[WATCH] Tribute to Boissevain, perceptive and sensitive to Malta and the Maltese

The well-attended event, held in the Phoenicia Hotel’s Green Room, also saw the launch of ‘A Maltese Marriage’, a novel written by Boissevain’s wife Inga.

9 November 2015, 1:01pm
Inga Boissevain (second from left) and her children: Anna, Maria, Licia, and Ieneke. Photo and Video by Ray Attard
Inga Boissevain (second from left) and her children: Anna, Maria, Licia, and Ieneke. Photo and Video by Ray Attard

Video is unavailable at this time.

The Jeremy Boissevain memorial talk, held on 5 November at the Phoenicia Hotel and hosted by MediaToday, brought friends, family and academics of the late Dutch anthropologist together to celebrate his life, work and legacy.

The well-attended event, held in the Phoenicia Hotel’s Green Room, also saw the launch of ‘A Maltese Marriage’, a novel written by Boissevain’s wife Inga.

MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan, a friend of the Boissevain family, welcomed guests. “Read the book, and you will understand about the life of the Boissevains in Malta and their opinions. Jeremy was a great friend and many looked up to him for inspiration. He said that the day after he confirmed with Inga that he would publish her long awaited book, Jeremy passed away.”

Legal anthropologist David Zammit recalled a long shared history with Boissevain, who he first met climbing out of the sea, laden with scuba gear, sometime in the 1970s, and who sparked Zammit’s curiosity about the man and his occupation.

Eventually, Zammit’s own career in anthropology began and so their friendship continued into the hallways of academia. Throughout, Zammit recalls an unquenchable curiosity about the minutiae of Maltese life, which are often overlooked by the people living it. His unwavering defence of the role of the Maltese festa in social life kept the topic front and centre within the discipline.

Boissevain’s insuppressible sense of humour was a hallmark of his mischievous personality.

Environmentalist and sociologist Michael Briguglio too described a long relationship with Boissevain, which began through the broad academic networks of Briguglio’s parents.

Social scientists of all stripes, environmentalists and politicians all owe a debt of gratitude for the meticulous study of Maltese social structure, and environmental activists in particular continue to build on his desire to protect what is left of the Maltese countryside. 

To politician Toni Abela, Boissevain was both friend and confidant, an opportunity for secular confession. The vicious circle Boissevain described – the way the two political parties are deadlocked into inertia, narrowing the electorate’s options at the polling booth – remains in force today, as does the near-religious status of local politics. 

On some level everyone is aware of these realities, but it took a stranger from another land to really bring them into the light, through a perceptive and sensitive examination of our social relationships.

Boissevain’s wife Inga also spoke, describing how her husband chose to pursue the study of anthropology in 1956. The Boissevains had visited Malta with American aid organization CARE and went to the Mnarja feast in Rabat. Both found themselves spellbound by a man singing ghana and the spell never broke. 

She recalls the kindness and tolerance the Maltese showed them throughout the years and that the both of them had witnessed Malta’s transformation over the years.

The novel ‘A Maltese Marriage’ is published by Choppy books, the publishing arm of MediaToday, and is available at all leading stationers for €8.99.