Maltese Farmhouses

My urge to paint Maltese landmarks has its roots in the colour of Malta limestone in strong sunlight and the resulting shadows. Apart from public buildings in the cities and towns, I have to admit that I am also attracted to the simplicity of rural buildings especially farmhouses and compelled to adopt these buildings as my subject for painting again and again. Though I am a City slicker as they say, my wife happens to have been brought up in the countryside, exactly in a farmhouse. This is to my advantage since I glean suggestions about details from her that I would otherwise pass by.

Dak li gghalni npitter postijiet prominenti Maltin kien il-lewn tal-gebla Maltija fix-xemx qawwija u d-dellijiet li jidhru. Barra mill-bini pubbliku tal-ibliet u rhula, irrid nammetti li ‘nteressat ukoll fis-semplicita ta binjiet qalb il-kampanja specjalment irziezet u jkolli nadottahom bhala suggett x’inpitter u nerggha. Ghalkemm jiena mill-ibliet, marti kienet imrobbijja fil-kampanja, ezattament f’razzett. Dan jaqbilli ghax ittini suggerimenti fuq dettalji illi kieku kont anqas biss ninduna bihom.

Reference Photo

Version #1

Version #2

With this subject I rarely copy a complete scene but strive to adapt details from different places and adding mine to the lot. I do change the structure and orientation of each farmhouse I paint, the only farmhouse I painted (twice) that is authentic to a photo being my first painting of an internal farmhouse courtyard, but even here I did indulge in some of my artistic license.

Meta npitter l-irziezet rari nimxi fuq xena shiha imma dejjem nipprova nadatta dettalji minn imkejjen ohra u nzid minn mohhi fuqhom ukoll. Razzett wiehed nammetti li pittirt darbtejn kif kien fir-ritratt u dan kien l-ewwel razzett li ndhalt inpitter. Juri bitha minn gewwa, izda xorta fih xi zidiet skond kif fettilli dak il-hin.

Now for a little bit of background about typical Maltese farmhouses. In the countryside it was a simple life from around the middle ages to the early 20th century with farmers erecting simple abodes with primitive plans. The bare necessities were in order with a ground floor for tools, carts, horses and domestic animals with a wide door while the loft with their living quarters was reached through a simple outside stone staircase from an inner courtyard. There they usually had a well for water and kept a covered pigsty, sheep pen or cow shed. Windows were small and sparse and the roof flat on which they used to store large squashes.

Issa daqsxejn dettalji fuq l-istorja tar-razzett Malti. In-nies tal-kampanja kienu jghixu hajja semplici miz-zminijiet tan-nofs sal-bidu tas-seklu 20 u kienu jibu fuq stil fqir. Kellhom f’mohhom il-htigijiet ta kull jum meta kienu jibnu l-ewwel sular ghall-ghodda tas-sengha bil-karrettuni, zwiemel u annimali ohra. Kienu jidhlu minn bieb wiesgha ta remissa. Kienu jghixu fl-ghorfa li kont titla ghaliha b’tarag tal-gebel minn barra tal-bitha. Hemm huma s-soltu kellhom ukoll bir ghall-ilma u kienu jzommu xi maqjel u mandra bl-annimali. Twieqi zghar u ftit u fuq il-bejt kienu jzommu l-qargha hamra.

Many times around the farm they had a wind-pump to draw water which they kept in a large reservoir for the fields. They made windbreaks out of carob trees, rubble walls and prickly pear cactus. Clothes were hung up to dry on the lower roof and pots of flowers kept to decorate the surroundings. Some farmhouses also incorporated arches forming a loggia in front of the loft or to strengthen walls. Wooden or iron gates led to the fields keeping domestic animals in and intruders out while sometimes a colourful creeper like buganville gave life to some bare wall. Sometimes the superstitious farmer would stick a pair of steer horns in one corner or over a doorway to ward off the evil eye.

Hafna drabi kien ikollhom raddiena li l-ilma li ttella kien jinzamm f’giebja ghas-saqwi. Kienu jilqghu ir-rih b’xi sigar tal-harrub, hitan tas-sejjiegh u wkoll pal tal-bajtar tax-xewk. Kienu jonxru barra fuq il-bejt tar-remissa u kienu jzejnu b’xi qsari tal-ward. Uhud mill-irziezet kellhom ukoll hnejjiet jiffurmaw logga quddiem l-ghorfa. Dawn kienu wkoll jinbnew biex isahhu xi hitan. Xi xatba tal-injam jew tal-hadid kienet izzomm l-annimali gewwa u l-barranin li ma jidhlux. Xi kultant kont tara xi xitla bhal buganvilla tixxeblek ma xi hajt gheri. Min kien superstizzjuz kont kultant taralu xi qrun ta barri f’xi rokna jew fuq il-bieb tar-remissa biex ibieghed l-ghajn hazina.

All these details I like to add in my depiction of the Maltese farmhouse so that at least my paintings show how life in the past was really like in the Maltese countryside. With the rampant building speculation in our islands nowadays, farmhouses are on the way out. One plausible way to preserve our heritage and at the same time meet tourist demand is the way many farmhouses are being refurbished and converted to be rented to tourists as holiday villas especially in Gozo.

Dawn id-dettalji kollha nhobb inzidhom mal-pitturi tal-irziezet Maltin halli nuri kif kienet il-hajja tal-Maltin tal-imghoddi fil-kampanja. Bil-bini bl-addocc li qed isir Malta daz-zmien, l-irziezet qed jispiccaw. Mod wiehed ta min ifahhru illi jippreserva l-imghoddi u juzah ghal htigijiet tal-lum ghat-turisti, huwa kif xi whud specjalment f’Ghawdex, qed jirrangaw l-irziezet u jibdluhom f’vilel biex jikruhom.