baħar abjad imsaġar taż-żebbuġ

Under the Patronage of
His Excellency the President of Malta

and

Decolonising Malta: Polyphony Is Us

Architectural Digest, 2023, Gilded chocolate
Photo courtesy of Pequod.Co 

Photo: Artist: Andrea Ferrero. 

Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Normans, Swabians, Aragonese, Castilians, 
the polyglottic Knights of St John, the French and Great Britain 
left their mark on the Maltese language which is now an intriguing fusion of Arabic, 
Sicilian, Italian and English words.
Joseph M.Brincat

For those arriving in Malta for the first time, and indeed for those who return, an immediate impression is the language being spoken by the Maltese. In shops, in offices and on the streets, there is continuous code-switching, moving from Maltese—a latinised version of ancient Siculo-Arabic—to English, with the ritual greetings of Bonġu and Bonswa derived from the French. This ability is perhaps more telling about our identity than anything else. It also reflects the resistance of the local population to express itself in a way that avoids being understood by the rulers. It showcases our adaptability in learning new lingua franca – Spanish, Italian, French and English were the languages of the rulers, absorbed to transform the political situation into opportunities for trade, exchanges and expanded horizons.

The other immediate impression is the richness of toponyms: Birżebbuġa, Kalafrana, Xagħra, Għajn-il-Kbira, Żebbuġ, Żejtun, Rabat, Mdina, Valletta, L-Isla – where each cove such as Għar Lapsi, each hill such as Il-Qala it-Tawwalija, tells a story of a strong connection with the territory and landscape. Every street evokes the bustling and vitality of  Southern European, Maghrebian, Middle Eastern, and Central Eastern worlds: Triq Pietru Pawl Caruana, Triq L-Assedju il-Kbir, Triq Melita, Triq il-Majjistral, Sqaq Fra Diegu, Pjazza Tal-Parroċċa. Even the distracted visitor will notice that these islands, despite being at the centre of globalisation, have a strong, competitive and popular centripetal nature that no invasion, not even tourism, can erase.

It is precisely from these facts and the vitality of both Maltese culture and language that it is necessary to understand what decolonising might mean. Today, Malta seeks to reclaim its centrality, freeing its history from subordination, humiliation, external instrumentalisation, and instead proposing an identity that is unique on the global stage. At the same time, contemporary voices are reclaiming the linguistic and cultural fusion, having been a place where the roles between colonisers and colonised often reversed, as in a mirror. Words like hybridisation, mixing, cosmopolitanism do not fully capture the richness of the process.

As Michael Taussig taught us in Mimesis and Alterity, the techniques of assimilation, upheaval and reversal between dominants and dominators do not allow for a unambiguous and definitive reading. Colonialism has been and continues to be a disease of the modern and contemporary world, but at the same time, it is a place of the elaboration  of new identities—a kind of indigeneity that can cannibalise the foreign and assimilate it into its own future.

This represents an ongoing process and a challenge: moreover, the unique case of Malta means that it cannot be fully compared to other dynamics of indigenous peoples and native identities. The non-geographical marginality, economic vitality, demographic richness, historical-artistic heritage, and the avoidance of a victimised image of its own history, make Malta a mandatory reference for the decolonial perspective.  

This inaugural biennale fits into this dynamic and panorama, it throws a spotlight on these islands for several months, thus providing an opportunity for reflection on the meaning of identities today. We are in the midst of a revolution of paradigms: does it still make sense to talk about nations, countries, territories? Or is being Maltese something that, thanks to the diaspora, cannot be solely tied to a specific place? 

As James Clifford narrates in Pure Products Go Crazy, identities often emerge strengthened from their apparent dispersion. Only impure products resist the millstone of the history of capitalism and globalisation.

Today, it is precisely the native peoples who indicate a new paradigm, one in which national borders and sovereign interests do not respond to the needs of facing the true challenges of the future: climate change, a new diplomacy of peace, a barrier against pandemics. Maltabiennale.art 2024, with its artists, national and thematic pavilions, initiatives for meeting, debate, exchange, exhibitions and access to the magnificence of the historical artistic heritage, will become a platform for the elaboration of scenarios, hopes, aspirations and concrete constructions for the coming world. Malta, as the centre of a Mediterranean that expands to the east and west, suggests new methodologies of coexistence and relationships, where art, but its nature inevitably ‘beyond borders’, proposes a utopia for a world that resists both new and old destructive and self-destructive temptation.

