Digital Painting By Ramon Azzopardi Fiott [AKA RAFiott]
MeliTENSION Collection | Completed 2021

An Exploration of Identity and Belonging

Namrati [Lovers], a limited edition fine artwork by artist Ramon Azzopardi Fiott [RAFiott]. Exhibited at the prestigious Maltese National Fine Arts Gallery – MUŻA, Valletta, this captivating piece delves into the themes of Identity and Belonging, which have profoundly influenced the artist’s life and work.

Growing up queer, atheist, and synesthetic on a well-meaning yet conservative island, the concept of “fitting in” was never an option for Rafiott. With a small family scattered across the world, he learned from an early age that belonging is not about conforming, but rather about creating your own sense of family and connection. The passing of his mother further compelled him to rediscover himself and embrace the idea that true belonging is rooted in acceptance and love.

Similarly, Malta, the artist’s homeland, grapples with its own identity. With a history deeply intertwined with various Mediterranean cultures, the island has been colonized by Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, and western European countries. Malta’s national identity, shaped through trials and tribulations, remains elusive and prone to disagreement. This struggle is reflected in the ongoing destruction of architectural and archaeological heritage—a consequence of the collective uncertainty surrounding the preservation of a yet-to-be-defined identity.

Celebrating the “Maltese Fusion”

Through Namrati [Lovers], Rafiott presents a playful exploration of this very idea. Inspired by the uniqueness of the “Maltese Fusion” and the island’s distinctive historical marks, the artwork depicts an intriguing encounter between two iconic symbols. The vibrant green flower kiosk, a beloved fixture in Valletta, finds itself entangled in a whimsical liaison with a traditional red telephone box, set against the picturesque backdrop of Upper Barrakka Gardens—a place that holds great significance in the collective Maltese experience.

One might argue that these symbols of Malta have foreign origins, but the question of their belonging becomes irrelevant as they have become an integral part of the island’s identity. Namrati [Lovers] serves as a daydream, celebrating the beauty and essence of Valletta—the limestone buildings, the old gardens, and the underlying theme of love. Yet, beneath the cozy glow of the image, a subtle subtext of discontent and stiflement emerges, reflecting the artist’s complex emotions towards his homeland.

The Symbolic Encounter: Unveiling the Layers of Meaning

The flower kiosk symbolizes Malta and Rafiott’s heritage. Adorned with a partially visible family crest, it exudes beauty but offers no hope of growth, mirroring the cut flowers it holds. On the other hand, the telephone box, representing infinite potential connections, appears overwhelmed and motionless, captured in a state of panic. This juxtaposition depicts the artist’s restless soul, caught between conflicting emotions regarding the island—an allegory that draws parallels between living under a corrupt government and being in an abusive relationship.

Notably, the telephone box stands out as the only one displaying the Maltese spelling of “telefon” rather than the typical English “telephone.” Playfully adorned with a sarcastic coat of arms bearing the caption “Pajjiż tal-Mikij Maws” (A Mickey Mouse Country), a phrase originating from a local satirical song, it satirically comments on systemic ineptitude—a testament to the artist’s critical perspective on his surroundings.

Namrati [Lovers] is a thought-provoking artwork that invites viewers to contemplate their own journey of identity and belonging. Through this captivating piece, Rafiott emphasizes the significance of embracing the diverse tapestry of heritage and fostering a collective sense of love and acceptance—a poignant message that resonates not only with the Maltese experience but with individuals worldwide.


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