lezzjoni ntroduċewni man-noti tal-mużika,” qalli Scicluna. “Ftit ftit bdejt nitgħallem isimhom, it-tip u l-valur tagħhom. Imbagħad ngħatajt sett noti mużikali u ġejt mitlub nikkupjahom u nistudjahom. Missieri għeni nsib it-triq sakemm ġejt fuq saqajja u stajt inkompli naħdem waħdi. Fir-realtà, anki jekk issib tant sapport, jiddependi ħafna mill-ambizzjoni tiegħek sabiex tirnexxi għax aktar ma jgħaddi ż-żmien, il-lezzjonijiet kull ma jmur jitqalu. Meta tkun għadek student l-iskola, jeħtieġlek ukoll titgħallem tqassam ħinek sewwa ħalli tlaħħaq mal-istudju tal-iskola u xorta ssib ħin x’tiddedika għall-banda.”

“Peress li jiena xellugi, kelli nderri lili nnifsi biex nitgħallem inżomm ir-ritmu b’saqajja l-leminija u ngħodd in-noti b’idejja l-leminija sabiex inkompli mal-bqija tal-grupp. Wara xi żmien nistudja, intlabt ukoll nibda nkanta n-noti ħalli b’hekk widnejja jintunaw ruħhom għall-mużika bi preparazzjoni għall-istrument li kont se ndoqq.”

Filwaqt li Vella dam aktar minn tliet snin jistudja t-teorija, Scicluna kien meqjus pront biex jitgħallem l-istrument f’nofs dak il-perjodu. Min-naħa l-oħra, mentri Vella ġie rrakkommandat idoqq is-saksafon peress li kien twil imma minflok għażel il-klarinett bħal dak li kien idoqq missieru, Scicluna li xtaq idoqq is-saksafon, kellu joqgħod għall-klarin peress li subgħajh għadhom wisq qosra għall-istrument l-ieħor.

L-iżgħar bandist

altSadanittant, is-sena 2013 kienet waħda sinifikanti ferm għal Scicluna u l-familja tiegħu, meta hu ġie ntrodott bħala l-iżgħar bandist taż-Żejtun Band Club. Fatt interessanti huwa illi din iċ-ċelebrazzjoni kienet pjuttost insolita peress li s-soltu, bandist ġdid jiddaħħal fil-banda biss waqt iċ-ċelebrazzjonijiet tal-Ġimgħa l-Kbira. Iżda, minħabba l-mewt għall-għarrieda tal-arċipriet taż-Żejtun, Dun Eric Overend, bosta mill-attivitajiet kellhom jiġu posposti u b’hekk Scicluna ngħata l-opportunità li jdoqq għall-ewwel darba waqt il-Programm Mużikali Annwali tal-2013.

Nibqa’ ndoqq sal-aħħar

Illum, kemm Vella u Scicluna, huma ħerqana biex ikomplu jagħtu s-servizz tagħhom f’din il-banda u għalkemm hemm baħar jaqsam bejn l-età ta’ dawn iż-żewġ individwi, it-tnejn sostnew li xtaqu jkomplu jdoqqu sakemm Alla jibqa’ jagħtihom is-saħħa. Għalissa, Scicluna daqq biss maż-Żejtun Band Club iżda xorta waħda, hu diġà kellu ċ-ċans jieħu sehem f’funzjonijiet importanti bħal meta l-banda daqqet fil-funeral tal-eks-ministru, Wistin Abela.

Ir-rwol tal-banda

“Ir-rwol tal-banda hu li tferraħ in-nies bil-mużika tagħha,” qalli Vella. “Madanakollu, bħal f’kollox, anki din għandha l-lati diffiċli tagħha. Ngħidu aħna, għalkemm jiena nħobb nisma’ ħafna l-marċi funebri illi l-banda tagħna ddoqq waqt l-attivitajiet tal-Ġimgħa l-Kbira, meta nsib ruħi qiegħed nakkumpanja funeral bid-daqq tiegħi, inħossni emozzjonat. Minn dejjem kont hekk, imma din is-sensazzjoni kompliet tiżdied wara li kelli ndoqq waqt il-funeral ta’ missieri u hemm ħassejt l-uġiegħ u n-niket li kapaċi jiġi espress permezz tal-istrumenti differenti. Dakinhar, deherli li l-ħoss tagħhom kien jixbaħ il-bikja tas-soċjetà li kienet għadha kif tilfet lil wieħed mill-membri tagħha.”

Anki t-tfajjel Scicluna qabel ma dan.

“Jien ukoll inħossni daqsxejn skomdu meta jkolli ndoqq waqt funeral. Imma fl-istess ħin, jien konxju li bil-mużika tiegħi nkun qed nuri rispett lil dak l-individwu li jkun ħalliena. Xorta waħda nħares dejjem il-quddiem biex jiġi ż-żmien tal-festi meta nkunu nistgħu nferrħu n-nies bid-daqq tal-istrumenti tagħna.”

(Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fis-sensiela MINN RITRATT (14 il-Parti) fit-Torċa tal-21 ta’ Ġunju 2015)