A gardjola in Detroit
A Maltese-American is building a gardjola in his garden in Detroit as a tribute to his Maltese roots.
The 60-year old was born in the largest city in the US state of Michigan but his heart is tied to the tiny fortified town of Senglea, from where his parents hailed.
Although John Zarb’s gardjola – and accompanying replica garden – will be smaller than the original 16th century structure in Senglea, attention is being paid to every detail of the watch tower and its surroundings.
For the Maltese-American, Senglea is the “warmest spot on earth”. Mr Zarb has visited the fortified city four times and it stole his heart every time.
He reminisces about his trips down Senglean streets, bumping into Salvu, Pawlu, Gilly-Gilly (who always carried a caged bird), women washing their porches, children playing ball, dockyard workers on their way to work... “each of them with a story to tell... each of them with Malta reflected on their faces.”
“Such little material things, but so much character and love. This is why I am building the gardjola,” Mr Zarb said.
Sadly, this “simple and heartfelt tribute to mom, dad, Senglea and Maltese family” has become a race against time. His father passed away in 1996, but Mr Zarb hopes his mother will be fit enough to see the completed gardjola when he unveils it on June 29, which marks her 88th birthday.
Mr Zarb’s father Edward had moved to Detroit in 1931. After 17 years of hard work, he returned to Senglea, where he set his eyes on Josephine. Together, they left for Detroit in 1948.
Mr Zarb hopes to etch this love story in a set of books chronicling his experiences as a first-generation American born of Maltese parents, who grew up in Detroit, “a city nowadays plagued by crime”.
For the past 30 years he has been clustering short stories in his head and jotting others on hundreds of pages. He might give these accounts a fictional twist and hopes to publish some 100 stories in a set of 10 books.