Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Bears of Melitamalata

Lately I heard this story……

In a little country far away from here called Melitamalata, lived three bears. One was called Bonnie, the other Ceffi and the third Paciflor. Quite eccentric, the three of them, but whoever knew them thought “They’re good bears”. The bears had known each other for quite a long time. They had a lot of things in common. Two had no hair (the third was nearly there), two had hairy backs (of the Bearus Hairus Hafnus type) all of them believed in science, but most of all they shared a love for art. Bonnie loved photographs, quite a good photographer himself, Ceffi was a painter and Paciflor was a brilliant calligrapher.

Once, they decided to put up an exhibition. Not a small feat, since in Melitamalata any artistic venture is not easy to produce. First they had to decide on a theme. They called their exhibition “imwejjed ta erba’ figuri”. Secondly they had to find a venue. After a lot of closed doors they found one open. A very old theatre called “Teatru ta’ Leli” offered to host their exhibition.

Let me explain some things about this theatre: In the early 18th century, a local chieftain called Toni-Leli ta’ Villa-Hena decided to build this theatre “for the honest recreation of the people”. 300 years later this theatre is still being used regularly. The theatre had a bookshop, a cafeteria, a wine bar and a beautiful courtyard where exhibitions can be held. Though the facilities are not state of the art the ambience of the magnificent building makes up for any deficiency in amenities. The bookshop was run by a shady character called Gambalunga, who usually organized the exhibitions in this courtyard. A few weeks before the exhibitions by the three bears Gambalunga closed his shop and vanished.

A lot of stories were being told why Gambalunga closed the shop but none could be confirmed. No one informed the bears about this and as soon as they found out, they were in shock since Gambalunga was their only contact. The panic stricken bears made all necessary contacts with the management of the theatre so that the exhibition could be held. Everything was confirmed and the bears had their opening night as scheduled.

So far so good, until 5 days after the opening night, something extraordinary happened. Someone decided that it was time to restore the glass canopy that shelters the courtyard. Well what’s wrong with that you’d say? nothing really except that the courtyard was booked for 20 days by these bears and all of a sudden the area was transformed into a building site.

The problem in Melitamalata is that no one is responsible or accountable for what they do. And no one really cares about how their decisions affect other people. No one informed the bears that a scaffold was to be erected in the courtyard. No one dared to inform the bears that they had to move their exhibits to a safer place, though some of the staff working at the theatre moved the exhibits without the bears’ permission.

In sharp contrast with the Goldilocks story, no one knows who the little girl with the golden hair is. Funnily enough no one seemed to be responsible for all this. “Heq it had to be done hux.” What’s the big deal about disrupting an exhibition? Who cares that the bears spent a whole year preparing for this event. Who cares that the bears spent thousands of Liri to organise all this. No one does. I heard that as compensation the bears were offered to keep their works in the cafeteria for a longer period. The only problem is that the cafeteria opens only half days and people going to the exhibition are finding it closed.

Some of you might think that Melitamalata is a sickening country, well I think that too.

Luckily for us Malta is not. Things like these never happen in Malta.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Holier than Thou

Our beloved deputy prime-minister has managed to divide our country on a topic that until a few weeks ago everyone thought that there was a consensus upon. In Catholic Malta no one would even dare to debate, let alone legislate, a law in favour of a woman’s choice to abort. But this time the topic is not about women’s choice but future generations to legislate, no? Does it sound undemocratic? Well of course not. We have a right to impose on future generations our interpretation of when life starts and ends and since today we are an overwhelming majority we have the right to impose that in the future a simple majority is not enough. We are so holy.

The thing is women in Malta have the right. Yes, they have the right to go abroad and abort there, at least if they have the money to do so. So again it is just a division between the haves and have not. But I can understand Dr. Borg, our constitution does not protect life and we need to do something…..wait a minute…..our constitution does protect the right to life, not only for unborn children but for everyone. Chapter IV stipulates the following;


Protection of right to life.
33. (1) No person shall intentionally be deprived of his life …………

So why all the fuss? Why put into the constitution something that is already there? Why not entrench into the constitution a ban on smoking for example? As far as I know quite a few people die of smoking related illnesses yearly and anyone who is truly pro-life cannot but agree. I think that there are a million other things that could be written in our constitution. Why our politicians never did it? That’s why there are laws.

