The Caper at Couvre Porte

November 7, 2013

times

Thursday November 7th, 2013. 

The Caper at Couvre Porte

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

2013.10.22---Birgu-flag

Citta Vittoriosa flag

The Birgu Local Council deserves warm congratulations for the way they organised the Birgu Fest especially the candle­lit night which showed the splendour of the city: the overpowering majestic bastions, the Maltese workmanship, the architecture, the intricate sculptures, the winding streets, the renovated old buildings, and the growing public awareness of such a historical heritage.  Unfortunately this cannot be said for the way the Birgu environs are being landscaped.

2013.10.22---couvre-port-gate

Couvre Porte Gate

I entered through Couvre Porte, the  magnificent covered  gateway, admiring  the surroundings. I crossed the bridge  over the ditch, still in total darkness as to its future, at least from a public point of view. I wonder why no public consultations were ever held on such projects. Perhaps the present Minister would consider this before the works are done and public money spent and not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.

Once through the main entrance of Couvre Porte, I climbed the 10 cm or so high steps leading to the top of the bastions. I could almost re­live the moments of such a historical architectural heritage left to us by the Knights of St. John.

There, on the highest part of the bastions something caught my eye: it was a caper (kappara) growing on one of the cordons, so soon on the freshly restored bastions, with defiance and a sense of victory. In the dim light, I could see the silhouettes of other indigenous plants which had also set foot on the fortifications: indigenous species which colonised these islands before man set foot on them.

2013.10.22---kappar-mas-swar

The caper on the bastions

The indigenous plants on the bastions echoed Rużar Briffa’s Jum ir­-Rebħ “Jien Maltija! Miskin min ikasbarni, miskin min jidħak bija” (I am Maltese! Pity the one who disgraces me, pity the one who mocks me”).

As I looked towards the Vittoriosa water front, the historic bastion rose as a background to a number of recently imported alien, toxic and some invasive trees. The never conquered Citta Vittoriosa, lied at the mercy of these introduced foreign species, some also invasive, politically approved and publicly funded. How could one accept the fact that there at the foot of the bastions exotic species had taken over the beds of the indigenous Maltese species, through the political apathy still accepting foreign colours to the indigenous splendour.

I slowly descended the steps, seemingly so much higher now, and mingled with the crowds till I found my way in front of the St. Lawrence Parish Church. Towering in front of the Church on my left was the Għolja tal­Ħelsien monument, a reminder of the last foreign power which had a foot in Malta. But even in the semi­darkness I could see the monument invaded with more than half a dozen exotic species, two or three invasive. Two palm trees on the monument seemed to have succumbed to the Red Palm Weevil, an introduced alien invasive species.  On my right along the waterfront leading to dock 1, I could see other exotic species, some invasive, introduced from around the world, including the now ubiquitous fountain grass. Could it be possible that the exit of the foreign powers opened the doors to the exotic alien flora and fauna to set foot on the Islands even growing on the very monument itself?

2013.10.22---għolja-tal-ħelsien

Three exotic alien species surround the fanfare of the departure of the last foreign soldier.

Landscapers equipped with a can of chemicals will no doubt be sent by their political master, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, to spray the indigenous caper and allies to oblivion, something in which I must admit, they are very good at. But these are wild species and do not fatten anybody’s pockets. I am sure that the indigenous species will rise again, and again, and again in protest with the same determination, as one or two have already done at the newly renovated Mdina bastions, made more to resemble Windsor Castle rising out of an expanse of turf, so artificial and unnatural to a Mediterranean fortification rising out of garigue vegetation. As long as the people and the EU pay, who cares? Who would be that Minister who,  during whose tenure, approved the introduction of the most exotic alien species, not excluding invasives, in the Maltese Islands at the expense of local indigenous species, in the name of landscaping? The wisdom of some politicians knows no bounds despite national and international obligations, and should I add electoral promises!

2013.10.22---inula-chritmoides

The Golden Samphire on the restored Vittoriosa bastions. It can easily replace the introduced exotic invasive species of Fountain Grass occupying the flower beds on the waterfront.

