Digital Painting | 2019
My favourite characteristic of Maltese identity is its confluence of cultures from all over the Mediterranean and beyond. Our history is written in our language and architecture. Maltese has Arabic roots but continued to be Latinised with Italian, French, and English influences. A similar story can be told by our architectural heritage. European-style buildings are prevalent, such as the baroque Auberge de Castille, however, Arabic traditions make up the vernacular architecture of the country.
One day, while looking at the old balcony across the street, I wondered what it would look like if Malta had to truly embrace its Arabic roots in its aesthetic. MeliTENSION conjures creatures that embody our identity and “Balcón-être” is no different; it depicts a ‘Hexa-ocular’ sentient traditional balcony, an image symbolic of the nation, with the Moorish styles found in places like Andalucia & Sicily, floating against a vivid Maltese sunset.
The balcony’s eyes are an homage to the eyes on the traditional fishing boat, the luzzu. Each pair of eyes shows a distinct emotion. The middle couple weeps for its demolished compatriots, the outer front pair watch in terror as another balcony is torn down, while the ones on the sides hang low in resignation to a similar fate.
Luzzu eyes are a custom surviving from Phoenician times. They are also present in ancient Greek and Egyptian culture. Related modern examples can be found from the Middle East to South America. The eyes are placed on the prow of a vessel in order to protect the sailors at sea, maybe these eyes will serve as a talisman against the curse of corruption and the subsequent over-development.
Much like the island itself, “Balcón-être” reflects both north and south Mediterranean aesthetics, emphasising Arabic influence on Maltese heritage. The islands face a rise in racial tension and it is baffling to see white supremacy coming from a nation descended from people of colour.