News

1st November 2019


Malta’s feistiest centenarian, 102-year old Tessie, on life, love and marriage

“She is the typical centenarian with a full tank of positivity”


It’s not every day that someone reaches the century mark. For us exhausted millennials, the thought of spending the next 80 years paying bills and ironing out other’s problems knocks the air out of our lungs, yet for 102-year old Tessie, life is all about loving every day that comes her way.

Credit: Giola Cassar

Tessie’s existence revolves around transmitting her joie de vivre to family and friends. Giola Cassar, a relative, reveals that Tessie “giggles with glee at every little story she tells,” and is overall your “typical centenarian with a full tank of positivity.” The conversation veers on the topic of love and this former teacher and unmarried woman’s experience with and thoughts on it.

Credit: Giola Cassar

“She is neither particularly frail, nor wrinkly, nor terribly senile, bitter or quiet,” Giola muses, “quite the opposite actually!” Yet despite her enthusiasm for life and connection, Tessie is an extremely protective guardian of her past. “In spite of her affable nature she does not open up easily,” Giola confesses. “Tessie guards her deepest secrets and desires and if asked about them, she artfully, but ever so politely, diverts the course of the conversation.”

Credit: Giola Cassar

Giola admits that for Tessie, the main priority has always been family. “Out of respect and duty towards her parents, she never got married.” I ask, is it possible for one to live without other forms of love? While Tessie doesn’t often breach the subject, Giola replies that “when she talks about love, life and marriage, one of her go to stories is about a proposal she got from a mysterious man.”

Credit: Simon 'Xmun' Borg

Giola discloses some interesting facts on the matter. “Tessie never met him in person you see,” she says, adding that the young man “had approached Tessie’s mother and she had dismissed him.” There are so many questions that arise from these excerpts: Could she really have lived such a long life without getting romantically involved with anyone? Has she never really wanted to share her life with a loved one and perhaps have children of her own?

Credit: Giola Cassar

To counter the what ifs, Giola worked with writer and book artist Glen Calleja and embarked on a project to “construct a whole new world where Tessie is still in charge of her many possible destinies.” Giola elaborates that the book “tries to create a three-part dialogue between Tessie’s portraits and objects, photos of her jewellery and other photographic material and ephemera sourced from family collections.” 

The exhibition, entitled Tessie, is at the National Archives of Malta, Rabat, and will remain till Friday 7th November. Opening hours are Monday-Saturday 8am to 2pm, and from 4-7pm on Thursdays; Sunday 10am-1pm.

Credit: Simon 'Xmun' Borg

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