IE: Festa!!!

Maltese village feasts are a mixture of the religious and the secular. Festas are visual and aural excesses. The pride of each community lies in the grandeur of its expression and the attempt to outdo neighboring villages. Hundreds of lightbulbs light up church facades, while colorful street decorations and statues adorn the main routes in town. The Baroque interior of the church and even private homes are “made up” for the occasion. Festas turn streets and public spaces into indoor spaces. Organized by volunteers of each parish, the yearlong buildup results in an impossible cacophony created by brass bands, pro- cessions, church bells, noisy firework displays, village singers, and drunken rowdiness. The festa’s crazy atmosphere, however, camouflages a sense of intense dedication and craftsmanship that characterizes each component of the special communal event, from its handmade street fireworks to paper decorations and carefully painted street banners and pedestals. Festas have become a Maltese tourist attraction, drawing crowds of visitors with cameras and recording devices, merging social life and the tourism industry. The revival of festas over the last decades is linked to this impact of the tourist industry and simultaneously taps into the Maltese love for both gregarious events and tradi- tion. So far, the spirited, energetic people driving the local festas resist Disneyfication by continuously renewing the staff of volunteers, creating family-like bonds and renewing the festas’ look and feel. In general, we can safely say that the Maltese like to party.

Adrian Abela, Nebula 002, 2014–17. HD video, 24:18 min.
Nebula was conceived as part of the artist’s project Charti, which explores rituals that occur during festas (feasts) in towns and villages on the Maltese Islands. Nebula, meaning “clouds,” focuses on the collective nature of ritualistic action, represented by the natural formation of clouds that collect water particles. The need to participate in collective rituals is intrinsic to human existence. The work presents the fireworks as clouds/nebulas of outer space, thus eliminating the human presence from the festa.

Karine Rougier, Horses dream, 2015. Gouache on vintage document, 16.5 × 14.5 cm. Private collection.
The artist revisits a work by another artist – Prud’hon’s Le Triomphe de Bonaparte ou la Paix in this case – and creates a festive atmosphere through the metamorphosis of the personages in the original print. The result is a magical reworking of history, which permits traces of the past to peep from underneath the colors that Rougier adds to the preexisting image.