BEYOND BORDERS – The storytelling…

The following are the interviews and portraits of all the participants:

logos jpg

MATIFADZA NYAMUKAPA

MATIFADZA NYAMUKAPA
Born 1991 in Zimbabwe
Religion: Pentacostal

Zimbabwean born Matifadza (Mati for short) considers herself to have strong ties to her parents and elder brother, who still all reside in Africa. She finished her university studies in Cyprus and obtained a job through the European Erasmus plus programme. After a while, she came to know of a possible internship in Malta through Alec Douglas of Cross Culture International Foundation and, after applying, she was accepted. Primarily her internship involves work revolving around human resources and administration.

Although she has not been staying long in Malta, she actually arrived in September 2015; she has resided at various places around the island, namely Tarxien, Marsascala, Sliema, Swatar and Fgura! She was particularly fond of her Sliema and Marsascala residential periods as in these two towns she found friendly and helpful people. She finds Malta relatively cheaper and more manageable to live in than other countries that she has already resided in, yet she misses her family and the African food. On the other hand, she is glad to be able to explore and work in different and interesting places such as Malta. In fact, she is still young and, as most youths do, she does not intend to become tied so early to just one place, instead she would rather experience life wherever there is an opportunity for her to take.

When recounting about her experience in Malta, she has encountered some instances where she felt discriminated against or where people acted in a rude manner towards her. She particularly recalled one situation when she had to visit the Paola health clinic and she was left for a long time waiting to see a doctor. To make matters worse, the doctor on duty did not even see her and just left his cubicle even though he knew she was waiting for him to call her inside! On another occasion, whilst making a purchase in a shop, the shop owner threw the receipt at her in a very rude way and he didn’t even give her the change. She would have liked to assert her rights but decided against it for obvious reasons. Like many migrants she has found nurturing Maltese friends rather difficult and she primarily networks and relates more with her workmates and a handful of Maltese she has met at church. However, she still considers her stay in Malta to be a positive one and she particularly likes the scenery and the sea views of the island.

For her, it is vital that migrants should not be intimidated by the somewhat aloof air of the Maltese when they come in contact with migrants. The latter themselves need to try and make an effort to befriend and approach the Maltese and vice versa. Through her experience with the NGO she works with, she has found that the best way of approaching migrant communities is through someone who already has gained their trust; usually a common local person rather than a government official. In that manner a better more speedy understanding and rapport can be established and migrants can easily discover who really wants to help them. In fact, she has found certain migrant parents understandably wary of allowing their children to be educated and helped. This is natural as most of these migrants would not have had enough information and confidence as to who is trying to help out and who is perhaps trying to exploit and take advantage.

STEPHEN EGBO

STEPHEN EGBO
Born 1978 in Nigeria
Religion: Christian

Stephen did not leave Nigeria for just economical reasons. In his own words, his Nigerian family is well-off and they come from a good social background. In 2006, he left Nigeria in order to see more of the world as he loves to travel and discover other lands, cultures and societies. He arrived in Europe through France, going then straight to Italy where he worked in a restaurant. It is there that he met and married his present wife, a Hungarian who was also employed in Italy. After marriage, Stephen and his wife moved to Hungary where he worked with a manufacturing company. Hungary was not so economically sound and Stephen had a language communication problem. Thus, in 2010, the couple decided to move to Malta. This became possible because due to his marriage Stephen had gained the ability to move freely across European Union countries.
The couple’s main reason for choosing the island was that language in Malta was not a problem. Stephen, like most Nigerians, speaks good English so he could easily communicate with the Maltese. The weather was another deciding factor as Malta’s climate bears many similarities to that of Nigeria. In fact, Stephen feels it was the correct move as he declares that if he was to choose the best country he has yet resided in, he has no hesitation in selecting Malta. It is interesting that on his arrival at Luqa airport, he felt quite at home as not only were the local buses of the same colour as those in Nigeria but, at that time, the attitude of the drivers was also similar! Now he is pleased to note that bus drivers are smarter, more polite and more ready to communicate with foreigners.

In Malta, Stephen, who is of Christian faith, has worked with a telephone company and two security companies – JF and Group 4. He currently works for the latter and is mainly employed as security at ST Electronics. He enjoys his job and likes keeping fit by paying regular visits to a gym. He loves swimming and due to the island’s normally temperate weather, tries to find every opportunity to avail himself of the sea’s benefits. Stephen wants to improve his level of education so that he can better his family’s situation, thus he is attending a part time evening course in information technology at MCAST. Improved income would also enable him to better help out his relatives back in Nigeria – something which all Nigerians feel dutifully bound to do. In Malta, his wife managed to immediately secure a job and works at a hotel as a housekeeper. Curiously, Stephen thinks that his wife had been more discriminated than him and it took her more time to feel part of the community. Perhaps this is due to her quiet, shy and reserved disposition. The couple would be happy to raise their children in Malta but they would make sure that their children were aware of the background of their parents and that they would be taught to embrace a mixed culture community.

On the subject of employment, Stephen is adamantly opposed to people begging. He believes that with determination, hard work and good will, anyone can manage to earn an honest living. He further feels that during his stay in Malta, there has been a gradual improvement at how Maltese view foreigners. As Maltese travel, marry foreigners, work abroad and get in touch with other cultures, they evolve from an insular mentality to a global appreciation; they will realise that although there are different races, we are all human beings. Persons must not generalize – there are good and bad elements in all societies; people should definitely not judge other human beings by the colour of their skin or their country of origin Knowledge, respect, tolerance, integration, and inclusion are the keys to a better world.

DOUNIA BORG

DOUNIA BORG
Born 1971 in MOROCCO
Religion: ARABIC MUSLIM

Dounia initially came to Malta for a holiday after being encouraged by some friends and, whilst on the island, she met her Maltese husband. It was a whirlwind romance because after only a few days her husband proposed, Dounia accepted and they applied for civil union, and subsequently got married in 1994.

