Malta Diary A pictorial panorama of the Maltese Islands over the last 200 years
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My four grandparents died 50, 40 and 30 years ago. I often muse that if they were resurrected today and placed anywhere in Malta they would fail to recognise their homeland and would stand bewildered and confused they were in another country.
Yes, in their time, scenes and situations were changing but none in such a rampant manner as over the last 20 years when the surface of the Maltese Islands has changed completely.
There is a great fascination in looking through old scenic photographs of as we were while comparing these to as we are (minus Coronavirus!). Indeed, some appear to be almost incredible and hard to understand.
Now, professional photographer Kevin Casha has collated and published a book that is a testament to the history of the Islands after researching the development of photography in the Islands and how these captured moments, scenes and situations in the past.
As I now number 74 years, some of the photographs produce faint recollections of my childhood, but the majority do not. The collation is so professional it has been officially recognised by the Royal Photographic Society of London.
Titled “Photography in Malta – The History and The Protagonists”, the book contains a wealth of about 500 photographs taken between 1840 and 2000, when the transformation to the digital age began. Kevin Casha, who is an author, teacher and a professional photographer spent seven years researching the pictures, selecting them and gathering information about them.
Photography began to develop in the Maltese Islands in the mid-Nineteenth Century and quickly took root because it captured magic lifetime memories. For years it stood as a status symbol for an individual to be captured immemorially whereas previously this had to be a painting which took many hours and was too costly for the vast majority. A photograph took seconds and was cheap. Family groups were very popular during particular moments such as the carnival and Christmas. Naturally, wedding pictures became an immediate necessity and clearly show that in the past bridal gowns were black but then transferred to all-white to symbolise virginity.
The collection also shows the building and development of architectural structures reflecting the past and the popularity of the moment.
Some pictures struck my muses and thoughts. A picture of a child Carnival group at Msida taken in 1935 is abundant with UK insignia but not a single Maltese symbol – unless the hats worn were red and white but cannot be distinguished because they are black and white.
There is a picture of a tinker sharpening knives in 1940 as he plied his mobile trade in lanes, alleys and streets. These were common and every day and today I still know of at least one who tours town and villages in a van with modern equipment. In those days one bought a set of knives for a lifetime and continually sharpened them. Today’s trend is no time to waste sharpening knives – dispose of the blunt and purchase the new set.
One picture of The Ferries at The Strand in Sliema, taken in 1935, draws great memories of my childhood as I still recall seeing the then existing structure, a departure point for ferries crossing Sliema Creek from Sliema to Valletta.
Another picture shows the Greasy Pole Competition mainly staged by seaside parishes. Competitors had to climb a greasy pole as far up as possible and snatch a flag, and this carried money prizes – as paltry as they were. This has still remained popular today.
One sad total loss is the Valletta Royal Opera House, a majestic building destroyed during World War II by Axis bombing and never restored because of the financial expense and the continual refusal of Allied Governments to help fund its restoration.
As I said, these pictures provide hours of fascinations and sometimes recollections, strong or faint.
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