I walked heavily to where my car was parked close to St. Helena Bastions ­ another jewel of the Knights of St. John. Another gem of a historical heritage so conspicuous by its neglected and abandoned state.  If only the funds coming from the European Union and public funds lavishly spent on the importation, advice, planting and profits made on the exotic trees, went to the restoration of such other gem at Bormla (Cospicua) they would have been much better spent.

2013,10,22---fountain-grass

The now ubiquitous introduced alien invasvie Fountain Grass, in the shadow of alien trees, competing and taking over from indigenous flora.

It was a relief to drive back home. But not before driving through a breach in the Cottonera bastion lines leading from San Ġwann t’Għuxa to Għajn Dwieli. The mismanagement, lack of planning and financial driving force in landscaping with its negative social, historical and ecological impact had ruined the enjoyable candle­lit evening at the historical city of Birgu. The good thing about it was that the candle­lit environment had hidden the look of disappointment on my face: the lack of considerations for local biodiversity makes me feel ashamed that I am Maltese, when this is appreciated more by the foreigners than by the local politicians. When money grows on trees and it talks, there is nobody ready to listen.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com

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La Valette imlibbes ta’ Ċikku l-Poplu

October 30, 2013

Alfred E. Baldacchino  –  30/10/2013 15:18

Meta smajt bl-­aħbar li l­-monument ta’ La Valette ġie mlibbes ilbies kontemporanju għidt bejni u bejn ruħi li dan kien l­-għaġir ta’ xi erba’ bħal dawk li żebgħu il-­graffiti ma’ ġenb id­-daħla ta’ fejn darba kien hemm Bieb il­-Belt biex juru l­kultura kontemporanja. Imma meta qrajt li din kienet parti mill-­attività uffiċjali biex wieħed setà jifhem aħjar il­-kultura kontemporanja, allura ħassejtni mifxul. Aktar u aktar meta fuq il-­mezzi tax­-xandir rajt filmat ta’ La Valette imlibbes b’dan il­-mod u erba’ żagħżagħ jaqbżu quddiemu fuq injama b’erba’ roti jesprimu l­hekk imsejħa kultura kontemporanja.

Għalxejn ippruvajt insib tarf ta’ din il­-kobba. Imma m’għandix dubju li dawn ma tantx juru rispett nazzjonali lejn l­-istorja u l-­kultura ta’ pajjiżna, kif qaluli numru ta’ nies li tkellmu miegħi fuq hekk.

Fit-­taqbida li kelli biex forsi nsib tarf staqsejt lili nnifsi: min jaf kieku wieħed, mit­-tliet monumenti li hemm Kastilja, faċċata tal­-Ufiċċju tal-Prim Ministru, jitlibbes b’dan l­-istil b’rabta mal­-kultura kontemporanja? M’għandix dubju li kieku l­-ammont ta’ bozoz ħomor u blu li kienu jixgħelu mhux biss kienu jdawlu din il-­pjazza imma kienu jiddu u jagħtu s-­sehem tagħhom lill-belt kollha fl-­okkazzjoni ta’ din il-­lejla kulturali kontemporanja!

Ippruvajt inpoġġi ruħi fiż-­żarbun ta’ La Valette, imlilbbes kif kien metru ’l fuq mill-­art. Żgur kont nara t­-teatru fi stat dilapidat kif ilu sa mill­-1942. Imma ma kontx inkun nista’ nara kif il­-bieb ta’ din il-­belt famuża mad-­dinja kollha ġie mibdul f’xaqq. Ma kontx inkun nista’ nara s-­selħa li darba saret taħt il-­barrakka biex saret triq iddur mal-­Belt, u lanqas ma kont nista’ nara s­-selħa l-­oħra li darba saret f’San Ġwann t’Għuxa, Bormla. Tgħid forsi anki din hija parti mill-­kultural kontemporanja? Ma għandniex xi ngħidu ma kontx nista’ ma narax dik il-­kaxxa twila twila, bit­-twieqi forma ta’ persjani tal-­ġebel biex ma jgħammxux l­-għajnejn il­-mexxejja poliltikanti li għada pitgħada, kif intqal, minn hemm ser ikomplu jfasslu l­-istorja ta’ dan il-­pajjiż u jibnu, wieħed jifhem u jittama’ fuq l­-istorja tal­-passat, fuq il­-kultura nazzjonali, u fuq is-­sens komun. Hekk naħseb jien għall-­anqas.