Prior to this, whilst she was in Morocco, Dounia had gained a diploma in sciences and began working at the customs department of her own country. At the beginning, she only had a basic command of English and definitely no experience of the Maltese language – she even had difficulty to communicate with her husband. Yet, Dounia is a determined woman and she wanted to make herself useful whilst on the island. This spurred her to take up evening courses in Maltese and English in order to better empower herself. In 1999, she accepted to represent her children’s primary school in Żebbuġ as a voluntary parent leader. Things moved fast and she was soon elected as PRO for the school council and even represented Malta and the same council in a European event in 2007. Her determination enabled her to land her first real paid job with the Fondazzjoni Edukattiva working on a European Union project called ‘Portafol’. Concurrently she made time to participate in a Maltese television programme with Claudette Pace that mainly provided Dounia with the opportunity of promoting Moroccan food and cooking. The project eventually spawned the publishing of a book on Moroccan cooking. This publication came out in 2009 through Sierra Publishers. Dounia does not do things in half measures and successfully underwent a course at the Institute of Tourism Studies in order to be better positioned to write and prepare the book. The catering business enthused her and she moved into working at a Maltese restaurant, however tutoring is her main passion and between 2010 and 2015 she has been teaching part time courses in Arabic and French to adults. In 2012, her innate drive to better her community led her to sit for local elections in Żebbuġ and then at St. Paul’s Bay in 2015. Unfortunately, she was not elected – it is not an easy task for a Muslim to be elected by the Maltese people even at local council level, but Dounia showed that she was not afraid of being a pioneer. In fact, she is not to be discouraged and in 2018 will again contest the elections in the 7th district of Żebbuġ.

Dounia’s first impression of Malta was that its society still treasures family values and close bonds are kept between children and parents. She feels that she was quickly and openly accepted in her village community of Żebbuġ. Initially she could sense some trepidation when people learned that she was Moroccan but as soon as they got to know her better, barriers dissipated in a short time. Learning Maltese has further helped her to get closer to the Maltese and learn more of the way their society functions. She believes that migrants should retain their own identity but that they should respect the laws of Malta and know well their responsibilities. She loves the family culture of Malta and the willing friendliness of her neighbours. For her, Malta feels like a second home and she enjoys the summer and warm weather which is quite similar to Morocco. When she compares the Maltese education system with that of her own country, she finds the former much more structured and competent. To her, this is important as her future is strongly connected to her children and giving them the opportunities that she herself lacked is paramount. She also feels strongly that all people should make an attempt to properly get to know a stranger before judging and discriminating against that person. The key to a better society is to acquire knowledge of each other’s culture and background and making a sincere effort to treat everyone as equal. Migrants need also accept and adapt to their situation, even though sometimes they may want to go elsewhere. They should never impose on society but rather think of contributing to their newly adopted country. For Dounia everyone should have equal rights.

The Moroccan Community in Malta amounts to around 250 families and there is a registered NGO to cater for the needs of this group. It is part of the LEAP project that aims at helping Moroccans to integrate better into the Maltese community and to know their responsibilities and their rights. Most Moroccans staying in Malta have a legal work permit or are married to Maltese citizens. Currently Dounia is the vice president of the Migrant Women Association Malta; an NGO that guides social victims and refugees coming from any nation or religion.

DANIELLE VAN ROOYEN


Ms. DANIELLE VAN ROOYEN
Born 1984 in SOUTH AFRICA
Religion: Christian

Danielle oozes an amazing positive spirit which is both admirable and delightfully infective. She has been in the teaching profession for over 8 years, spending three of them in South Africa at a multicultural private girls’ school, then in Cambodia teaching languages in an international entity and another year at a school in Khartoum, Sudan. In 2015, she was actively considering a change and, as so often happens, fate intervened and she was offered a teaching job in Malta. She had hardly heard about the island however she accepted. Today she teaches French and English languages and works in the same school’s Creativity Activity Service (CAS) programme. It was here that she first made contact with Malta’s Cross Culture International Foundation Initially, when she arrived here in August 2015, coming straight from a somewhat conservative country, the first thing she remembers most was her surprise at the scant manner that some girls dressed!

She considers Malta a country of social contrasts and convictions. Grey areas are somewhat absent and the Maltese are usually passionate about their convictions and beliefs. This may not always be to the detrimental as at times, the “middle ground” can be boring and not so stimulating. She also admires the fact that many Maltese hold to their traditions and roots as this helps maintain their interesting identity. On the other side of the coin, through her own experience, the Maltese are then quick to love and be loved. It does seem to take a considerable amount of time and effort to establish Maltese friends but the minute one makes the attempt, the locals are very forthcoming. This is quite similar to many other countries that have tight knit communities.

She loves living and working in Malta as she feels she has regained her own personal space. At first, this sounds rather strange, given the fact that she hails from such a large country as South Africa and that Malta is so tiny and crowded. Moreover she finds that the safety and liberty she encounters on the island is exceptional: she can go out late at night, exercise her jogging early in the morning or walk to school and not feel afraid. This freedom, together with the beautiful Maltese scenery, has beneficially impacted her everyday lifestyle.

Her feelings on how to actively improve integration between the Maltese and migrants are quite clear: it is those having the “power” who need to first extend their hand and help in order to “empower” those who are still trying to find their way in a country and society which is not their own. In fact, migrants cannot realistically do the first initial steps but local authorities and NGOs and, more importantly, individuals can. It is building face to face relationships between individuals which makes a foreigner feel part of a community. More specific programmes should be put into effect by the government with regards to this. Such initiatives need to be primarily aimed at bringing Maltese and migrants together through common interests such as, amongst others, music, art, dress, education and food.

