The traditional village street – A bridge between the past and the future? Ilina Filipova 09/07/2023

The traditional village street – A bridge between the past and the future?

Every so often, I end up walking through one of the many village cores in Malta and in Gozo. A brief hop and skip away from the nearest cacophony of sound, escaping from the nearest junction or busy street, cannot penetrate the safe space provided by these streets for any pedestrians alike. Be they old or young, local or foreign, alone or with friends: They welcome one, they welcome all.

True, there may not be as many such places brimming to the full with character as there were before. One cannot help but feel a sense of nostalgia for years past. I’ve been in Malta for 35 years, and yet their allure remains as strong as the first time I’ve walked through them. As more and more of these houses make way for newer dwellings, one cannot help but wonder about how these streets used to be in yesteryear.

All the more reason to enjoy the places that we still have, and fight to preserve the ones that remain. Old village cores in Tarxien, Birgu, Siggiewi, and Victoria Gozo, along with the more well-known streets of Mdina and Valletta, to this day possess such a captivating aura, both when they’re full to the brim with busybodies, or in those very rare times when they are as quiet as a church mouse. The history and architecture that emanates from these walls, are indeed a sight to behold and endlessly bask in.

Over the years, thousands of local and tourists walk their way through the many beautiful old villages course in Malta and in Gozo. For tourists, it’s a different perspective of our tiny island: Away from the beaches, the sun, and the busy nightlife, these streets are full of character and individual particularities, making many a keen observer spend countless hours looking into the many incongruencies and particularities.

For some locals , it’s a feeling that they’ve gotten accustomed to. Perhaps, they have stopped and looked at the same colourful facades for so long, they are no longer able to appreciate the cohesive yet vibrant merging of styles.

For others like myself however, we never get bored of them. These streets, built decades if not centuries ago, still embrace us with a sense of calm; an idyllic atmosphere that captivates us even in the busiest of times.

While working on my latest project, I was once again charmed by the intrinsic character and life that some of these old streets possess to this day. True, many of them are today filled with cars and other mechanised vehicles. They do say that absence makes the heart go fonder, and with the transformative change occurring in front of us, one cannot help but agree.

This old street in Birkirkara however, the subject of this painting, really acts as an artistic time portal, through which one would look at a version of this town decades long gone. A time where cars were nearly absent from our roads, where the daily hustle and bustle of people all over made the streets full of life and character – the latter, at least, has not been completely lost to the sands of time.

I applaud all those who fight on a daily basis to preserve our local heritage, even the ones found within our old cities and towns. Let us preserve the past, for the sake of the present, and our future.

Whether you’re someone seeking to take a snapshot of history, or commemorate the past in a more deeply personal way, these works are wonderful gifts for people of all ages – priceless heritage which showcase a part of history that should not, and ought now, be forgotten.

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