Komplejt nitħawwad meta smajt fuq wieħed mill­-istazzjonijiet tat­-TV Maltin li fil-­passat ma kinetx tkun xi sagrileġġ kieku s­-swar kellhom jitwaqqgħu jew jinstelħu biex jagħmlu triq jew fetħa. Daqslikieku ma kien ikun hemm l­-ebda tniggiż ta’ ebda kuxjenza jekk isir xi kunċert bil-­mużika kontemporanja u bir-­raġġi lażer jiżfnu ma’ kull rokna ġewwa l­Konkatidral ta’ San Ġwann.

Intqal ukoll li l­-Ingliżi ma waqqgħux is-­swar għax ma kellhomx flus biżżejjed! Fil­-kotba storiċi li naf bihom jien, l-­Ingliżi sewwew is­-swar ta’ San Ġwann f’Għajn Dwieli fl-­1950 mill-­ħsara li kellhom u ħolqu mini taħtu flok għamlu selħa. U ma għamlux xaqq fis-­swar flok Bieb il­-Belt, imma fl-­1853 biddlu l-­bieb. Lanqas ma għamlu selha fis­-swar tal-­Belt imma fl-­1885 kabbru Victoria Gate. U lanqas ma waqqgħu Bieb il-­Bombi imma fl-­1868 kabbru l­-bieb b’ieħor ħdejh, għall­-kumdità tal-­poplu. Imbagħad illum issib min jgħidlek li siġra li tikber ma’ ġenb is-­swar tnaqqsilhom mill-­kobor u l-­majestà tagħhom, imma xaqq flok bieb ma jimpurtax. U tgħid din hija parti mill-­kultura komtemporanja wkoll?

Li jbeżżagħni ħafna huwa n­-nuqqas ta’ rispett dejjem jikber, tal-apprezzament u tal­-għarfien lejn il-­kobor li pajjiżna huwa mogħni bih. U dan mhux biss jidher, jinħass u jsawtek bil­-ħarta, bil-­qerda ta’ ħajja naturali ta’ pajjiżna għal raġunijiet ta’ qligħ ta’ flus u raġunijiet oħra egoistiċi, imma anki n-­nuqqas ta’ rispett għalina stess, għall­-ħajja tagħna tal-­lum, biex ma nsemmix dik tal-­ġenerazzjoni ta’ għada li silfuna dan il­-wirt kollu.

Sirna nirranġunaw: il­-bieraħ min jafu, għada min raħ. Illum naħtfu u niffangaw hekk kif jisbaħ. U hemm fejn dan ukoll xi minn daqqiet għandu l­-barka tal-­mexxejja poliltiċi għal­ raġunijiet li jifhmuhom huma biss. Aktar ma nipprova nifhem lill-­mexxejja politikanti, aktar qed inħoss li mhux sejjer jirnexxili nagħmel dan, għalkemm nifhem kif ir­-riżultat tad­-deċiżjonijiet tagħhom iħallas għalihom il-­poplu u l­-ambjent. Tgħid din tista’ tkun waħda mir-­raġunijiet psikoloġiċi għaliex il­-poplu jlibbes lill-­mexxej tal-­passat bi lbies kontemporanju?

Forsi xi ħadd jgħid li jien ma nifhimx fil-­kultura kontemporanja, imma jekk b’kultura kontemporanji wieħed jifhem dak li għidt hawn fuq, mhux biss ma rridx nifhimha, imma lanqas biss nixtieq li nkun parti minnha jew li jkolli x’naqsam magħha.

Filwaqt li l-­istoriċi u r-­riċerkaturi jilletikaw, ifittxu u jqallbu l­-manuskritti u d­-dokumenti mgħobbija bl­-għabra biex jaraw jekk il-­Gran Mastru li bena l­-Belt Valletta kienx jiffirma la Valette jew de la Valette, il­-mexxejja tal-­lum f’isem il­kultura kontemporanja semmewh u libbsuh ta’ Ċikku l-Poplu.

Alfred E. Baldacchino