ENDELEY KONBOYE

ENDELEY KONBOYE
Born in NIGERIA
Religion: Christian

Endeley came to Malta due to economical problems and a corrupt government in his country – Nigeria. Whilst still in his home country, he was working in an oil production facility but the facility was leaving a negative environmental impact on nearby surroundings. After a military coup and widespread corruption, his village was burnt down during a legitimate protest. Current Nigerian president supports an Islamic state and furthermore he used to represent Boko Haram. Nigeria’s previous leader, “Good Luck” Jonathan was more liberal and did not interfere with the judicial system. The problem of terrorism was amplified because for over 30 years, the Nigerian military was not adequately supplied with hardware and updated equipment which resulted in their failure to strongly contrast the militant group.

Endeley never intended to leave Nigeria before these events occurred, but when the police started harassing him, he decided it was time to leave. He set off from south Nigeria to the north, spending a night in Kano, and subsequently travelled on foot through Niger by hitching lifts on trucks and finally entered Libya through a border crossing. He remained 8 months in Tripoli where he frequently fell victim to prejudice and discrimination. He felt gradually depressed and actually contemplated going back to Nigeria. He recalls that migrant Christians were particularly treated badly, arrested in the streets with no reason and at times, after working for a whole week, he was not paid. Whilst in Libya he stayed with a friend and heard about Malta for the first time through a person from Congo.

Eventually, another friend of his, who knew the ropes of clandestine travel, helped him and arranged for his trip. The trip to Malta was not easy and due to his previous experience with boats in Nigeria, he was tasked to pilot the boat. They were around 36 persons on the vessel, which was intended to go to Italy. The group left from Misurata in 2004 and after two days and two nights they ended up in Malta due to a navigational mistake. They were picked up by the Armed Forces of Malta and escorted to the island. In Malta, he was taken to the detention centre in Safi where he was generally well treated. His first application for asylum was rejected and the resulting 18 months, first at the detention centre and then at the Marsa open centre, were difficult. He tried his best not to dwell on this situation and playing football regularly kept him sane. When he was transferred to the open centre, it was an improvement as he was free to move around and he could look for employment. After two weeks he landed a job with a construction company and moved to Mtarfa. In 2006/7 he tried to play and train with Santa Lucija Football Club but found it difficult as he still had to work to maintain himself. Subsequently he worked with the Arriva bus company but after the latter stopped operating prematurely, he luckily managed to get a job with Island Beverages(H2O) who treated him with respect.

Endeley considers himself fortunate that three years ago he met a Maltese girl through the internet and, in 2012, they eventually married. Her father, who hails from Cospicua, is a kind and honest person and Endeley had no problems being accepted by his wife’s family. He considers Malta a safe country and loves the similar warm weather he was used to in Nigeria. However the cold, humid spells frequently encountered during Malta’s winters took him some time to get used to.
His father, who is now over 72 years old, is a respected village chief (similar to a village mayor) and comes from what is considered a royal blood-line in Nigeria. Endeley tries to support his Nigerian parents, who had 18 children, as best as he can and he frequently talks to his mother who is happy for what he has found in Malta. After 5 years married to his Maltese wife, he looks forward to gaining Maltese citizenship and raising a family in Malta – although one has to be careful as it is economically difficult to have children today. He says there is nothing to dislike about Malta; he loves the environment, the sea, and the lifestyle. He wishes to study further and his dream is to work in music production. He was already doing music mixing and mastering in Nigeria. He is definitely a diligent and forward-looking person and his iron determination will surely enable him to succeed.

MARYGRACE CANNAO


MARYGRACE CANNAO
Born 1990 in MALTA
Religion: Catholic

Mary Grace was actually born in Malta in 1990, but she has spent most of her life in Italy. Her father is Italian whilst her mother is Maltese. She has 2 older brothers.

In November 2015, she came back to Malta from Sicily, looking for a better economical and job situations on the Island. Being herself of Maltese origin, she had no problem at all in being accepted in Malta and fortunately had no issues whatsoever with regards to discrimination. At present, she is working in Malta on a traineeship scheme with the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC).

In the past few months, she struggled to adapt to the Maltese context and to make new friends in Malta and although back in Sicily she has a lot of friends with whom she often hangs out, the situation in Malta is completely the opposite. However, since she joined the non-profit organisation she works with, she started meeting people and making friends and this makes her stay in Malta more pleasant. Mary Grace has a passion for literature, she loves reading books and this is a great opportunity for her to improve her Maltese and English languages as although she can speak and understand both, she still struggles to express herself as easily as she can in Italian. She stresses that communication is ever so important if integration can flourish at all. More should be done by the responsible authorities as well as by NGOs to try and raise awareness particularly in those persons who are neither for nor against migration and integration. Granted, it is a very difficult situation, but more so for this purpose it is vital that this section of society should be researched and studied. A factual knowledge on what actually makes such persons undecided or downright contrary to migration needs to be identified in order to be effectively addressed. If such obstacles are not known, how can they be removed? All strategies should be based on factual statistics and empirical research as this will ensure that available resources and efforts are not wasted or misdirected and put to the best use possible. Maltese people should also attempt to learn more the background and culture of migrants and migrants, on their part, should learn more in depth what is the culture of the Maltese. This is only possible through education and bringing people from all walks of life together. It has to be a fair trade between all sides and all sections of society need to do their part.

She feels that her stay in Malta has been a happy and fruitful one, yet she misses Italy and her hometown and should the opportunity arise to find a satisfactory employment, she would not hesitate to go back to her country.

VANJA VAJAGIC


VANJA VAJAGIĆ
Born in Serbia in 1991
Religion: Orthodox

A refreshingly vibrant and positive person, Vanja came to Malta with a visa in February 2015. Her parents, who are still both alive, were happy that she opted to go to a European country instead of a far away continent. Prior to coming to Malta, Vanja had already obtained a BA (Hons.) in Special Rehabilitation and Education – module drug addiction. Vanja had served her internship in United States of America on drug addiction rehabilitation with war veterans from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran etc. Her final thesis was on Differences in Personality Traits between heroin addicts and the general population. In Serbia, besides the high rate of unemployment, the average wage is around €350 a month and, mostly due to this situation, the country is unfortunately plagued with crime. Everyday needs are also as expensive as those in Malta, so one can imagine the difficulties encountered in this central European country. Vanja learned about Malta only through geography. She had already successfully gained a Master degree in drug addiction rehabilitation in Serbia but, besides securing a job, she wanted to further her studies on the island.

