K: Small Malta – Big Malta

The smallness of a country with an area of 316 square kilometers and a population of around 450,000 carries with it undeniable epistemological and existential frameworks that color the collective imaginary, beliefs, and natural history. Bone remains discovered in a Maltese prehistoric cave in the nineteenth century show that deer and elephants became “dwarfs” after being cut off from the Sicilian mainland, while mice and insects became “giants.” Until the early decades of the twentieth century, some Maltese liked to dream of a time in prehistory when the island’s oldest temples were supposedly built by a race of giants.

Being born “small” is a condition that is never easy to translate in other, considerably larger, contexts. How does one translate the reality of never being too far from relatives unless one chooses to emigrate? Or thinking of the horizon simulta- neously as an invitation to travel and a restraint? This horizon drew many Maltese away from their homeland during the twentieth century, with tens of thousands finding new lives and families in other countries like Australia, the United States, and Canada, forming what some call a “greater Malta” or Maltese diaspora, where the clock seems to have stopped at the point of arrival. It also brings many visitors from sub-Saharan African countries to the island, but the latter’s numbers and poverty result in calls for their expulsion on the basis that “we are too small.”

Giacomo Gastaldi, Isola de Malta map, sixteenth century. National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta. Courtesy Heritage Malta

Maurice Tanti Burlò, Oooops, 1993. Cartoon showing a member of the EC Commission tripping over the island of Malta. Malta joined the EU in 2004.

Members of the Maltese-Canadian Society of Toronto and the Maltese Legion of Detroit during 1945 Malta Day celebrations in old St. Paul’s Hall, Toronto. Courtesy Consulate General of the Republic of Malta, Toronto.