H: Religious Objects

Objects used in religious rituals always aim to connect different realms: the sacred and the profane, the Church and its adherents, religious practitioners and general publics. Showing a feeling of gratitude, some objects like ex-votos are connected very much with the Catholic religion. Catholic rituals, of course, remain the most pervasive, lending a sense of kitsch anachronism to everyday life, but one also finds many traces of other faiths in Malta, from prehistory through the Arab period and right up to the present day. Dwelling very firmly in the materiality of social life, the Catholic ritualistic object has colored Malta’s streets and ceremonies with a lavish Baroque spirit for centuries, even though its actual religious significance has subsided to some extent in an increasingly secular society.

Some objects are seemingly not aware of being religious objects—we can hear them in their conversations, questioning their own existence. The religious object does not talk to me but serves as a mediator, telling me there is a different world out there, beyond the visible borders of phenomenology, and even if I do not adhere to its belief system, it radiates a strange attraction and energy.

Assorted religious paraphernalia including Muslim prayer beads.
Photo: Alexandra Pace.

Austin Camilleri, Rosary, 2002. Cast aluminum, 300 cm long. Courtesy the artist.
Camilleri’s large flexible sculpture replaces the traditional beads on rosaries with crying babies’ heads. Religious pageantry is reinterpreted as a production chain of displaced bodies that could easily be read today as the countless “lost” children of the wars that have rendered hundreds of thousands of people homeless, orphans, unemployed, and so on.

Maurice Tanti Burlò, cartoon showing early trials of church radio station in Malta, Radju Maria, 1991.