In Malta, she started giving counselling sessions to drug addicts through a Sedqa internship programme but due to the fact that she was not a European Union citizen; she was not given a permanent job. When applying for work in Malta, employers found excuses such as that she was over-qualified or that she was friendly with Africans so she could carry diseases! Furthermore, for a Third Country National (TCN) to find employment in Malta, the job in question must not be able to be carried out by an EU citizen as the latter are always given preferential treatment over TCNs. She feels that she has had a somewhat cold reception from Maltese society and some people shrink away when she is seen with Africans. Particularly in Paceville, it is a frequent occasion that persons come over to ask black people to leave a public place. Whilst in Malta, the people who have helped her most are actually Africans; Sudanese, Nigerians, Ghanaians and Eritreans have all been willing to help her even though they have their own dire situations. An exception to the rule is Dr. George Grech, from Sedqa, who has been a real friend for Vanja.
Recently, she was working as an assistant and receptionist at a dental clinic. She is sure that she would not have secured this employment if she was a black person, as the clinic would surely lose clients because of racial prejudice. She is currently collaborating and working with the Franciscan Capuchin friars and helping to establish a “Foundation of Peace and Good” (called ‘Pace e Bene’). The main aim of this foundation is to support and educate migrants, particularly Africans and East Europeans, in order to prevent drug addiction. Education is the most vital part of integration – both Maltese and migrants need to be educated so that they can then themselves be empowered to go out into society and schools in order to educate other migrants. Apart from communication skills, factors that help integration are music, food, and better knowledge of other cultures, customs and art. On the other hand, religion and politics can often divide if not rightly understood.

The creation of setting up an open informal multi-racial forum where people can just meet, network and share their experiences can surely aid integration and enable migrants to start really feeling part of a community. Major problems that migrants face are the lack of job prospects and a dearth of opportunities that could otherwise help them mix with Maltese society. A further worry is that a substantial number of migrants come from countries that totally ban alcohol and then, suddenly, they are plunged into a totally new system on arrival in European countries. Some of these tend to stray into alcoholism as a way of becoming ‘accepted’ by their new communities or self-medicating their trauma in a bid to reduce their high level of anxiety. Naturally, language and communication are vitally important. Vanja would like to have a future with UNHCR through a scholarship, perhaps in Africa, in order to beneficially contribute on surmounting migration problems.

SAMPSON YEBOAH

SAMPSON YEBOAH
Born 1985 in GHANA
Religion: Pentecostal

Sampson comes from a numerous Ghanaian family of 8 children. He decided to leave Ghana due to economic difficulties as well as because of the impossibility to finish his studies in his home country. Initially, he went to Italy and remained there for five years, working with a company involved in travel and tourism. He dearly wished to continue his studies in Italy but he found it quite challenging as Italian is a requirement and he couldn’t communicate in their language. Eventually, a friend of his told him about Malta which is English friendly with more than 80% of the population able to speak English. This decided him to come to the island where he could communicate much more easily in the English language. He actually did not have a passion for the travel and tourism business, instead he was always fascinated by computers and information technology. When he arrived in Malta, in 2012, he enrolled for a course at the Institute of Computer Education (ICE) and, after just seven months, he successfully obtained a certification in IT Essentials.

He had to pay for this course as it was run by a private college and this, coupled with the cost of accommodation and food, proved extremely hard to maintain without a job. Initially, Sampson stayed for two months with another Ghanaian friend who was already living in Malta. Sampson’s friend supported him in his most difficult period. However, this could not go on indefinitely and at a certain point he had to go into employment. He worked in the construction business for five months where he used to typically work from 7am to 5pm for just €30! Coming from a student background, he was not cut out for this work and discontinued as he could not take the hardship and the stress anymore. He promptly began searching for another job but it was nearly impossible to get a work permit. His lucky break came when another African friend, who ran an internet cafè and call centre, employed him on a trial period. He has now been at this workplace for over a year and has managed to slowly ameliorate his situation. Still, he needs to keep investing in tools and software for his trade as it is his dream to become an Internet Service Provider (ISP). This is undoubtedly a slow process due to his limited means.

He feels that Malta is somewhat better than Italy as far as discrimination and prejudice are concerned. However, he has had some bad experiences such as when his tablet computer was stolen from him. This was a huge blow due to his meager resources. On a different occasion, when he went to an office to apply for an IT job, he was plainly told that his place was working in the construction business. On yet another instant, while Sampson was working at the internet cafè, a person brought in a computer for repair which had been stolen. The police ended up interrogating Sampson, who had no idea about this. When faced with discrimination, he tries hard not to react in a bad way, but on the contrary attempts to reason or do things which will impress his detractors. The job situation for migrants in Malta is dire even when migrants are either professionals or talented. Employers take advantage of the migrants’ desperate need for money and that is how a number of migrants end up accepting underpaid jobs. Migrants argue amongst themselves because when a migrant refuses to accept a job due to bad pay or conditions, there a host of others ready to accept those same conditions. It is in fact a “take it or leave it” situation for most migrants.

In detention centers and migrant communities, religion also tends to divide, particularly when it is of the extremist type. Education is the basis for integration and migrants need also explore and appreciate the point of view of the Maltese. Like most black migrants, Sampson has very few Maltese friends; in fact he has only one good Maltese friend and this is probably because she is married to an African man and is thus sympathetic of the situation of such migrants. Not only does Sampson need to maintain himself in Malta but, back in Nigeria, he has an eight year old girl whom he must support and send to a private school.

