Il-Progress – Pembroke u affarjiet oħra….

Fl-ebda ordni partikolari…

Il-Progress hu meta r-rata tal-vjolenza fuq in-nisa tonqos mhux tiżdied.

Il-Progress hu meta pulizija ma jispiċċax bla id għax jaqdi dmiru.

Il-Progress hu meta protesta leġittima ma tiġix trattat bħala attività kriminali.

Il-Progress hu meta sewwieqa ma jispiċċawx fl-idejn fuq frustrazzjoni fit-traffiku.

Il-Progress hu meta ma titfax kokroċ fuq mafkar – hu ta’ min hu.

Il-Progress hu meta ma tifraħx bil-mewt ta’ ħaddieħor – anke jekk ikun l-akbar għadu.

Il-Progress hu meta ma tiżdiedx ir-rata tal-mard trasmess sesswalment għax tlifna kull sens ta’ moralità u rażan.

Il-Progress hu meta ma neqirdux wirt missirijietna.

Il-Progress hu meta wieħed jistenna fit-traffiku bil-paċenzja mhux iħossu stuntman.

Il-Progress hu meta x’taf jiswa iżjed minn min taf.

Il-Progress hu meta titkellem kontra dak li hu ħażin mhux tibqa’ sieket biex la tkun la tfuħ u lanqas tinten.

Il-Progress hu meta l-karità tagħmilha bħala obbligu morali ‘l bogħod mill-għajn, mhux biex tidher fuq il-media.

Il-Progress hu meta jonqos l-illiteriżmu mhux jiżdied.

Il-Progress hu meta min imexxi jemmen fi prinċipji mhux partiti.

Il-Progress hu meta taċċetta li l-opinjoni tiegħek hi biss opinjoni u mhux fatt.

Il-Progress hu meta it-toroq mimlija bit-tfal jilgħabu u nies ipaċpċu, mhux karozzi jew nies jiġġieldu.

Il-Progress hu meta l-użu tal-kokaina jinżel waħdu għax in-nies m’għandhiex għalfejn taħrab mill-miżerja tal-ħajja ta’ kuljum.

Il-Progress hu meta l-paga minima tkun id-doppju tal-kera medja, mhux bil-kontra.

Il-Progress hu meta nħawlu iktar siġar u nibnu inqas toroq. 

Il-Progress hu meta s-silenzju quddiem l-inġustizzja jkun meqjus reat akbar minn qtil.

Il-Progress hu meta tal-merċa m’għandux għalfejn jiftaħ nhar ta’ Ħadd.

Il-Progress hu meta nitgħallmu nżommu kju.

Il-Progress hu meta tkun taf tgħid ‘jekk jogħġbok’ u ‘grazzi’. 

Il-Progress hu meta xogħol part time hu għażla mhux neċessità biex tgħix.

Il-Progress hu meta ta’ tletin sena tkun mgħobbi bil-memorji ta’ żgħożitek mhux id-dejn għal għomrok.

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It-Torri ta’ Pembroke mhuwhiex progress.

Dak hu biss monument għar-regħba u l-ħniżrija u l-kundanna ta’ min approvah u ta’ min baqa’ sieket bit-tama li jieħu loqma minn taħt il-mejda tal-ħnieżer.

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The Gentrification of Space: Valletta and other commodities

Space represents the next generation of consumables. The old adage that ‘time is money’ can now also be extended to space: Space is money, and most of us cannot afford it.

We are paying more for less space to live in. Even ‘public’ space is subject to ‘rental’ fees. If you need to set up tables and chairs for your business, if you organise an event, or if you need to temporarily secure an area, you need to pay. The equation is simple – if you have enough money then that space is yours. 

In a heavily consumerist society like ours that might seem natural, almost logical. You want something – you pay for it. Except that it is a dangerous and immoral dictum by which to regulate our existence. The underlying sinister message is that money is the regulating factor – not ethics or any form of human rights. This has far-reaching consequences on how we interact with the space at every level.

Here are three examples of use of public space in Malta – but the issues dealt with here are indicative of a global urban crisis. Gentrification is an international movement and the gentrification of space an international problem.

