I Witness| Open Edition | General Collection
My country’s recent history has been wrought with one scandal after another. Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination in 2017 sent a shockwave that attracted the world press to the island’s growing corruption. The ongoing case has strong links to multiple business people, members of parliament and even the ex-prime minister Joseph Muscat, who was named as “2019 MAN OF THE YEAR IN ORGANIZED CRIME AND CORRUPTION” by the OCCRP.
Over the years, despite having the Great Siege Monument serve as a metaphor and makeshift memorial for the fallen journalist, it, on Owen Bonnici’s command, has repeatedly been torn down. In an act of great tragic irony, Bonniċi had been appointed as Parliamentary Secretary and later Minister of Justice. The Constitutional Court of Malta ruled that he had breached the human rights of protestors. It also found him guilty of breaching blogger/activist Emmanuel Delia and others’ freedom of expression, hundreds of times, with the Council of Europe, the UN and the OSCE condemning him.
The painting speaks about the social divide between supporters of the two major political parties. They have effectively created a bi-partisan dictatorship – this is reflected in the painting’s colour scheme emphasised through the fractures along the brow bone.
With the younger generation becoming increasingly aware of the impunity on the island, we have been made to understand how, regardless of which party we’re under, corruption is rife.
As of 2020, Malta has ranked 81st in the global index of freedom of speech – that is below Hong Kong, Panama and Kosovo.
Another issue that arises with such an entrenched system is that it’s hard to see yourself represented as a minority. LGBTQ+ rights have progressed on paper, however, representation is sparse and safety varies on time and location. With the omnipresence of the patriarchy backed up by a reigning theocracy, intersectional discrimination is furthered by women’s lack of autonomy and reproductive rights, with Malta being the last country in Europe in which abortion remains completely illegal.
Like all of my work, “I Witness” is a fusion of visual ingredients, woven together to express how I feel. It portrays a Maltese visage, looking straight into the viewer, reflecting the vigilant watch we must keep on those in power. The face and neck feature multiple tattoos, referring to the various connotations between body art and organised crime. In no way do I wish to demonise tattoos, rather I see them as a relevant and beautiful way to share my story.
The tattoos are like charms on a bracelet, each referring to points along the DCG case’s timeline. “Dinijtà・ Onestà・ Integrità” (Dignity, Honesty, Integrity) is taken from a speech given during the December 2019 protests. The line reminded me of the French Revolution’s “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”. 17 Black is a company mentioned in the Panama Papers, which Caruana Galizia strongly alleged has links to Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri shortly before her murder. “L-Ewwel Ġie l-Ħaddiem” (The worker came first) is an ironic statement as the Labour Party portrays itself as a party for the working person and proceeds to embezzle millions off honest people’s backs. “MDLXV” directly refers to the previously mentioned Great Siege monument and finally, depicted on the cheeks, highlighting the tear troughs, are “Assassini” (Assassins) & “Ħallelin” (Thieves), predominant chants during the protests.