UMAYMA ELAMIN


UMAYMA ELAMIN
Born in Sudan in 1972
Religion: Muslim

Umayma is married to a Sudanese diplomat who worked in Libya. She had met her husband whilst working in a bank in Sudan, her home country. In Sudan not much progress seems to have been achieved and, although good education and involvement in politics do exist, there are still not enough fair opportunities for everyone. Due to the Libyan civil war and the subsequent unrest, the couple did not want to remain there, particularly because of their young children; one son and one daughter. Their children’s education is of the utmost importance and after considering various options, they chose to come to Malta due to better language communication. Eventually, the children were enrolled at the Verdala International School. They took a little while to adapt to the school’s different American styled education system; it was a far cry from the ones they had previously engaged with in Libya and Sudan. On the other hand, as most students come from a wide variety of countries and cultures, it was relatively easy for the children to integrate at Verdala. Umayma considers the schooling of her children as the most important issue for their future and would like them to successfully finish secondary school and perhaps even continue their studies at Malta University. Due to the nature of his work, her husband is often abroad so most of the responsibilities of raising the children fall on her shoulders.

In Malta, Umayma is actively involved in volunteering work in order to help women combat discrimination and enhance their level of education. It is vital for migrants to gain knowledge and become aware of their rights, the availability of training programmes and any other schemes that are available and will help them settle in their new land. Achieving a healthy community is a two way process; both migrants and the Maltese should endeavour to integrate. The way forward is for everyone to learn each other’s culture and way of life. More needs to be done in schools to teach local children about the countries of origin of migrants and more should also be done to educate migrants about their new host country. In most of the countries of origin of migrants and refugees, particularly those coming from Muslim societies, a woman’s role is entirely different from that in western countries. Women are mostly kept back and so it is beneficial to educate and empower them so that they can live better lives whilst enjoying the same rights that their male counterparts do.

She admires the work being done by most church entities in Malta as here all migrants are welcome with no discrimination of country, race, colour or religion. In 2015, Umayma founded the Migrant Woman Association (Malta) and has been its president ever since. The main aims of this association are to educate and empower women. SOS Malta enthusiastically supports this association and has even provided them with the use of a temporary office. The association actively sources out and encourages persons to join up and become part of the group. SOS Malta helped in no small way to support Umayma’s work in the community. George from SOS Malta, a friend of Umayma, is always ready to give her valid advice on practical matters. Fr. Alfred, a parish priest at St Julian’s openly welcomed her in church and she considers him an amazing individual. She regularly networks with social groups and participates in events at the church; this has enabled her to become more knowledgeable about Maltese society. She also mentioned the great help and friendship of “her guardian angel;” Claudia Taylor East, the chief executive officer of SOS Malta. Umayma’s command of the English language has helped immensely as she can easily communicate and gain support particularly in the Swieqi area, where she resides. She has found that the majority of people in Malta have been very welcoming and only a few individuals showed a negative approach to her, such as in a bus or at a shop.

For Umayma, education and language are the main keys towards better integration and empowerment. This is not surprising for a woman who has graduated in management from Khartoum University; worked as an accountant in a private company, a translator in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Zambia and has been involved in the public relation sectors in Sudan and Libya.

JOSEPH JNR ONONUJU

JOSEPH JNR ONONUJU
Born 1989 in Nigeria

Joseph’s passion has always been football, and his early life revolves around the game. Since childhood, his natural talent has inspired him to work in the field he likes best. His talent did not go unnoticed as he had been chosen to train at the Pepsi Academy in Nigeria and he was selected for the Nigerian under 16 squad that represented the country during the World under-16 championships in Austria, in 2004. The Nigerians won the youth tournament, achieving the country’s first ever world title at international level.

The tournament was the ideal platform for Joseph’s skills to be noticed by talent scouts and in 2005 an Italian contact invited him to Italy for trials. The Italian club arranged everything for Joseph and, in order to play there, he was actually adopted by an Italian family in Mantova. Eventually, he was engaged to play with Montechiaro, a Serie C 1 team in Brescia. His stay in Italy continued for five years with various stints and trials until a move to France in 2010 when Joseph went to play for Rouen. This move did not really work out and after only one year, Joseph moved on to Poland and started playing with Zawakwe FC.
Joseph still considers Italy his second home, however he felt too cut off and lonely in France. Nigerians are traditionally very attached to their families and it is one of Joseph’s main hardships to be separated from his relatives for a long time. Like most Nigerians, Joseph had learned the English language when still at school as Nigeria puts a lot of effort in teaching children this very important language. There is a high rate of English speakers in Nigeria and for the less academic, a vernacular form of practicing the English language is in everyday use. This ‘pidgeon’ English enables more rural Nigerians to communicate between themselves through a common language. This is more than necessary as there are 366 different ethnic languages in Nigeria!

Joseph’s stay in Poland did not endure either, and in 2013, after less than three years, a chance arose for him to come to Malta. This constant moving is also due to the fact that a third country national can normally only manage to obtain permission to stay in a country for up to two years. After that, it becomes harder to get the necessary permits to remain in the country. Most players in this situation are rarely given contracts of over two years. In Joseph’s own words, the system is difficult for those wanting to settle down in one place. When a Maltese football manager contacted him and offered him to come to the island to play football for Kirkop, Joseph accepted. He was not too happy in Poland and it was there that he felt racial discrimination the most. Many a time he was looked upon with distrust, called names and threatened. To add to all this, he had also struggled to communicate as most Poles do not speak English. To the contrary, Joseph settled well in Malta and eventually moved on to Marsascala FC, the club he is still currently playing with. A positive influence on Joseph has been the President of Marsascala, Reuben Buttigieg, who he considers as his second father. Reuben’s attitude towards foreigners was different from that of others and he has always been at hand to offer advice and help. Joseph is definitely not an idle person and besides playing full-time for Marsascala, he wanted to do other things. In 2014, Reuben, who is also a shrewd businessman, offered Joseph the chance to manage a sports shop in Marsascala. The latter willingly accepted and he now happily runs this outlet, called Maskot, which is ideally associated with what he knows best – sport. Joseph realises that playing football is not forever and his future ambition is to branch out more into business.