Today I watched the repetition of Xarabank, aired last Friday. My conclusion? This is a country full of fundamentalists. Forget Bin Laden, forget al Qaeda, we shove our beliefs down people’s throat, and then try to be holier than the pope. Dr. Anglu Farrugia, even suggested that women that go abroad to abort, who till now do not infringe any law, should be investigated when they come back and possibly incriminated. What’s this the inquisition? Will women stop aborting just because it is written in the constitution or is it just the easiest thing to do? Of course investing more in educational programs, so that future generations can come to their own conclusions is much more difficult to propose, organise and fund. Investing in subjects such as PSD does not win you votes. On the other hand changing the constitution is much more fun, it gives exposure, political mileage etc.

So again, why all the fuss? Maybe to deviate attention from the poor performance of the present legislation? No of course not. Maybe to give breathing space to the Prime-Minister who in the last few weeks has been under pressure to reshuffle the cabinet? No of course not. Maybe because the pro-choice movement is gaining ground and we need to act fast. Yes that’s why. Eh? Which pro-choice movement?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Its been over a week that I have blogged. To tell you the truth I was not in the mood, something terrible happened to me and I was too pissed off to write. Now I am still pissed off but a little calmer. Well not really, its just that now I feel I can think straight, if I ever do.

Has anyone of you, who have nothing better to do but read this blog, ever felt blackmailed? Probably you did. But have you ever felt blackmailed by your own interests?

You see, I am pissed off by something that if I blog about it, the only ones that will suffer is me, and a couple of my dearest friends. No one will give a shit and nothing would change, especially in this country. I really hate it when I feel this helpless. A few words by Martin L. Gore came to mind,

…..You can't change the world
But you can change the facts
And when you change the facts
You change points of view
If you change points of view
You may change a vote
And when you change a vote
You may change the world…..

it may be true but how would you start to change the facts?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Lately I could not stop thinking about my grandfather. His name was Jean-Marie Cefai, died at age 82 in 1987. That makes it more than eighteen years that he’s gone. My grandfather was a weird character. When he was very young his father migrated to Tunisia together with his wife and only son. There they lived in an Italian and French community where in his late twenties Jean-Marie met my grandmother Giannina d’Angelo. Just before the second world war he came back to Malta where he lived together with his wife and three kids till he died. Nobody called him Jean-Marie, only my Italian-French grandmother. All the rest called him Gammari, with that heavy maltese accent.

Until he was my age my grandfather never worked. He lived off his father’s and his father-in-law’s money, which were both prosperous businessmen in Tunis. Back in Malta he had to start to earn a living. Then he became a socialist. Well not really, a Mintuffjan is more appropriate. And he had good reasons to be. In a country where pseudo-historians try to make us believe that under the Mintoff government of the 70’s Malta has been through it’s worst period in history, have never met my grandfather. In his fifties he lost half of his right hand while working on a sawing machine. The joinery firm he worked for, still in operation today, sacked him. They had no use for a semi-invalid. He depended for his livelihood on his children, mainly my father. Then Mintoff came and gave him a pension.

I don’t know why I am writing all this but whenever something important happens in my life I always remember Gammari. I was the only one from all of my cousins that had the right to call him Gammari. Whatever I did was perfect to his eyes. That’s why I sought his approval because I knew I would get it. How proud he would have been last Thursday.

Death is a strange thing. I cannot understand how is it possible that a person that I have known for less than half of my life is still so present and important in whatever I do. Not that I believe in the afterlife or reincarnation but I truly believe that man remains immortal as long as his name is remembered.
This post is to remember your name nan.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Naming the unnamed

I find that one of the most difficult things to do when you finish a painting is to give it a name. My first temptation is to ‘title’ it “untitled” but then I feel guilty. No decent parent leaves their child unnamed or names them “unnamed”. Most people expect that a painting should have an artistic name, ok, but what’s that? Is it something like “deep emotions” or “the tempest”?
Though I tried different ways to come up with names I never found a winning formula that would give the right name for the right painting. I decided to do some research on the subject. I did not find much but at least found some meaningless stuff about names.......
Jackson Pollock also known as “Jack the Dripper” had five paintings entitled “number 1”. The guy created a special relationship between pissing and art. (Mummy Ghandi bzonn naghmel number 1.) It seems that Warhol’s "Piss Paintings" were a "parody of Jackson Pollock . . . referring to rumors that Pollock would urinate on a canvas before delivering it to a dealer or client he didn't like.”
J C Rowther recounts this story of a novelist who asked Somerset Maugham, to give advice on a title for his new novel. "Are there any tigers in it?" SM asked. The startled young man answered no. "Any drums?" No." "Then call it "No Tigers, No Drums."
In the USA, most boat owners name their boats Obsession.
In the late nineties, a Japanese couple were not permitted by the authorities to name their son Akuma (meaning devil) and in New Zealand in 2002 a couple tried to name their child after a motorcycle gang.
The name Rupert is a Low German form of Robert (till here I knew). Robert means "bright fame", derived from the Germanic elements hrod "fame" and beraht "bright". That’s quite stupid no? How can you name someone "bright fame" when he is not famous yet? What if he decides to be a hermit? Will that make him famous too?
Back to art. An interesting article about naming art could be found here:

