Ħ: Us and Them

Dichotomies and consequent notions of self-righteousness have existed across different strata of Maltese society for centuries. During the times of the Order of St. John, the “other” came from another land, Ottoman Turkey, and represented another faith, Islam. In more recent times, external influences were fused into internal struggles. The language question in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, for instance, gradually saw the native Maltese, a language of Semitic origin, and English, the language of the colonizers, supplant the language of the Maltese intelligentsia, Italian, as the official languages. This helped to promote the Anglicization of the Maltese at the expense of the notion of Italia Irredenta. In the twentieth and twenty-first cen- turies, the two-party political system has led to a polarization of Maltese society, which for decades has been more or less evenly divided into supporters of the Partit Nazzjonalista (Nationalist Party) and Partit Laburista (Labor Party). Contemporary rivalry is also still evident at the micro level of village band clubs, between parishes, football teams, and so on, easily dividing ev- ery subject matter into a question of black or white. Modern and contemporary art has not engaged very openly with such polarizations, understandably to some extent, given the small size of the country and potential for loss of patronage.

Aaron Bezzina, Untitled (cruci-hammer and nail), 2016. Bronze, wood, 320 x 100 x 20mm and 50 x 6 x 6mm. Courtesy the artist.
The sculpture consists of two entities functioning in tandem. Bezzina’s sculpture is an object that marries a hammer with the Catholic symbol of the crucifix. As a result, it is neither a hammer nor a crucifix, or perhaps it is simultaneously both. Religion is reconfigured as a tool with aggressive undertones. The sculpture combines the sacred and the irreverent in a single space of meditation: the cruci-hammer hangs on a nail driven into a wall just as an ordinary hammer would be stored on a tool wall.