Joseph met his Maltese wife through a friend and the chemistry between them was instant. They married in 2014 and live at Swieqi. Vicki, Joseph’s wife, is a make-up artist by profession. Her general friendly attitude, sociable approach and manners immediately attracted Joseph who was convinced that she was the woman he would like to share the rest of his life with. She was not interested in race or colour but views everyone as equal. His new Maltese in-laws, who happily own and work in a little farm in Swieqi, were very much of the same opinion as their daughter and they gave their blessings to the union. He sadly notices the tendency of most Maltese to stay at a distance from him if they do not know him. They are reluctant to see what kind of person one is and generally treat one with suspicion. Maltese should mix more freely with other societies. Contact will teach them to acknowledge the fact that, although through our conditioning, we all look at issues from a different perspective, we are basically and fundamentally the same. It would be ideal if everyone, even for a short period, could step into each other’s shoes and exchange roles. It would surely raise awareness of how discrimination, prejudice and segregation hurt the victims.

KODES SBOUI

KODES SBOUI
Born 1978 in TUNISIA
Religion: MUSLIM

Kodes arrived in Malta with a visa in May 2014. She came to Malta from Italy and invested in a small business in St. Julian’s. Since 2011, she has been married to an Italian man and they have two children, one 4 years of age and the other 2. The latter was born in Malta.

As she is still raising her children, she can only currently handle part time jobs and in fact she teaches at reduced hours at a language institution in Malta. Kodes actually has a degree in English but she found the level of education in Malta rather high when compared to that of Tunisia so she strives to continue learning in order to be competitive in the job sector.
Like most mothers, her main preoccupation is her children’s future and education. She wishes to see herself and her family building up a stable and permanent future in Malta. She is impressed by the local laws, by the Maltese who at every level of the society, are hard-working, committed and efficient in their everyday life. Kodes thinks that this is perhaps due to the fact that the Maltese have a strong civic consciousness. Her experience on the island has been a very positive one as the institutions have respected all the human rights provided by the Maltese and International laws. For Kodes, there is a good level of appreciation of human rights on the island and the government institutions she has come into contact with were efficient and helpful. There are also a good number of education programs and courses which are in place and easily attainable through the Employment Training Corporation (ETC). So help is definitely at hand for those who want and need it.

About the Maltese, she feels that although they have been willing to help her in all ways possible, they do hesitate to mix with migrants and sometimes they exclude them from social life. At times, even when migrants make the effort, they are still generally not accepted because people in Malta do not really feel the need to socialize with foreigners. In fact, she has currently enlisted her daughter for football training as she is convinced that sport is a great way of ‘breaking the ice’ and getting people to meet and learn from each other. She is frightened that if not enough is done to integrate migrants, not only through language studies and teaching the foundations of modern Maltese society, but particularly in encouraging ways for practical integration, there is the danger of isolating certain groups of migrants which can be detrimental not only to themselves but also to the island’s society as a whole. The main work needs to be put into effect during the formative years of migrant children; letting them socialise only in churches or mosques is not really the ideal solution – it is important that children mix in practical, modern, every day life scenarios that will make them feel part of a community.

Most migrants coming from third world countries might lack a basic level of education therefore it is imperative that local authorities make it a priority to empower such migrants to learn and improve any skill that might help in their future. From their part, migrants need to make the utmost of all opportunities to gain knowledge and make themselves useful in their community. It is only through this that they can build a solid future in any other country. Art, food, music and sport are surely some of the best catalysts that can make this materialise.

Finally, Kodes is thankful and encouraged as she is convinced that this island is blessed with many Maltese who have an inbred goodness in them which shines out the more one gets to know them. This makes her feel extremely positive about her family’s future in Malta.

AWELAGA ASEBA (ZSIXTEEN AWLAGA)

ZSIXTEEN AWELAGA*
Born in Ghana in 1979.
(*”Zsixteen” is a stage name – his proper name is Awelaga Aseba)
Religion: Christian

‘Zsixteen’ left Ghana in September 2001, transiting through the Niger desert into Libya, where he lived for some years whilst learning to work as a plasterer and painter. His decision to leave Ghana was economic, coupled with the fact that there was no real help or opportunity to improve his situation. Searching for a better life, together with other migrants, he crossed to Malta by boat. When they eventually reached the land, he thought it was Italy but they had actually arrived in Sliema, on the rocks at the bottom of il-Fortizza. They had lost their way and made land by following some dolphins – they knew that these would usually go close to land. It was a close shave as the boat had developed a dangerous leak, yet they managed to plug this with some bread!

He was detained at the Hal Far detention centre for 1 year, 6 months and 12 days – it was so depressing that he was counting each day! He considered it as not much better than a prison because of his lack of freedom. He states that playing football with the other inmates kept him sane. In fact, in 2010, he played with a Birkirkara 2nd division football team. All the players were migrants yet they were coached by a Maltese trainer. He had to reluctantly stop as there was no pay at all and the long training hours prevented him from working to earn a living. He actually had two appeals rejected before he was finally allowed to move to the Open Centre. When the move materialized, he tried his best to earn a meager living by washing cars and doing anything that came his way. Back home, his father had died and he needed to try to help his family as best as he could. Eventually he met a Ghanaian friend who helped him to find a job in the building trade. He also started doing some work by himself. In 2013, in Paceville, he met Ruth Xuereb, a much travelled independent Maltese girl. The two clicked right away as they share many common interests; for them their religion is important and an integral part of their lives. Zsixteen is a staunch and practicing Christian and also an active member of CYO a Roman Catholic youth organisation. Thankfully, Ruth’s parents accepted Zsixteen totally and they have been extremely supportive and helpful to both.

In Ghana, an ex-British colony, he had learnt to speak the English language and he had also studied music. Music is his passion and he is not only a singer, but writes his own music too. He is still currently doing plastering work but his dream is to be able to earn a living from his music. However he knows there is not much opportunity and that this will be difficult. He has strong views and convictions and always prefers to think positive. Zsixteen believes in working and pushing hard to achieve what he wants to reach. He is happy to live in Malta and he particularly mentions his first employer, who was extremely respectful and helpful.

