By Carla Zahra & Nicholas Gambin
Most only knew her through her blog and newspaper columns, forming their own opinions as they skimmed through her articles. But for her relatives, friends and colleagues, the loss is not only felt at a national level but more so on a personal one. Her death meant the loss of a best friend, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a mother, an aunt…
Sisters Megan, 17, and Amy Mallia, 15, seem both approachable and yet reserved, as they talk about cherished memories of their beloved aunt, Daphne, and the conflicting perceptions of the woman within society. They describe Daphne as a caring, genuine and witty woman, who “always knew how to treat people well.” Besides a shared love of writing and gardening, Megan and Amy inherited a number of things from their aunt, including a dark green coat which Megan wore during our conversation. The coat had been passed down to Megan during the summer, as Daphne had saved a pile of clothes to give to her nieces. Daphne had accumulated many items over the years, which she now deemed too young to sport herself. During these visits, they would also get the opportunity to witness Daphne’s upcycling skills. It wasn’t unusual that a stone-coloured tortoise would turn bright orange overnight. “It was something in her,” said Megan. “I remember one time, we went downstairs and her sofa was littered with beads. It was literally like Aladdin’s cave.”
Just like a bowerbird, Daphne collected things from all over the world, matching and organising them into coloured columns. She loved to travel and had an insatiable desire to experience the world. She explored busy, urbanised cities as well as the exotic jungles of Central America. Amy remembers receiving a postcard from Daphne’s trip to Costa Rica which read that a baby howler monkey had jumped on her head whilst walking through the rainforest. “It sounds like something out of a cartoon,” she chuckled.
Both Amy and Megan share a passion for writing with their aunt, who would regularly give them beautiful notebooks to jot down their thoughts and ideas, though she would also encourage them to focus on their studies. Her living room was constantly stacked with books, and at any time, you’d see at least ten piled up on the table. During her school days, Daphne would read a book which was cleverly hidden behind an upright textbook whilst a lesson was going on, a habit which her teachers learned to ignore because it did not interfere with her excellent results. Both sisters have experimented with their own blogs, which provided a space for Megan to write about travel and decor and for Amy to document her ‘foodie’ interests. In a way, they found themselves naturally fitting into the two aspects of Taste & Flair, and began writing for Daphne’s magazine on what they describe as a “spur of the moment” decision. The last time they saw their aunt, she had mentioned setting up a website for the magazine but refused their willingness to help as she insisted that they should be focusing on their upcoming exams.
Nonetheless, they published their debut article in the first issue of Taste & Flair after Daphne’s death and went on to publish articles in the subsequent issues. They frequently attended photo shoots for the images featured in Taste & Flair, during which they got the opportunity to see Daphne doing something which she was passionate about. “She liked to get stuff done”, said Megan. The woman who showed up at the studio with a sense of determination was completely different to the woman who was approached by people in the street, and on a certain occasion, asked to take a selfie. The sisters recall how Daphne was taken aback on this particular occasion, completely unaffected by her ‘celebrity status’, she never let it go to her head.
Daphne has become known as ‘Malta’s most fearless woman’, but the girls argued that she was more brave and courageous, rather than fearless. Everybody has fears, but not everyone has the strength to act in spite of those fears. In a field mostly dominated by men, she paved her own way to push the rigid boundaries which plague our society. Her assassination has left a nationwide gap which cannot easily be filled by a singular voice. Megan explained that, “Daphne feared for our future, especially our generation”, as she expressed concern over the fact that their generation is not standing up to make their voices heard.
On the 16th of October, 2017, a car bomb was set off in Bidnija and with that, Daphne Caruana Galizia was taken away from all those who knew her. Seven months since her death, there remains a vacuum in the place her pen had previously occupied. The murder may have created a division within society, but it has simultaneously brought people together on both a national and international scale. In the months which followed, a group of 45 international journalists started ‘The Daphne Project’ in order to continue following up her work and keep the voice of the woman behind the pen alive.
With an air of hopefulness, Megan and Amy insist that instead of trying to tarnish her memory and whitewash her from history, it’s important to see that there lies a woman behind the pen. “They killed her, but they did not and WILL NEVER kill her story,” they concluded.