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TOP: Paola Square 2018 (NOTE: The photograph shows the works in progress and are not the final aesthetic result. It merely highlights the change of use of space). BOTTOM: Paola Square prior to the refurbishment.

Paola Square

I shall start from Paola Square because it is the most recent and the least offensive. There is no doubt that Paola Square was in need of a revamp. The square probably had not seen any serious maintenance since the 80s. The project involved redesigning the square from Kordin prison all the way to the health centre on the other side. The project involved rerouting the traffic flow, new street furniture, replacing the existing trees, and reimagining the church parvis. 

Two things become immediately apparent when comparing the before and after. The first is its colour – it is now a vast expanse of grey. It might seem the least important aspect of the project, but it is the one that strikes you first. It is worth remembering that the visual impact of a space is generally our first interaction with that same space. Before you start experiencing the spatiality of a space, the first thing that you take in is its appearance. The edges of the square are the ones where this is least felt – the trees (apologetic shrubs and pot plants really) and bright yellow branches mitigate the greyness of it all. But in between is a vast expanse of grey – all ripe for commercial use (and indeed cheap plastic tables have already appeared). And thus public space has quickly turned into commercial space.

Even the traffic management – for all its good intentions – is counter-productive. Sure, it reduces the traffic flow and slows down passing traffic. But with ever more cars on our roads and the grey open spaces overlooking the road, most of the square is constantly bombarded by traffic. Even the church parvis is subject to vehicle mobility – with coaches and vans now reversing onto the parvis right up to the main door of the church (God forbid we should walk 10 metres from the pavement to the church door). 

The old square, with its many faults, had one great advantage – the parvis and the central square where sealed off with a balustrade (and large trees in the middle of the square) which gave intimacy to the space. The few remaining ‘intimate’ spaces are so thinly separated from the rest of the surrounding environment as to render them marignal and insignificant.

Tucked away on one side of the square are two war-shelter entrances that have been uncovered and made visible. Their uncovering is laudable as they do afford a continuity of spatial narrative. But the whole project is apologetic – public space approached cautiously lest it offend businesses. The absence of children and families, the vast grey expanse in the middle, the few people tucked away at the edges of the square, and the lack of a barrier between the square and traffic – all of these create a fragmented and feeble space despite all the good intentions. 

Sliema-hotels-construction

Tigné Point

Tigne Point

Never mind the height of the buildings – that is probably the least offensive aspect. This project swept away a whole British era military complex (with only fragments surviving) in order to build a shopping mall with surrounding ‘luxury’ apartments. The word ‘luxury’ has become a favourite with real estate agents. Put in a lift and a private garage and a bit of a sea-view and -voilà – everything has become luxurious. 

The Tigne Point project represents the first major step towards this gentrification and commodification of space. It has swept away the existing narrative of the place (the remains which have been incorporated in the project are so out of context as to render them irrelevant), and replaced them with generic apartment blocks. The apartments might be comfortable to live in (although I personally find the arrangement claustrophobic) but they are simply ordinary apartments with effective branding. 

That obsessive and excessive branding extends into the shopping mall (that capitalist space par excellence), made up entirely of high street brands. Yes it is convenient and comfortable – but it is also characterless and soulless. Every inch of space is used to sell – even the recreational areas. Shoppers are constantly bombarded with advertising – human beings are reduced to consumerist machines. The best part of the project is the Marsamxett side, with its suspended pontoon overlooking the harbour. It is a simple and unassuming space that embraces the harbour and extends into it.

One might think that the only historical narrative in that area was the British barracks, but in fact it contains a much richer past that has now been obliterated and consigned to the history books. It was here that Malta’s post-Modernist theatre scene started, as well as the local rock music scene. Even when it was pretty much an abandoned complex, it was a real hub of creativity (long before so-called cultural strategists came up with the words ‘hub’ and ‘creativity’). And the best thing is that it was spontaneous. 

But nothing now remains of that space. The result is a generic space that could be anywhere in the world, where you can shop for brands that can be found anywhere in the world, and eat food that you can find anywhere in the world.

