011 Mnajdra SunMalta’s Megalithic Temples – an Artist’s View 1

The Megalithic temples of Malta are among the oldest free-standing structures in the world, older than the Egyptian pyramids. Ggantija, on Malta’s sister island Gozo, is estimated to have been built around 3,700 BC. Several of these enigmatic structures still stand today, having been excavated in the middle of the last century, and they are now preserved as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Traces of many other temples – some say at least 80 – are scattered all over the tiny islands, mostly demolished and incorporated into the local rubble walls.

And that’s where the questions begin. Why were there so many temples built in Malta and Gozo? Who built them? What were they for? A few sacrificial knives have been found, and some animal remains in temple niches, but no indication of human sacrifice. There is little or no evidence of weaponry; the temple builders must have lived in peace. Neither is there much evidence of contemporary habitation; how could a small population have built so many huge structures?

013 Side AltarObviously, these massive stones – one of them is approximately 20 tons – were not cut, moved and erected so precisely for the fun of it. Tremendous importance must have been attached to the sites. Was it the space they occupy, or the buildings themselves? Or both? For some reason, Malta must have been held in high esteem by ancient peoples, and I wonder why…… I wonder what they knew that we are too ‘civilised’ to acknowledge today.

010 SkorbaThere are many theories concerning the whys and wherefores, from alien stargates to Goddess cults to primitive burial and ceremonial sites. As an artist, I have over the years been lucky enough to have had permission to work on site in these structures. Obviously, my impressions are of what I feel when I am painting rather than any facts or figures. By allowing myself to soak in the atmosphere and respond to it with colour and line, I find that the results often surprise and move me.

It seems obvious to me that prehistoric peoples had to survive alongside Nature, predicting her seasons and being intimately touched by her cycles. They knew that they were part of the great rhythm of the earth. They had to know when to plant, when to store grains and seeds. They also knew that women were precious to their survival, magical in their ability to bleed without dying, and to bring forth new life from within their bodies much as the earth did. They must have treasured the fertility of women as well as Nature, and found both worthy of deep respect. How else could they have had a future?

008 Ta' Hagrat callsSurely these ancient whisperings have an urgent message for us today……..

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About Jeni Caruana

Jeni was born in England and studied at Uxbridge, Hull and Harrow Art Colleges before settling in Malta in 1977. She subsequently worked as a graphic designer and followed a post-Diploma course at Malta College of Art. Jeni has held regular solo exhibitions of her works and participated in numerous joint, group and collective exhibitions in Malta and abroad, representing Malta in UK, USA, Sardinia, Rome, Tunisia, Libya and Norway. Paintings now hang in many public and private collections. --- Works cover a wide variety of subjects and media, from landscapes to Prehistoric Temples, sand to ceramics, watercolour and acrylics to wooden sculptures. They are always based on good drawing and keen observation and always started on location or from live models. Intense study of the human figure has resulted in her ability to capture fleeting glimpses of people in motion. Visually expressing the emotional effects of music on the senses, her ‘musician’ paintings are a favourite subject. --- Jeni has been teaching drawing and watercolour techniques to adults since 1995. She regularly runs courses and workshops in drawing and watercolour for adult beginners and improvers, specialised courses in life drawing, watercolour techniques, weekend workshops and painting outings and also art for self-expression, meditation and relaxation. --- For more information please contact; Studio Address: - “Dar Il-Mistrieh”, - 15, Old Church Street, - Manikata - MLH 5202