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MT 27 March 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 27 MARCH 2016 News 17 separate from our daily joys and anxieties' the monastic communities be- ing considered as "the nation's environmental and cultural her- itage" and said that the project invites readers to consider how environmental heritage should become a more visible part of our cultural initiatives. "The narratives contained in the book revolve around key themes – the use of local pro- duce, a deep connection to the histories of specific places, an awareness of seasonality, and the need for contemplation. Throughout the book we are confronted by what is being lost, in terms of our relationship with the earth, and what we stand to gain if we can find ways of re- connecting, authentically and sustainably, with the legacy of the islands' environmental her- itage," Farrugia added. Meanwhile Mario Gerada, the chair of the Ethnobotani- cal Hub, said that "while we are late" to safeguard all of the fad- ing traditions that constitute the work of such spaces, "we are also in time – to avoid further loss of local traditional and folk knowl- edge on the use of plants, herbs, trees, fruits…" Gerada claims that "a number of communities are already en- gaging in a number of very in- teresting initiatives which many of us are not aware of", and that everything that can be done should be done to bring these initiatives to public attention. For the publication, Gerada says that the Hub focused in particular on the cultural aspect of the field of ethnobotany, to highlight how plants participate and actually enhance human relationships and our intercon- nectedness. "In our case, ethnobotany is more of a lens to help us focus on interconnectedness and in- terrelatedness – it is a way how we look at our society afresh, to discover new dimensions and (dis) connections to that which is familiar to us." He elaborates on how religious communities actively ensure the much sought-after 'holistic' ap- proach, utilising their buildings in ways which renew the princi- ples of sustainability that these buildings were originally built on, because of necessity at the time. "Wells are being cleaned up, solar panels installed, gardens replanted and fields reforested, bee keeping emerged as another practice which a number of re- ligious communities engaged in," Gerada said, stressing that while these spaces have an ob- vious religious and spiritual meaning and symbolism for re- ligious communities, they can also serve as practical spaces for relaxation or the production of food, "which pleases our senses as well". "A number of these narratives speak about community rela- tionships, how members of the community help in the pick- ing of fruit, or how the garden became a space for healing for someone who is in a correction- al facility," Gerada said, adding that "plants are not separate from the joys, hopes, the anxie- ties and the grief of our everyday lives, and it does contribute to human wellbeing". Finally, while hoping that the publication will in fact inspire people to reconsider their noisy, fast-paced lives, Gerada also be- lieves it addresses yet another aspect of the Maltese environ- ment – the built one – whose problems have come to the fore of late in the form of protests against ODZ development. "I hope it will help us reflect on our built spaces and their designs, and to remember that the garden was once a central element in our communities and villages, but we lost that to contemporary architecture and the ways towns and cities are designed or grow. It is about re- minding us that gardens should not be luxurious but accessible and available, as commons." Cloistered Spaces will be launched on 29 March at Ver- dala Palace, Rabat from 15:00 to 17:30. To book a place, send an email on, or call on 2148 4662 The National Ethnobotanical Hub – What's it all about? Spaces considered in 'Cloistered Spaces' Mario Gerada elaborates on the goals of the National Ethnobotanical Hub within the President's Foundation for Wellbeing in Society "SIMPLY put, we look at (our) traditional and folk relationships with plants, with a focus on the cultural, historical and linguistic dimensions of that through the field of ethnobotany – a multi- disciplinary field of learning which is focused primarily, though not exclusively, on three as- pects: folk history, culture, and language. Plant names and the origins of those names reveal the cultural and ethnic connections – that is, people learn about the use of plants through the meeting and exchange of cultures and ethnicities, usually through trade and migration. Ethnobotany lends itself very nicely to further intercultural, intergen- erational and interfaith dialogue. "At the Hub, we are re-examining our most sim- ple and basic relationship we have: that of human relationships with plants, a relationship we rarely dwell upon, forgetting how dependent human life is on plant life and how plants can enhance hu- man wellbeing." • Saint Peter's Monastery, Mdina, Malta • Monastery of Saint Ursula, Valletta, Malta • Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Sliema, Malta • Saint Catherine's Monastery, Valletta, Malta • Augustinian Monastery, Victoria, Gozo • Lunzjata Dominican Monastery, Birgu, Malta • Our Lady of the Grotto, Dominican Priory, Rabat, Malta • Dar Frate Jacoba, Marsaskala, Malta • Capuchin Friary, Floriana, Malta • Santa Liberata Capuchin Convent, Kalkara, Malta • Capuchin Friary, Victoria, Gozo • Saint Margaret's Monastery, Bormla, Malta • Teresian Retreat House, Tas-Silg, Malta • Carmelite Priory, Mdina, Malta • Mount St Joseph Retreat House, Mosta, Malta • Manresa House, Victoria, Gozo • Villa Frere, Pietà, Malta • Comino Capuchin Friary Floriana St Catherine's Monastery Valletta

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