Is the situation getting any better in Malta? He feels that generally it is, yet in clubs and entertainment spots he has many times experienced hostility, prejudice and discrimination. The government should support migrants more when they come out from the Open Centre as it is here that they are most in need of help. Communication is also vital for integration and this could be encouraged through many facets, even through studying and explaining the Bible. On their part, migrants should also strive to behave well and do good in order to be more appreciated in their ‘adopted’ societies. Finally, all people should realise that there are good and bad persons in all countries, races and religions.

SABRINA WERNER


SABRINA WERNER
Born 1987 in Germany
Religion: non-practicing

Sabrina is glad to have come to Malta freely and of her own choice; unlike most migrants who have had this difficult decision forced upon them due to their country’s problematic situations and limited opportunities.

She first came to Malta as a summer school student working for an NGO on a project dealing with irregular migration and refugee situations in Malta. She has a strong character and, like most young people on the continent, she was already an independent person as she had previously lived on her own. Like most parents, hers were supportive of her decision to come to Malta as long as it was what she wanted. Initially, she was rather taken aback by the stifling hot weather that she experienced on the island together with the transport problem; the main issues were the lack of information provided on how the bus routes work coupled with the irregular times of the bus service. Air pollution and rubbish also affected her adversely.

However, she was pleased at the way people treated her as, in their vast majority, they were friendly. It was an experience similar to what she had previously encountered in other cities and countries. Yet she did have a bad experience at a health centre where an attendant was rude and not at all helpful. Still, such isolated instances are not uncommon even to citizens of Malta. Eventually, Sabrina fell in love not only with the island but with her partner. It was not a light decision to come to Malta but the fact that she had a serious relationship with someone made it easier and more manageable.

Sabrina is striving to learn the Maltese language because she is looking towards employment in the social aid sector; thus communication is extremely important and necessary. She eventually intends to work with the local Richmond Foundation. She is convinced that it is imperative that migrants learn at least a bit of their host country’s language. They also need to engage with and learn more about Maltese society, customs and their way of life. Here, NGO organisations are crucial but these should act more as initial catalysts and then slowly give way, stay in the background and let persons in the community take over.
When discussing what more can be done to aid integration, she feels that events should be held even in small communities and villages. Such events should be ongoing and non-profit organisations should encourage a wider participation of individuals from local and migrant communities that come respectfully together from different cultural backgrounds in order to interact and exchange views and customs.. These gatherings are a great opportunity to bridge the gap between migrants and Maltese by aiding communication between them, not necessarily through language, but through other channels such as, music, sport, arts, history, dress and food. Projects and initiatives like these should be taken to the community and not the other way round, in this way a wider portion of the population will be reached and the risk of preaching to the converted will be minimised.

One can only have admiration at Sabrina’s determination to not only personally succeed in life but to continue contributing to society. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she had walked for the interview held in San Anton Gardens in Attard all the way from Marsascala! That is a strong will…

NATHAN  BVUMBURAH

NATHAN BVUMBURAH
Born 1984 in Zimbabwe

Nathan came to Malta in April 2015 after applying for a two year internship with Cross Culture International Foundation, an NGO based in Malta. After successfully finishing a diploma course in IT studies in South Africa and doing voluntary work in Namibia, he wanted to expand his horizons by working in other places of the world. Gaining the internship was an ideal way of achieving this. His actual post consists of re-designing the NGO’s website and running and maintaining the various blogs and information data that are essential for an NGO to further disseminate its message. He is also in charge of network and computer maintenance.

Nathan has found living in Malta manageable although some essential things are becoming rather expensive for his limited resources. He considers himself fortunate to be able to speak English fluently and thus communicate with most people in Malta, yet he is active in trying to learn at least some basic Maltese words as he believes that communication is the key between people coming from different societal and cultural backgrounds. He is quite happy with the cost and service of Malta’s public transport although he does not use it to go to his work place as the latter is within comfortable walking distance from his home. In his spare time, he is further helping out by teaching migrant children languages and other subjects which will aid their integration and improve their future. These are being held at Floriana at the place they are residing at. He strongly believes that if people do not know at least the bare minimum of the local language or, worse still, cannot communicate in any way, they will retire in their own limited sphere or group and fail to benefit both themselves and society. It is a situation which can lead to dreaded ‘Ghettoes.’

Nathan is surprised to have encountered, even at some official NGO or governmental conferences, main public speakers who sometimes delivered their speeches in Maltese when the audience consisted of persons who did not know the language! At such meetings, there is sometimes a tendency that during networking sessions, some persons do not make the effort of communicating through a common language. It would be beneficial for everyone to make sure that during such events a language understood by all is exercised. Furthermore there also seems to be a lack of local government initiatives aimed at teaching Maltese and English language to migrants. Such schooling is commonly left to NGOs which sometimes might not really be equipped and financed enough to successfully deliver such education.

Nathan has not met any undue discrimination or hostility whilst in Malta, yet he has heard of some instances, particularly in places like Paceville, where migrants have been treated badly or violently and obviously discriminated. He stressed that it is quite important that migrants identify such areas and try their best to stay clear of them as the authorities can obviously not always be there to protect them. There are surely other places of entertainment which are not so controversial. Unfortunately he finds that there is a pre conceived approach amongst people coming from different societies, countries and religions. More concerted steps need to be taken in getting all different groups of people not to abandon their own teaching or cultural background but to start obtaining more information and knowledge on how other people live. It is vital to try and integrate through interests which are common to all, such as music, food, history and art.

Nathan is still young and he does not have any concrete plans for the future. If there is the chance of adequate employment after his internship, he is happy to stay in Malta. However what he misses most from his home country is the unrefined and unprocessed food of Zimbabwe. He is not so happy with the processed food found in western countries such as Malta. Perhaps this issue could be taken up by an entrepreneurial African migrant . . .