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Valletta Food Market (Not showing the additional tables and chairs that have since been set up in the middle of the road in front of the building).

Valletta Food Market

Dulcis in fundo – as they say. The Valletta market is one of the flagship projects for Valletta 2018. The project involved the restoration of the old market building, the creation of a food market, and the creation of public and cultural spaces. The result? A glorified airport departure lounge (minus the aeroplanes). 

Despite the excellent restoration of the original building fabric, the result has swept away almost all of its community narrative. The food market now consists of a very expensive supermarket at the lower level, and high street food brands on the first level. This is coupled with a dull brown interior that is as generic as they come. You can only distinguish the different stalls from their logos –  you remove the logo and all you have is a brown box with food in it (compare the damnably ugly brown containers passing off as kiosks outside City Gate on Triton Square – it’s pretty much the same concept).

To add insult to injury, the market has completely taken over the outdoor space with more tables and chairs. This usurpation of public space will forever remain a blemish on all the parties involved, including and especially Valletta 18. The circumstances which led to this arrangement also merit comment – the investors complained that as it was the project was not profitable, and that the extra chairs were necessary. Well, quite frankly, if the investors miscalculated their profit margins, that is their problem. But we all know that this was only a carefully calculated move to maximise profit – making money at all costs.

Is there an upside to all this? Yes, in a smug perverse sense. The Valletta Food Market is a dead space. The place is barely half full at any time of day – and its customers are mostly hapless tourists trapped into an expensive giant kiosk. The additional tables and chairs only exacerbate the bleakness of it all.

The Valletta Food Market is the cherry on top of Valletta’s merciless gentrification. A sweeping away of city narrative for commercial use. Every inch of Valletta is being exploited, its residents pushed out of the city, and its narrative erased. Words like ‘regeneration’ and ‘master plan’ have become the weapons with which gentrification levels everything before it. Valletta is now a giant theme park full of pretty attractions, boutique hotels, cafeterias and cheap souvenir shops. 

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Space is money – everything is money. Our relationship with space is a complex one. We are both conditioned by space as well as manipulators of that same space. The idea of space for the sake of recreation and socialising has become unthinkable. Children are no longer encouraged to play on the streets (and in many cases expressly forbidden), and adults…well adults no longer have the time to devote to outdoor space. We must all work harder to meet the demands of the market. Recreation, art, culture, sport, politics, religion…and of course space – these are all subservient to the market. 

Space is money. We are money. All is money. Can you afford to live?

Mediterran

(English translation below)

 

Dan hu l-Baħar l-Aħmar:

Xerrdu d-demm forsi jsalva l-ewwel wild.

Ħenjin dawk li huma mistiedna għall-ikla tal-Ħaruf.

Dan hu l-Baħar l-Iswed:

Xerrdu l-irmied forsi jinħafrulkom dnubietkom.

Ħenjin dawk li huma mistiedna għall-ikla tal-Ħaruf.

Jekk ma nferaqx il-baħar, għax m’emmnux:

Dak l-għoġol mhux tagħna, dak tal-ġirien.

Jekk ma mxewx fuq l-ilma, għax m’emmnux:

Iva nemmen. Iva niċħad.

Dan hu l-Baħar il-Mejjet.

Ħenjin dawk li huma mistiedna għall-ikla tal-Ħaruf.

______________________

MEDITERRANEAN

Free translation:

This is the Red Sea:

Let’s strew some blood that we may save our first-born.

Blessed are those who are invited to the supper of the Lamb.

This is the Black Sea:

Let’s strew some ashes for the forgiveness of our sins.

Blessed are those who are invited to the supper of the Lamb.

If the waters have not parted, it’s because they lacked faith.

This golden calf is not ours, it’s our neighbours’.

If they could not walk on water, it’s because they lacked faith.

Yes, I believe. Yes, I deny.

This is the Dead Sea.

Blessed are those who are invited to the supper of the Lamb.

L-Oħrajn

Ma bkejtx għas-siġra.
(Mur ara, fadal iżjed siġar,
Waħda inqas x’inhi?)
Bkejt għall-oħrajn,
Jistennew il-kundanna
F’ċelel tas-siment.