Curatorial Team & Franco La Cecla 

Niddekolonizzaw lil Malta: Polifonija Aħna

Il-Kartaġiniżi, ir-Rumani, il-Biżantini, il-Musulmani, in-Normanni, l-Iżvevi, l-Aragoniżi, il-Kastiljani, 
il-Kavallieri poliglotti ta’ San Ġwann, il-Franċiżi u l-Gran Brittanja
lkoll ħallew il-marka tagħhom fuq l-ilsien Malti li issa huwa fużjoni intriganti ta’ kliem Għarbi, Sqalli, Taljan u Ingliż.
Joseph M. Brincat

Għal dawk li jaslu Malta l-ewwel darba, kif ukoll għal dawk li jirritornaw, impressjoni immedjata tkun il-lingwa mitkellma mill-Maltin. Fil-ħwienet, fl-uffiċċji u fit-toroq tisma’ tibdil kontinwu ta’ kodiċi li jimxi mill-Malti – verżjoni latinizzata ta’ lsien Sikolu-Għarbi antik – għall-Ingliż, bit-tislijiet ritwalistiċi Bonġu u Bonswa mnissla mill-Franċiż. Aktar minn kull ħaġa oħra, għandu mnejn hija proprju din il-ħila li tiżvela l-identità tagħna l-iżjed. Tirrifletti wkoll ir-reżistenza tal-popolazzjoni lokali li kienet tesprimi ruħha b’tali mod biex tevita li tinftiehem mill-ħakkiema. Dan juri l-adattabbiltà tagħna fit-tagħlim ta’ lingwa franka ġdida – l-Ispanjol, it-Taljan, il-Franċiż u l-Ingliż kienu l-ilsna tal-ħakkiema, assorbiti biex jibdlu s-sitwazzjoni politika f’opportunitajiet ta’ kummerċ, skambji u espansjoni fl-orizzonti.

L-impressjoni immedjata l-oħra tkun ir-rikkezza tat-toponimi: Birżebbuġa, Kalafrana, ix-Xagħra, Għajn il-Kbira, Ħaż-Żebbuġ, iż-Żejtun, ir-Rabat, l-Imdina, il-Belt Valletta, l-Isla – fejn kull bajja ċkejkna bħal Għar Lapsi, kull għolja bħall-Qala t-Tawwalija, tirrakkonta storja ta’ rabta soda mat-territorju u mal-pajsaġġ. Kull triq tevoka l-moviment u l-vitalità tad-dinjiet tan-Nofsinhar tal-Ewropa, tal-Magreb, tal-Lvant Nofsani u tal-Lvant Ċentrali: Triq Pietru Pawl Caruana, Triq l-Assedju l-Kbir, Triq Melita, Triq il-Majjistral, Sqaq Fra Diegu, Pjazza tal-Parroċċa. Anke viżitatur aljenat jintebaħ illi dawn il-gżejjer, minkejja li jinsabu fiċ-ċentru tal-globalizzazzjoni, għandhom natura ċentripeta qawwija, kompetittiva u popolari li ebda invażjoni, lanqas it-turiżmu, ma tista’ tħassar.

Huwa proprju minn dawn il-fatti kif ukoll mill-vitalità tal-kultura u tal-ilsien Malti li neħtieġu nifhmu x’tista’ tfisser id-dekolonizzazzjoni. Illum, Malta qiegħda tfittex tirkupra ċ-ċentralità tagħha billi teħles l-istorja tagħha mis-subordinazzjoni, l-umiljazzjoni u l-istrumentalizzazzjoni esterna biex minflok tipproponi identità unika fix-xena globali. Fl-istess waqt, ċerti ilħna kontemporanji qegħdin jirkupraw il-fużjoni lingwistika u kulturali, wara li l-pajjiż kien post fejn ir-rwoli bejn il-kolonizzaturi u l-ikkolonizzati kienu spiss jinqalbu donnhom riflessi fil-mera. Kliem bħal ibridizzazzjoni, taħlit, u kożmopolitaniżmu ma jaqbadx bis-sħiħ ir-rikkezza ta’ dan il-proċess.

