il-Warda tar-Riħ

Across the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo, long-held customs and beliefs connect those who live there to the winds that blow across the archipelago. From ringing church bells to soothe violent gales, to using cats to read the winds and scatter seeds, natural phenomena and cultural practice have been interlinked for millennia.

Il-Warda Tar-Riħ (The Wind-Rose Project) uncovered and explored these stories and traditions, linking four geographical points on the Maltese Islands.

These compass points became the focus for community activities, story gathering, workshops and creative events that acknowledged the historical, mythological and living presence of the winds and their importance in Mediterranean culture.

What began with a children’s workshop entitled: ‘Tiftakar l-Ewwel Darba li Għamilt Tajra?’, (‘Do You Remember The First Time You Made A Kite?’) led to meaningful exchange with the local communities in each town. A reoccurring object with distinct regional characteristics was soon identified across all four locations: weathervanes.

Following discussion and design sessions, the artists of the rubberbodies collective presented their findings in sculptural form. These four kinetic sculptures touch on an ancient and everlasting connection to the elements and natural rhythms.

The sculptures were placed on Exiles Beach, Sliema, Xatt is-Sajjieda, Marsaxlokk, Fomm ir-Riħ, Mġarr, and San Dimitri, Għarb.

Map of Malta indicating the locations of the four weather-vanes installed at the end of the research project.

Each locality offered up a tale, specific to its community, on which to base the sculptural form of the weathervanes. 

In the region of Mġarr, villagers revealed they would historically look to their household cats to discern the direction of the winds, and how feline behaviours would predict the coming weather. Consequently, Mġarr’s weathervane was constructed in the shape of a cat backed by a collection of small fans. The fans and curved pipework that accompany the cat, represent windmills and a tool used by fishermen to power their boats, the palella. The weathervane was a key indicator of whether the fisherman’s sails would be filled or the farmer’s seeds scattered.

The people of Marsaxlokk emphasised that the wind and sea are a formidable couple. Their weathervane carries the symbol of the eye – the very same protective symbol that is found on every fishing boat, or, luzzu, within the coastal Marsaxlokk community.

The weathervane was designed to portray the eye in several stages; both open and closed. The closed eye representing the fisherman’s sleeping family at home, and the open eye becoming a symbol of the true direction of one’s thoughts; for a family left behind is always conscious of their loved ones at sea.

A public exhibition and a publication, Il-Pinnuri (The Windvanes) were also created to document the project. Showcasing images and sharing interview material alongside the sculptures before they were installed in the landscape, the exhibition connected visitors to the deeply rooted – and previously under-represented – customs of Malta and Gozo.

Core Artistic Team The Rubberbodies Collective (Jimmy Grima, Martina Buhagiar, Katarina Pejovic, Adrian Abela, Matthew Pandolfino in conversation with Lino Psaila, Hector Barbara, Ġorġ ix-Xemx, David Apap Agius, Mario Vassallo, Twanny Vassallo, Anthony Chircop, Leli Camilleri, u Jesmond Muscat) Architectural Advisor Adrian Mamo Curated by Jimmy Grima Project Manager Nicole Blackman in collaboration with Sliema Local Council, Mġarr Local Council, Għarb Local Council and Marsaxlokk Local Council. Funded by Valletta 2018 Foundation Photos Tumer Gencturk

LAUNCH EVENTS OF PUBLIC SCULPTURES 

EXILES BEACH, SLIEMA.(2016)

XATT IS-SAJJIEDA, MARSAXLOKK (2017)

FOMM IR-RIĦ, MĠARR (2017)

SAN DIMITRI, GĦARB (2017)

PUBLIC EXHIBITION AND PUBLICATION

IL-PINNURI (THE WINDVANES) (2016)

personal note

Commissioned by the European Capital for Culture, I created a framework for a group of artists and members of four rural communities to come together. 

We began by documenting the communities knowledge of the winds and then facilitated conversations between artists and non-artists (such as farmers and fishermen) to reinterpret this knowledge together to come up with the sculptural outcomes.