Ma bkejtx għan-niċċa.
(Mur ara, min għadu jemmen fil-qaddisin?
Sakemm mhux dawk li jirbħu l-ġenna kull ħames snin)
Bkejt għall-oħrajn,
Mimlija indulġenzi mhux mirbuħa.

Ma bkejtx għalija.
(Mur ara, jien diġa nofs triq għall-qabar)
Bkejt għall-oħrajn
Li ser jidfnuni
U ma jistgħux jibku
La siġar u la niċeċ
Għajr minn fuq is-santa tal-imwiet
Li hi ħajjitna.

Æ

(Image source: Times of Malta)

Lil Din l-Art Ħelwa

 

Sejjaħtli, u m’għaraftekx:

Wiċċek griż siment

Leħnek fgat.

M’għadekx Omm il-Mara l-Ħoxna:

Int sirt il-Mara l-Ħoxna:

Obeża, imħanżra, imdennsa;

Tgħix bil-karità falza

Ta’ min faqqrek.

 

Sejjaħtlek, u m’għaraftnix:

Wiċċi ċass, miblugħ

Leħni fgat.

M’għadnix iben il-franka:

Jien sirt żonqor u franka:

Bla ruħ, bla qalb, bla tama;

Ngħix fil-ħniżrijiet

Ta’ min faqqrek.

Fittxu l-Ewwel is-Saltna t’Alla

‘Fittxu l-ewwel is-Saltna t’Alla’ hija daqxejn  il-motto mhux uffiċjali ta-Ħamrun. Bħal li kieku il-Ħamrun huwa xi ċentru spiritwali kbir bħal ngħidu aħna Mekka jew Bodh Gaya, u Strada Rjali hija l-Camino de Santiago. Għal snin twal kont nemmen li ‘Fittxu l-Ewwel is-Saltna t’Alla’ kienet biss il-logo tal-każin tat-Tamal— taf int; daqxejn ta’ frażi ħelwa biex nuru li San Gejtanu kien jaf xi jgħid. Domt mhux ħażin sa ma ndunajt li dak ma kienx kliemu.

Is-Saltna t’Alla – il-Ħamrun. Anke jien u nerġa naqra kliemi, inħoss sens ikrah t’ironija. Għalija s-Saltna t’Alla mimlija anġli u bini sabiħ u deheb u inċens, – mhux gallariji mmermra, ħwienet mimlija affarjiet taċ-Ċina, u nies fit-triq għadhom lebsin il-paġama. Għalija s-Saltna t’Alla hu post ta’ mistrieħ u hena, mhux dħaħen u għajjat. Huwa ovvju li hemm xi ħaġa li ma fhimtx.

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San Gejtanu huwa għall-Ħamrun dak li Maradona u Ronaldo huma għall-futbol, Bob Marley u Freddie Mercurcy għall-mużika, u Einstein għax-xjenza; kulħadd sema’ bihom, iżda ftit jafu eżatt min huma jew għalfejn huma nies kbar. Fil-Ħamrun kulħadd jaf iħarbex erba kelmiet mill-Innu Popolari lil San Gejtanu (jew jekk le imqar inħanxru n-noti għas-sillabi ‘la la la’), iżda ftit jafu li ‘Fittxu l-Ewwel is-Saltna t’Alla’ mhumiex kliemu – ibda minni  l-ewwel wieħed.

X’inhi s-Saltna t’Alla? Fetħa sewda indurata bid-deheb u daqqiet ta’ griż u vjola skur hekk kif ħolomha Emvin Cremona fuq is-saqaf tal-Knisja? Jew l-anġli ta’ Vinċenzo Cremona, suwed faħma bi snin ta’ telqa, imdendlin mal-linef tal-korsija? Jew in-niċċa kkuppata maġenb il-bieb il-kbir, fejn l-Iswed maqbud perennement f’ġenuflessjoni quddiem Marija u Binha hekk kif ħolmu Karlu Darmanin?

