Maltese Painter To Resurrect His Father's 'Obscene' Banned Book In New Drawing Series

'Dik Il-Qtajra' was deemed too sexually explicit when it was first published in 1983

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In 1983, now-renowned local playwright Alfred Buttigieg had published Dik Il-Qtajra (That Droplet)The short 24-page book featured poetic monologues from a baby before and after it is born, but due to its content, it was deemed too obscene and banned from libraries and book shelves all over Malta. 34 years later, Alfred's son Gabriel wants to breathe new life into his father's work.

In between solo exhibitions and commissioned projects, 24-year-old Gabriel Buttigieg has been steadily making waves in the local arts scene. His 2017 kicked off by working on the artwork for alternative behemoths Brikkuni's new album Rub Al Khaliand the end of the year will see Gabriel releasing two series of works on paper, Dik Il-Qtajra and Babies.

Gabriel's upcoming exhibition, as the name suggests, is heavily inspired by his father's book, which actually came out a whole decade before he was born. In an interview with Malta Today, Gabriel explained how his father's short self-published book full of doodle-type drawings was refused by bookshops all over the island. 

"One page they found especially shocking included a holy picture of the Virgin Mary," Gabriel said. "The unborn child is pleading to her to protect him, rather than protect his mother, during labour."

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"The women and the man are goaded by their animal instincts to love and hurt each other, and their erotic union results in conception," Gabriel told Lovin Malta about his newest series. "The babies are innocent in their pre-moral state, but the way I depict them is intended to show that the next generation will have the same drives and the same selfish pursuits of pleasure. Like their parents, the infants are egoistic, concerned only with satisfying their needs.

For anyone who's familiar with the original 1983 book, this will definitely not sound new. "The fact that these paintings are inspired by my father's Dik Il-Qtajra makes the point about heredity very well, I think."

As for his Babies series, Philosophy lecturer Niki Young had this to say, "Buttigieg reflects on what he sees as characteristic features of our human condition. In the womb, the child exists in a suspended state, represented in the series by the large empty spaces that surround each of the infant figures. Yet it may also be noted that the series does not depict the children as foetuses or neonates, indicating that the deterministic process of character formation occurs from the very beginning."

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Baby 2 and 6

Gabriel's Dik il-Qtajra and Babies series will be on display at Mosta's Marie Iniala5 Gallery from 22nd November to 9th December. More information can be found on the official Facebook event page.

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Written By

David Grech Urpani

Sarcastically ironic, Dave is a recovering hipster musician with a penchant for chicken, women's clothes and Kanye.