Kif għallimna Michael Taussig f’Mimesis and Alterity, it-tekniki tal-assimilazzjoni, tal-ħamba u tal-qlib tar-rwoli bejn id-dominanti u d-dominaturi ma jippermettux fehim inekwivoku u definittiv. Il-kolonjaliżmu kien u għadu marda tad-dinja moderna u kontemporanja iżda, fl-istess waqt, huwa l-lok tal-elaborazzjoni ta’ identitajiet ġodda – tip ta’ indiġenità li kapaċi tikkannibalizza lill-barrani u tassimilah fil-ġejjieni tagħha stess.

Dan jirrappreżenta proċess kontinwu u sfida; iżjed minn hekk, il-każ uniku ta’ Malta jfisser illi dan ma jistax jitqabbel bis-sħiħ ma’ dinamiċi oħra ta’ popli indiġeni u identitajiet nattivi. Il-marġinalità mhux ġeografika, il-vitalità ekonomika, ir-rikkezza demografika, il-wirt storiku-artistiku u l-evitar ta’ immaġni vvittimizzata tal-istorja tagħha jagħmlu lil Malta referenza mandatorja għall-perspettiva dekolonjali.

Dan il-biennale inawgurali ser jidħol f’din id-dinamika u panorama billi jixħet l-attenzjoni tiegħu fuq dawn il-gżejjer tul diversi xhur, u b’hekk jipprovdi opportunità ta’ riflessjoni dwar it-tifsira tal-identitajiet fi żmienna. Bħalissa ninsabu qalb rivoluzzjoni ta’ paradigmi: għadu jagħmel sens li nitkellmu dwar nazzjonijiet, pajjiżi, territorji? Li tkun Malti hija xi ħaġa li issa, bis-saħħa tad-dijaspora, ma tistax tintrabat biss ma’ post speċifiku?

Kif jirrakkonta James Clifford fi Pure Products Go Crazy, l-identitajiet maż-żmien spiss jissaħħu mit-tixrid apparenti tagħhom. Prodotti impuri biss jirreżistu l-ħaġra tal-mitħna tal-istorja tal-kapitaliżmu u l-globalizzazzjoni.

Illum, huma sewwasew il-popli indiġeni li jindikaw paradigma ġdida, waħda li fiha l-fruntieri nazzjonali u l-interessi sovrani ma jaqdux il-ħtieġa li naffrontaw l-isfidi veri tal-ġejjieni: it-tibdil fil-klima, diplomazija ġdida ta’ paċi, paraventi kontra l-pandemiji. Il-maltabiennale.art 2024, bl-artisti, bil-padiljuni nazzjonali u tematiċi, bl-inizjattivi għal laqgħat, dibattiti u skambji, bil-wirjiet u bl-aċċess għall-manjifiċenza tal-wirt artistiku storiku, ser isir pjattaforma għall-elaborazzjoni ta’ xenarji, tamiet, aspirazzjonijiet u kostruzzjonijiet konkreti għad-dinja ġejjiena. Bħala ċ-ċentru ta’ Mediterran illi jespandi lejn il-Lvant u l-Punent, Malta tissuġġerixxi metodoloġiji ġodda ta’ koeżistenza u relazzjonijiet fejn l-arti – b’natura inevitabbilment ‘oltre fruntiera’ – tipproponi utopja għal dinja li tirreżisti tentazzjonijiet qerrieda u awtodistruttivi, kemm ġodda kif ukoll qodma.

 It-Tim Kuratorjali u Franco La Cecla .

Scientific partners / Kollaborazzjoni Xjentifika:

Other Themes

Can You Sea?: The Mediterranean  as a political body

The Counterpower of Piracy

The Matri-archive of the Mediterranean