Iva, l-iswed huwa popolari ġol-Ħamrun. Jekk titla’ t-telgħa ta’ wara l-knisja, anke l-Madonna tkun laħqet swiedet. U l-marmalja miġbura taħt il-mant tagħha wkoll hi sewda; jew sewda fuq barra maħruba mill-ħruxijiet tal-Afrika, jew sewda fuq ġewwa mikula bil-beżgħat tat-telqa u l-injoranza. U fil-mumenti ta’ dwejjaq – f’dawk il-mumenti suwed dlam – tinbet rabbja ġo fija u nheżżeż snieni: Din mihiex is-saltna t’Alla.

Imbagħad jiġi l-Iswed iċanfarni.

Jekk is-Saltna t’Alla hi diffiċli tagħrafha, San Gejtanu tagħrfu mal-ewwel – u mhux biss għax Iswed, iżda għax iswed, liebes l-Iswed, b’tarbija bajdanija f’idu. F’lejliet il-Milied tal-1517 ġewwa l-Bażilika ta’ Santa Maria Maggiore ġewwa Ruma, San Gejtanu dehritlu l-Madonna u offritlu lill-Bambin f’idu f’esperjenza mistika. Xi ħlew.

Aħfruli, iżda huwa diffiċli għal xi ħadd bħali jirraġuna dawn l-istejjer, ħelwin kemm huma ħelwin, b’mod razzjonali. Forsi huma biss parabboli biex ifakkruna li hemm xi ħaġa isbaħ mis-swidija tal-ħajja ta’ kuljum. Forsi din hi s-Saltna t’Alla, u b’xorti tajba forsi tilmaħha biss għal ftit sekondi – imbagħad lura għas-swidija.

Imbagħad jiġi l-Iswed iċanfarni.

6027017906_e017abdf88_zIva, f’dak il-lejl tal-1517 ġewwa Santa Maria Maggior San Gejtanu lemaħ is-Saltna t’Alla. Iżda nemmen li kellu viżjonijiet akbar u aqwa fit-toroq ta’ Ruma u Napli. San Gejtanu, li ra lil Kristu tarbija, ra s-Saltna t’Alla wkoll meta lemaħ ‘il-Kristu Marid, lil Kristu Midjun, u lil Kristu Kriminal – kollha mexjin ħdejh fit-toroq dojoq u maħmuġa tal-ibliet. San Gejtanu, avukat imlaħħaq u bin l-aristokrazija Veneta, sab is-Saltna t’Alla fil-faqar u l-miżerja.

Id-deheb, inċens, u mirra…kollha huma sbieħ iżda mhux biss. Ma nafx ngħidilkom eżatt din is-Saltna t’Alla x’inhi – iżda jekk għandkom ftit minuti – anke jekk ma temmen f’xejn – aqra Kapitlu 6 tal-Vanġelu ta’ San Mattew minn fejn hi meħuda dik il-frażi li San Gejtanu tant għożż. M’hemmx anġli u qaddisin, m’hemmx viżjonijiet mistiċi – hemm biss kliem iebes u sempliċi li mhux kollu għadni fhimtu aħseb u ara kemm imxejt miegħu.

Issa li wasalna fi tmiem is-sena ħaġa waħda nixtieq: li nagħraf is-Saltna t’Alla fis-swidija tal-ħajja – u li bħal San Gejtanu ikolli s-saħħa naffaċjaha u nsib fiha dak li hu tajjeb u nkattru, biex jekk nitaqa’ mal-Iswed fit-toroq tal-Ħamrun…ma jċanfarnix.

IRBAĦ! IRBAĦ! IRBAĦ! – YOU COULD BE A WINNER!

AGĦFAS FUQ WIEĦED MIR-RIGALI U GĦANDEK ĊANS TIRBAĦ! – CLICK ON ONE OF THE PRESENTS AND YOU COULD WIN!!!

 

§                                   RIGAL I

§                                                                       RIGAL II

§                    RIGAL III                

§                                            RIGAL IV

§     RIGAL V

§                                                       RIGAL VI

§                              RIGAL VII

§                                                                 RIGAL VIII

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§            RIGAL XI

§                                                       RIGAL XII

 

…Il-Milied it-Tajjeb u Sena Ġdida mimlija riżq!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All!