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Dealing with loss

Today was my second appearance on a local newspaper. This time it was on Gallarija, the Malta Independent on Sunday’s Supplement. Again there was a mistake. What’s been described as a Rupert Cefai’s painting is Bernard’s photograph called “it-Tuttu”. At least Knots is there, he is the only one that looks decent. My mother in law was so proud this morning – “ir-ragel tat-tifla gabuh fuq il-gazzetta xi hlew”. I am not sure if she was more thrilled to see me or the dog, but anyway, il-kunjata was happy.

Yesterday we organised and mounted our art works at the CafĂ© Diva. Started at 11:00am and finished at 6:00pm. It took six people, seven man-hours each to transport, organise and hang 40+ pieces of art. Nuts. So now everything is set for Thursday, or nearly so. Only one thing left – Guze Stagno knows what.

This thing of leaving my paintings there alone at night really worries me. What if they could not sleep? What if they feel cold? What if they start crying? Who will be there to give them comfort? Paintings are not like books that you can always keep a copy. Or like a photograph that you can reprint. I am not judging the artistic value of different media its just that once you sell a painting its gone. You have sold your creation, your child, and its no longer there. Any ideas how to cope with such loss?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Triple bill

This morning I just could not believe my eyes, I was there on page 6 of Showtime (Times of Malta art Supplement). With that bald round head with a glass of wine in hand…..oh the artist is cool. Apart from the fact that I never studied under Willy Apap as claimed on the article (though I feel I am greatly influenced by his work) and nowhere did they mention the name of the exhibition and the dates from when till when, it was quite impressive to see a full page dedicated to the three of us (Gordon, Bernard and il sotto scritto). I was greatly impressed how awkward it feels to look at your own picture printed there on Malta’s daily newspaper in English.

My dog, Knots, was quite offended by the fact that he was cropped off the picture, and the rest, ie my head, was enlarged to fit the space. In comparison to the other two my head is twice as big – maybe I have become the Buras Guze mentioned this week.

Analysing the pictures, we look like three Mafiosi. In a deep and intellectual conversation with Gordon this afternoon we came to the conclusion that …..Gordon qisu qattiel u Bernard qisu tork tat-tarag. I look like one of those characters from a cheap mafia movie, or some sort of miami vice charachter but without hair.

For those of you unfortunate enough to have missed the Times this morning here is a link to the online version (and you can see Knots too, but without pictures of the paintings)


Thursday, May 05, 2005

...and let there be light

having followed the blogs of Toni Sant, Robert Micallef, Guze Stagno and Immanuel Mifsud for the past few weeks i have decided to give it a go and have my own piece of mind shared with the rest of the world. As soon as i sat down to start writing (or is it typing?) I realised that this stuff is not easy. Its like staring at a blank canvas with a paintbrush in one hand and palette full of colours on the other. The limitless choice for subjects is overwhelming.

there is another dilemma, should i write in Maltese or English? though for the moment I have opted for english i reserve the right (as a maltese with a familja slimiza) to be bilingual......u mela z...... sur kappillan.

back to the canvas issue, lately I have read the book by Anna Held Audette "The Blank Canvas - Inviting the Muse" - one of those Lm1 books from Liz tal-Mosta. Probably the best ktieb tal-lira I have ever read. Any artists suffering from dry spells should try and get hold of a copy. The book opens with a quote from Ernst Gombrich...

Seeing depends on knowledge
and knowledge, of course, depends on your college
but when you are erudite and wise
what matters is, to use your eyes.

though I do not know what erudite means (sa araldajt nasal) I will try to use my eyes for subjects to write about on this blog.

and another thing.... I doubt if I'll ever be able to write every day but i'll try to post regularly