The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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Book review: It is people who make towns and villages

Noel Grima Sunday, 11 February 2024, 08:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

'Riflessi miż-Żejtun'

Authors: Sean Chircop and Charles Mifsud

Publisher: Kunsill Lokali Żejtun / 2023

Pages: 214


Many of the guides and books that are written about localities tend to focus about buildings especially those with a history. This book goes about things in an opposite direction - it focuses on people rather than buildings.

This isn't because Żejtun does not have buildings of interest - it has both churches and palaces in abundance. But this introduction to the locality, written by a local councillor, strongly believes that it is the people who make up a locality, rather than buildings.

As Sean Chircop, the author, says in his introduction, a city without people would be a city-museum; lifeless.

The Żejtun we know today is the result of the many people who have lived in it through the centuries and who have created the traditions over the years from the religious celebrations of the feast in honour of Saint Catherine to the Good Friday rituals to the għana and the skills and rituals that one can still find today in Żejtun.

Charles Mifsud contributes to the book the photos that form a visual commentary to Chircop's words. The photos are quite unique and sometimes are taken from unexpected angles.

After a short and condensed history of Żejtun, the book describes the houses in the locality, usually family homes that have been lived in by the same family for centuries. Then the photographer wanders around the streets snapping at anything that attracts his attention, including children still playing in the streets.

Then there are scenes that are uniquely found in Żejtun - flying of kites (manuċċa), ringing of bells, and of course the għana. And the now not worn għonnella, still living in people's memories. And the former Pandora Cinema.

An enjoyable section deals with the small corner grocer shops and about Żejtun's special "pram women" who sell produce from their own gardens around the streets. Another section describes the shops that were most popular around the church but which have now either been taken over or closed up.

There is an article about host-making by the nuns, pasturi-making and Joe Falzon, the powerman who once pulled an Air Malta plane for 30 feet.

The last section describes the rural areas that still exist in Zejtun and the rural trades that survive despite all. And a description of my neighbour Kalċ, who can be seen most days trundling a wheelbarrow on his way to his small farm, is also included in the book.

The last section is a description of the Żejtun year from carnival to All Saints.

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