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I ♥︎ VLT

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Saturday, 26 October 2013

I ♥︎ VLT

As I walk into Valletta this afternoon, I am greeted by the sound of Peruvian pan-pipes.  Further down Republic street, a clarinetist plays Skyfall while 'Blurred Lines' blurts out from some super-sized speaker at the Embassy.  Further down the road, 'Caruso (Te voglio bene assai)' is being played on a French horn.  Valletta is abuzz with music.

But that isn't the purpose of my visit.  Neither is shopping, which is as you well know, a habit, or rather addiction for me.

I head straight down to Strait Street, past my favourite drinking hole, and on to the once glorious Splendid, currently home to Nadine Noko's exhibition Two Heads and a City.

Arguably, one can say that the exhibition per se starts at the City gate, where a mural has been affixed on the boards concealing (?) the site of the new Parliament building.  I love this prelude to the exhibition, and the greater part of me hopes in it surviving beyond the exhibition itself. Noko has managed to capture the essence of all that awaits the visitor upon entering the City walls - from the Valletta lawyers one sees on a daily basis, striding along the main street; to the all-seeing, unseen eyes, watching their neighbours' every move from their window; to the baskets hanging and waiting for the daily consignment of bread.  Much of what I see on this mural fills me with a sense of nostalgia for the Valletta I always loved, the Valletta I lived in before moving abroad.


My nostalgia is triggered again when I thread on the steps of Splendid, where the locale's name is emblazoned in a faded red over grey granite.  Walking around the exhibition together with Nadine, I am filled with memories of when I used to go to swim at the Valletta waterpolo pitch, or when as a child, I would visit an exhibition with my dad and then head over to Prego for pastizzi and peach juice - my drink de rigeur as a tiny tot. Entering the second exhibition room, I recognise the undertaker whose garage / shop was right round the corner from where I lived.  Nadine recounts her own encounters with the same chap and his family, and she takes me through a neighbourhood journey where the cabby drivers call out "madam wanna ride my horse?" and the old spinsters and widows gather in the neighbourhood square to say the rosary.

Nadine tells me about how her creative process came together on this project: how, moving to Valletta three years ago, she would seek inspiration among the City's streets, sketch-book in hand, immortalising the characters - human and non-human - who epitomise the City. With innumerable sketches and photos for reference, Nadine embarked on the Two Heads and a City project which features 20 archival prints which are to last 100 years.  I find this detail as appealing as the colourful characters and illustrations themselves: I like to think that Francois, the tattooed gas cylinder distributor, will live for 100 years more on someone's wall.  We talk about how we find the mundane - gas cylinders particularly - as incredibly beautiful.
 


I gravitate towards a painting of a female swimmer at the Valletta pitch.  I love the birds' eye view and the linear flow.  The more I look at this piece, the more it becomes my favourite.  It might be the connection I feel with the place it depicts.  Whatever it is, I feel a certain magnetic draw towards it.


This second visit to the exhibition was possibly the best idea I had over this last week.  While the opening last Friday was a great event, I now found the time to take in each piece and have a little tête-à-tête with the creative genius behind it. Everything about this exhibition fills me with a feeling of belonging.  The City is beckoning, and I must answer its call.

If you haven't been to Two Heads and a City, you have to go now. The exhibition is open until Tuesday 29th October and is supported by the Malta Arts Fund, V.18, Valletta European Capital of Culture and Farsons Group.



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