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Kliem ix-Xjuħ: Malta’s Illustrators Celebrate The Elderly In Heartening Online Exhibition

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Everyone has felt uprooted by the pandemic, but for some, particularly the elderly, it’s been a year of being completely cut off from the world. Malta’s illustrator community thought it was high time that we celebrate them: the nannas, nannus and elderly figures whose wisdom we often need but shelf.

A year after the collective exhibition Artna, 16 artists from the Malta Community of Illustrators focused their digital pens to do just that – create intimate artworks of elderly people that inspire them. The result is Kliem ix-Xjuħ, a varied, uplifting online exhibition that engenders the generation: nuggets of wisdom, wonder, splendour and quirkiness. It will also prompt you to give your grandparents a ring.

Sebastian Tanti Burlo, the illustrator who came up with the idea, said the thought came to him while doodling an old woman on his street.

“It’s high time we celebrate their presence in our society, because no matter what one thinks about the COVID-19 virus, I think we’d all agree: how much poorer life would be without your Nanna or Nannu,” he wrote.

Mary Micallef’s piece is dedicated to her Nanna Mary. It’s called “Wishing upon a dandelion” and is inspired by her daily little rituals with her grandma.

“During these times I cannot help but notice that every day our conversations are having a repetitive closure – “How I wish…” Therefore, this illustration is inspired by my nanna,” Micallef wrote.

“A strong-willed woman, braver than anyone I have ever met. With everything going on at the moment I know our calls mean so much to her, they mean a lot to me too. I owe a lot of who I am today to her, this woman ‘Wishing upon a dandelion”.

Mark Scicluna was inspired by memories from childhood, particularly a collection of objects in his grandparents summer residence in Qawra.

“During the warm summer days we used to spend our mornings swimming at Fra Ben and playing tombla in the afternoon. These objects remind me of the many conversations I’ve had with my nannu who has passed away recently,” he said.

Moira Zahra’s “Frances” revolves around the tale of courting between her Nanna and Nannu.

“My grandfather and her used to meet up in secret at the beginning of their relationship, and go for motorcycle rides together. Apparently, during one of these secret meetups, my grandfather gifted my grandmother a pair of blue sunglasses. For some reason this random story has stuck with me and so I decided to draw a young nanna Frances wearing a pair of blue sunglasses,” she mused.

“Since my grandma has seen the drawing she has mentioned that the sunglasses also had some ‘fosos’ (jewels) on them. Sadly these didn’t make it in the illustration but I thought what a statement these glasses must have made!”

Ed Dingli, another participating illustrator, even wrote a poem for his artwork called “Lina”.

Just as a tree 

proudly displays its rings

that grow wonkier and wider

more whimsical and wiser

each one a track of its own

sewn 

like a thread 

through the fabric of time

connecting

the mundane and the sublime…

Mariam Mifsud De Giorgio captured her father holding her in his arms.

“These are words I hold dearly in my heart, with immense gratitude; words my father uttered the moment he held me for the first time, as his sixth child, in his arms. ‘Kemm stennejtek!’”, Joe Degiorgio wrote about his piece.

“I did not come by mistake. I was not unwanted surplus. I owe my life to a previous generation that did not seek their self-interests first, but, fortified by their faith, were rather selflessly open to life…Because love, true endless love, exists. I have seen it. I am the result of it. Thank you mama and papa.”

Zach Ritchie chose to illustrate his Nannu, “The Mini Cooper King”.

“Boy does Nanna have a hard time getting your attention when there is a Mini Cooper S 1960 around you. You are a role model Nannu, of what it means to show up and do the work you love, Bless you!”

While the original intention was to hold an online exhibition, the collective wanted the target audience to be elderly people themselves. Therefore, a set of postcards with the artworks and stories on the back will be printed and distributed to elderly homes with the help of Care Malta.

“This way, we hope that the elders will be able to read through the postcards and know that we are all thinking of them,” the illustrators collective finished. 

The participating illustrators are as follows: Ed Dingli, Moira Zahra, Zack Ritchie, Mark Scicluna, Natalie Couto, Mariam Mifsud De Giorgio, Sebastian Tanti Burlò, Marisa Attard, Naomi Gatt, Roderick Pace, Sue Flask, Marilyn Ciantar, Valentina Fyorh Attard, Pascale Abdilla, Steffi Venturi and Kathleen Flask. 

Check out the whole awesome exhibition here.

Tag someone who would love a postcard!

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Sam is an over-caffeinated artist fighting for a cooler and freer world, one article, song or impromptu protest at a time. Hit her up with thought-provoking ideas or dreams at [email protected] or @princess.wonderful on Instagram.

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