A unique festival of arts, culture, history and music
A gentle breeze blows through Gharb’s village square, rustling around the old stone cross, playing lightly with the statues on the Folklore Museum and sighing gently around the great stone church with its silent bells. Life flows peacefully here, at the westernmost end of Gozo, where the very air seems to lighten and change as the centre is left behind and the road opens up into rolling countryside.
It is elusive, this sense of peace, this sense of connection with tradition, but it is there, sure enough - in the folklore museum which peacefully overlooks the square, in the museums of Frenc ta’ l-Gharb and Karmni Grima, and in the chapels spread around the surrounding countryside, where the wind whispers its legends and stories. It reaches out to the Ta’ Dbiegi Crafts Village, the main crafts centre on the island, and to Ta’ Pinu, the Basilica dedicated to Our Lady, which stands alone, an elegant and solid monument to the beautiful story behind it. And it even reaches beyond, to Wied il-Mielah, where a natural “window” is carved in the coastal rock.
Perhaps it is this that has inspired an annual festival which aims to bring the west’s fascination to its visitors. Held for the first time last year, the event – Seher il-Punent - is back and will be held on 28-30 March, the eve of a public holiday. Past and present will meet at the peaceful main square and its surrounding areas, which are set to resound with the music and events of a festival of arts, crafts, history and heritage.
“The festival aims to keep Gharb’s religious, cultural and traditional elements alive,” says Mayor David Apap, “as well as fostering interest in Gharb.” Following in the wake of the success of last year’s event, the festival aims to expose the main characteristics of the village of Gharb, unique in its style and very popular among Maltese and tourists, he explains.
Last year in fact, the event - the first of its kind to be organized in Gozo – managed to create something new, exposing the magic and beauty of the western part of Gozo, says Mr Apap. This event was mainly sponsored by the Gozo Incentives Scheme under the Good Causes Fund.
“The uniqueness of this festival lies in the fact that people who still carry on the skills of traditional crafts - such as fishermen, cobblers, lacemakers and the like - bring the old days back to life with demonstrations set in the lifestyle of those days,” says Mr Apap. “Tradition is still very much alive in Gharb,” he says. “The village is home to skilled people and boasts resources for several traditional crafts.”
Visitors to Seher il-Punent can tour various venues, which are transformed into a showcase of the arts and crafts still alive in Gharb. The programme also includes re-enactments of village life in the past.
The three-day programme includes events which start in the morning until late in the evening. In the evening, the main square is surrounded by tables and chairs with stalls serving traditional food.