The Malta Independent 20 November 2018, Tuesday

Marie Benoit's Diary: Treasures: encouraging us to love our heritage

Tuesday, 16 October 2018, 08:45 Last update: about 2 months ago

The cover of the Summer issue of Treasures of Malta is very colourful. Upon further investigation I found it is a painting of windmills in Gozo, by Mary Fedden.

 In this issue there is a long and well illustrated article by Lawrence Pavia: Julian Trevelyan and Mary Fedden: impressions of Malta. The artists first visited the island in 1958 and returned five times after that. (They were married in 1951 since Julian had separated from his first wife in 1949). According to the writer "although they were, as expected, fascinated by the baroque architecture, their main interest was more in the vernacular architecture and landscape typical of these islands."Pavia, quoting an article by N. Usherwood writes that Trevelyn was considered to be one "of the leading and most influential practitioners and teachers of etching in the country." Each had had their own achievements in their artistic career. Mary Fedden taught painting at the Royal College of Art, "the first woman to hold such a position, on top of being painter in her own right." They produced works of art "which show some of the beautifully natural integral aspects of Malta and Gozo."

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As the writer points out the visit of these two artists has to be seen in the context of the art world existing in a Malta where Maltese artists had mainly remained insular to outside forces. It was Graham Binns who had encouraged the couple to visit Malta. His intention was "to introduce Malta and Maltese artists to internationally renowned artists whilst they visit and paint in Malta."

Lawrence Pavia's research on Julian Trevelyan and Mary Fedden was part of his dissertation for his Masters of Art studies. His study on these two artists will be published by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti later this year.

As I was browsing through Treasures I had an ahha moment as the familiar face of Cecil Satariano leapt out from an article by Sarah Chircop: The Cinema of Cecil Satariano. Cecil and his wife Eileen were friends. I wrote about Cecil and his films in the Sunday Times of Malta in the 70s.  Then, in my 20s, I had copious energy to follow him to Golden Bay, in the heat of August, so that I could write an authentic story about his film Beach.

Some names he worked with come to mind: Karmen Azzopardi, Vanessa Webber, Mary Blackman, Frank Pisani and of course Giuseppi Mallia.

It was obvious to those of us involved in one way or another in Cecil's film-making that he loved what he was doing. He earned his living from his job at the Cable & Wireless and making films was his hobby and his passion.

 I don't want to turn this into a potted autobiography but I remember the time I went with Eileen and Cecil to London for him to receive several awards for his brilliant Giuseppi. The event took place at the National Film Theatre where Cecil was presented with a trophy for Giuseppi which was one of the Ten Best Amateur Films of the year. Mike Hodges who had directed Giuseppi Mallia, the protagonist of Cecil's film, in Pulp presented the prizes. Hodges had seen a picture of the old man in The Times of Malta and ordered his casting director to "get Giuseppi."  Apart from winning The Ten Best Trophy, the film also won the Dixon's award for the best editing and received a cheque of ₤100 from the publishers of Movie Maker magazine sponsors of the Ten Best competition. The Kodak award for the best use of colour also went to Cecil. His hands could not take another trophy that evening so he called Frank Pisani who played the "villain" in the film, to go up to help.

The protagonist Giuseppi Mallia made the cover of Movie Maker and a picture of him also appeared in What's On.

As Ms Chircop writes Cecil then wrote Canon Fire! The art of making award-winning amateur films. He gave me a copy: "To Marie, whom I respect and admire." Should I be proud? Well, let me give it a think.

 

I then got married and went to live abroad. My husband, dead and gone,  I decided to return here with my two daughters, a decision I did not take lightly.

After a couple of weeks or so I found a note from Cecil, who lived nearby, saying: "Once we join the EU there will be plenty of money for films. You write the script and I'll do the rest." That was his dream. To spend his life making films. But it was not to be for soon after Cecil got a stroke and film-making had to be most unfortunately abandoned.

I was happy to meet Eileen again after many years when the Malta Cine Circle invited me to An evening with Cecil Satariano in 2009.

I couldn't resist writing all that, in remembrance of things past and as a tribute to Cecil.

The editor of Treasures and prolific writer Giovanni Bonello wrote An Introduction to Photography in Malta which is not only generously illustrated but in addition there is an insert of four photos from Judge Bonello's own collection.

He assures us in his article that "Photography did not limp behind in some primitive backwater. It started early and robustly, it developed abreast of all world advances in technology and creative talent...The early Maltese photographers, whether studio portraitists, open-air landscapists, or recorders of events had very little to envy their European or world contemporaries.

There is so much that is interesting to read in this issue of around 90 pages.

Then there is an article The Farsons Brewery Mriehal, 1946-1950 by Mark C. Muscat author of the excellent Maltese Architecture 1900-1970: Progress and Innovation published by Patrimonju;

In The Maltese Zaqq Karl Partridge revists his 1970 study of local bagpipe players while Thomas Freller, who is well known in Malta because of his numerous writings on our history, narrates a curious episode that captured the imagination of two international reputable scholars in his Of Ghosts and Treasures: The quaint story behind the finding of the Mdina gold hoard in 1698. I have not yet read this article as I am waiting for a cold stormy night to do so in my winceyette nightie.

Charles Debono gives us The Capture and Presentation of an Italian Field Gun. Last but by no means least is this issue's article in the regular My Favourite Object in which Christopher Grech in eight beautifully illustrated pages,  writes "about a curiosity of year-round interest: Blanch Simmons Birthday Book" while William Zammit writes about Melitensia Curios.

Every copy of Treasures - this is No 72 - encourages us to discover and learn how to cherish our heritage. Articles are written with meticulous scholarship and dispassionate authority.  It should be compulsory reading for sixth-formers for there couldn't be a better way to encourage the next generation to preserve its heritage.

 

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