Aunties, architecture & artworks


Grandfather Charles was one of 11, seven of whom lived into their eighties or are still alive. There was Joe, Adelina (Lina or Adele), Pauline (Lina), Alice, Mary and Stella. Alex met Joe, Stella and Alice on his first trip to Malta. Joe and Stella have since passed away and Alice lives in England.

We weren’t sure what to expect today, knowing little of the Aunties’ situation in the time that had passed since a kiwi Mamo had visited. Fortunately it went very smoothly thanks to Lina’s daughter Marisa, who was very helpful and hospitable. Lina is Grandfather Charles’ youngest sister. She lives with her other daughter, Marianne in Gzira, and is doing quite well. She was very sweet showing us photos of the family, and especially missed Alice. She was pleased to have the new photos of Charles and Emily.

Marisa was great driving us around and took us to the home on the Sliema waterfront where Mary and Adelina share a room. Marisa and family had difficulty encouraging them to move to a home – that generation of Mamo’s are very hard headed! We were really pleased that the home was pleasant enough and that we found Mary and Adelina well and sitting up to lunch. Adelina seemed to remember Alex’s last visit with the family and loved the photos of Charles and Emily very much. Mary was precious – she just laughed at everything with this breathy snicker, no teeth and big dark smiley eyes! So funny.

Mary, Marisa, Adelina and Alex

Marisa gave us cards marking Stella Mamo and Joseph Mamo’s passing to bring back to NZ. Marisa spoke very fondly of Stella and of being with her when she passed. Marisa and Marianne have done well in looking out for all of the Malta family, and it is good that Charles and Emily can have a first-hand update now.

The locals always know the good spots, which proved true again when Marisa kindly offered to take us for lunch. The restaurant overlooked the three cities from Valletta and mussels seemed to be the order of the day – though she did give Em a dig for not being so adventurous in her order and not go for that or the sea urchin pasta.

Restaurant for lunch

It was funny to learn when we mentioned seeing information on President Mamo the day prior that Adelina was his children’s nanny for a few years at that time. There really was a family connection there.

Let’s hope we can host some of the Maltese Mamo’s or Mangion’s in New Zealand some time.

Lunch was located just down the stairs from the St John’s Co-Cathedral, so we decided it was an opportune time to tick that off our must-see list – and a must-see it was. Our first experience of such ancient & lavishly decorated architecture was pretty remarkable. The marble floor was decorated with tombstone embellishments for the Knights of St John, and a number of tombs in the chapels off to the sides of the nave held actual remains of the Grand Masters. The symbolism, detail and historical reference from the floors to walls to ceiling was insane. It was actually fascinating to also see the refurbishment work in process – a progressive & painstaking project of repairing canvas frames and tears, sensitive paint touch ups and the like.

The Oratory held the prized Caravaggio artwork depicting the beheading of St John: I literally stopped in my tracks when I first walked in. There’s something about the sheer size, careful lighting, silence and air in rooms like that which creates presence. The work is over 5 meters by over 3 meters… It’s imposing and fairly striking in content. Cool to have seen – and we will look out for his other work housed in the Louvre. I have to say after 1 museum and 1 cathedral, I am already an activist against sneaky people who pretend they’re ‘too foreign’ or ‘too blind’ to read or adhere to the no photography signs or the custodian yelling at them! You won’t see a sneaky snap of the Caravaggio here!



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