With just two prior sightings at La Biennale di Venezia in nearly 60 years, the Malta Pavilion is much like a rare bird with virtually no past, no long tradition, or history of participation. Yet rich histories characterise this third appearance, by way of a multiplicity of objects and figures that manifest themselves in the country’s linguistic and cultural exchanges with other lands, its colourful feasts and inherited customs, and a proud imaginary that holds sway over a nation’s relationship with itself and with its visitors.

Curated by Bettina Hutschek and Raphael Vella, Homo Melitensis: An Incomplete Inventory in 19 Chapters combines the work of thirteen artists and a diverse selection of artefacts from national and private collections. Through a non-hierarchical, achronological installation, the exhibition investigates Maltese identity via maps, folkloric objects, historical photographs, and contemporary artworks. Artefacts and paraphernalia intermingle in a series of chapters that reveal stories of nationhood, memory, war, diaspora, dreams, and island life, imagining an identity situated between truth and non-truth. Taxonomically and alphabetically organised in custom-made, spatial arrangements, Homo Melitensis–Maltese man–witnesses the transition from nation-state to an atomised, impenetrable existence, and is perplexed.