Gozo’s Culture – History – Traditions, by Lino DeBono

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Gozo's Culture - History - Traditions, by Lino DeBono“What does distinguish one people from another? How is it that one can declare without hesitation if one is Maltese – a Gozitan – Englishman – Scotsman – German – Australian – Irish or an American, etc. etc?

I hold the view that a person is recognised by the way one talks, views life – beliefs and habits. How one acts and holds a position on beliefs and cultural views. The personal traditions are also a trademark.

For example here in Gozo we can distinguish from which village one comes from by just listening to his speech. All 13 Gozitan villages have their own dialect of speech, local folklore and way of life. Maltese crossing over from the Mainland are instantly and distinctively recognised by Gozitans as such.

Culture and heritage were almost non-existent in my island and also the mainland in yesteryears. Lack of educational knowledge in Educational Governmental facilities, lack of educational teaching educators. Little or no knowledge at all on learning about these subjects at schools.

Even till the present times, I sadly note that there is no valid and truly informative Maltese History Book being taught in our schools. We still mostly learn from that written during the Colonialism period.

To add to this our society in general just didn’t value or know at that time the meaning of the importance of our heritage, starting from the political class who were our leaders.

Some extraordinary personalities like Sir Temi Zammit and Mr Trump (an exceptional foreigner living among us) who so ably helped in bringing to our nation’s attention the rich heritage our islands so proudly possess.

Surprised

This week I was surprised when saluting a friend, instead of returning my greetings, he answered back that I wrote against him. I was totally surprised because by time and maturity, I do make it a point not to mention anyone by name in my writings. I learned this from past mistakes.

So I asked this person on what and how I had written about him. His answer was that I had written against a Planning Authority Application on a particular site in Gozo.

This I did do. I still hold the same view and my reasons are the same as previously written. This friend’s comment on the contrary has inspired me in writing this article.

As Gozo is small and due to our closeness, almost everyone knows each other, this has been so through this ages and is also part of our heritage, Gozitans tend to grumble and complain privately but not publicly.

If anyone is seen doing an illegality, this will be the talk of the day in small groups, but if any authoritative person asks, nobody will inform. Grumble and privately complain yes, but formally and openly, no.

Lost Heritage

This brings me to the actual issue. One tends to hear in Gozo of quickly bulldozing and hurriedly destroying by excavator works in building sites, when artefacts, caves, burial, historical and other similar heritage materials are discovered. One can in private conservations hear of this, but not officially.

In other similar cases one hears of how a contractor is hired on Saturdays or the eve of Holidays when Governmental Departments are closed to bulldoze a building site as the Departments are closed and no authority will be on hand to take action.

When this is reported (if it is) then it will be too late for any action. If the authorities takes action, then the cry will be made by the individual/s that foul play was made only against them. Their questions will be why action was taken ONLY against them and not those previously as well.

Sadly, we in Gozo are having quite a few of these instances. We Gozitans proudly say that we do not want Gozo to become a second Malta, but keep Gozo rural. I agree 100% if this so worthy statement is observed.

Sadly it is not, as we have had cases in recent times when a house frontage protected was bulldozed. When nobody knows how a Planning Authority permit was granted (and by whom) in granting an opening to the Citadel Ditch. How are protected houses being bulldozed?

The only house that was put down without the required permits, and still is, after so many years not built, is the one in Republic Street, Victoria, by the Astra Theatre. I cannot say so for all the other similar cases.

In Parliament I used to continuously bring to attention to the Cultural Minister that at Chambray a bulldozer is going to be hired on a Saturday to take down the Historical Military Cemetery. That particular Minister didn’t take, or wanted to take heed of my cries.

Then on one particular Saturday, the bulldozer did go in to Chambray and bulldozed this Historical place. The only thing that was left was the Chapel.

Remedies

I do suggest to all the Authorities, that if any individual who takes down a place, or part of a building, especially if this is of value or in a protected area, to revoke for ever any building permit that MAY have been issued in a regular way. Secondly apart from a hefty fine, the Government should take over the property automatically.

This is the only way that these sort of abuses will be stopped once and for all.

History

As initially said, history and culture creates a nation and its peoples. We are what we are today as the inheritors of our predecessors.

We now have an obligation to leave our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as inheritance the value of our most beautiful historical background, thereby showing where we came from.

Before I finish I wish to mention the excellent place in Victoria “Il-Hagar,” which when excavating historical remains were found, and instead of burying them (as has happened at the Citadel, some say due to lack of funds) authorities installed a glass floor in order that these historical artefacts can be proudly displayed and seen by all visitors. A big well done is merited.

Our peoples are becoming much more conscious of our history, nature and traditions. Traditions that we as Maltese and Gozitans are so proud off and nowadays are exporting our traditions overseas as well. This is what makes and unite us as a nation.”

Lino DeBono

Photograph by Alain Salvary

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