LAURA COPPINI

LAURA COPPINI
Born 1994 in MALTA
Religion: Catholic

Laura is a Maltese national so her outlook on migrants is coming from another totally different perspective. She is a third year Bsc student who is studying occupational therapy. Although she has involved herself in some voluntary organisations, she has no real experience in working closely with migrants yet she has a very good friendship with a black student and a Swedish girl. Laura was part of a ‘Media for Inclusion’ youth exchange project in 2015. The project brought together 60 youths from different countries, cultural, racial and religious backgrounds, to freely discuss issues related to inclusion which they felt were important. It was a great team building exercise and it drew the participants closer together as they began realising that the group had many interests in common. A Facebook group was eventually formed, which is still active to this day, keeping them in contact with each other and further enhancing ties. Direct social gatherings are extremely helpful as they spark interest in each other’s culture and cement friendships. Cultural events and food also unite people of all races and creeds. Such initiatives have for quite some time been regularly organized by some NGO groups such as SOS Malta and Cross Culture International Foundation.

Laura herself has no problem whatsoever with migrants and actually admires them for their determination and efforts. The Maltese local government seems to be helping and trying its best to handle this tricky situation which has globally impacted our world. For Laura, education is the vital key: traumatised, uneducated and emarginated people will not contribute to society and are more apt to become marginalised and discriminated or, worse still, radically inclined. On the other hand, integration can only be achieved if an effort is made from both sides – migrants and Maltese should both make a concerted effort. It is vital that already educated migrants should try to go that little extra mile in order to help nurture and educate others who have previously been denied access to education. Laura believes that learning and being able to communicate in the host country’s language is imperative and is one of the primary issues essential for integration; communication is not really possible without a common language. Migrants should make a determined effort to master important languages – particularly English – as they will find it useful even if they eventually move to another country. Laura believes that migrants should conform to the legislation of their host country and not attempt to impose the laws they were perhaps used to in their own countries.

Laura definitely feels that migrants, particularly those who have dark skin, are discriminated in Malta when it comes to job applications. If two persons have identical skills and job suitability, very often a white person is chosen over a black person. Black migrants tend to feel that most Maltese them as inferior. This seems to be more evident where older generations are concerned as local youngsters tend to be more accepting towards other cultures due to today’s mix in education, social media and the sharing of common interests. Online media is perhaps closing the gap between different societies and it makes people aware of different cultural backgrounds, customs, societies, religious beliefs and political issues. Hopefully, the internet era can be beneficial in moving people away from racism and prejudice. It is somewhat ironic, that most Maltese wholeheartedly accept migrants in sports or in the entertainment sector. This could be a factor that all sides involved in the difficult challenge of integration might do well to explore.

When reflecting about religion, Laura feels that sometimes religion can actually divide. All people, whatever their religion, need to distance themselves from fanatics in their midst and vociferously denounce senseless terrorist acts – in whatever name they are performed. Terrorism and violence breeds only hate.

KATINA MLADENOVA

KATINA MLADENOVA
Born 1984 in Bulgaria
Religion: Greek Orthodox

Katina hails from Bulgaria and her love for travel and exploration, coupled with her thirst for learning, took her to London. Like most youths in central Europe, Katina is rather independent and at 17 she had already started travelling on her own. Although she liked the multi cultural society of London, she found it prohibitively expensive to remain and thus, after two years in England, she decided to move to somewhere which was more manageable, particularly for a student’s means. During an educational fair in Bulgaria, she heard about Malta for the first time. On exploring the possibility of moving to Malta, she discovered that university fees on our island were reasonable and that the daily cost of living was within her limits. Thus, in October 2004, she came to Malta to study for a three year BA (Hons.) in International Relations and a Masters in International law. It was not plain sailing as during her initial years of residence in Malta, Bulgaria was still not part of the European Union so she could not obtain a work permit on the island.

Although young and not really thinking of settling down, after just one year she met her Maltese boyfriend, Farren and since then they have been together for eleven years. Gradually, with Bulgaria eventually becoming part of the European Union, Katina managed to find employment with a local Foundation where she stayed for five years. Subsequently, she moved on and she is currently employed with the Ministry for the Energy and Health. She is also co-founder of the Foundation for Empowering Gender Equality.

A person who has completed a thesis on cultural integration, Katina is in an ideal position to input her ideas on this controversial subject. Her main argument for better integration revolves around education. For her, it all hinges not only whether people have been educated but what kind of education has been absorbed. More educational opportunities for migrants, preferably on a par with those offered to Maltese citizens, should be encouraged. Education related to integration, for both migrants as well as Maltese born children, should start at a very early age so it can thus become ingrained in every child’s psyche. One thing which surprised her on the island is that only relatively low numbers of Maltese read meaningful literature and publications. This needs to be addressed in order to broaden a citizen’s knowledge base and encourage reflective thought.
Most foreign countries see integration in a different manner to the majority of the Maltese. Migrants should not only be helped because of humanitarian reasons but also because their skills and cultures can actually enrich local society.

She feels it is wrong to try and combine cultures into one and each society or culture should basically retain its charm and individuality. It is rather counter-productive that everyone becomes similar; the way forward is that people hailing from different backgrounds, societies, colour and religion should make a concerted effort to learn more about each other and embrace multi-culturalism not as a necessary evil but as a way towards a better empowered society. Segregation should be avoided at all costs and one of the most vital issues that need to be surmounted is the language barrier. If migrants are not ‘fast tracked’ into learning how to communicate, there is the danger of marginalisation. Time for such monumental changes is obviously necessary but through small, yet positive steps, improvement can be attained. Katina dislikes carelessness and egoism in society and each individual should do his/her best to become more considerate of other persons. Carelessness is not an easy mentality to eradicate. Some people are unwilling to change as they are comfortable and unaffected by the status quo.

The questionnaire

To gain more information on this issue, a Questionnaire was formulated and sent out to Maltese nationals. The findings can be downloaded from this Link:

MSD Questionnaire

Further information on this project:

BEYOND BORDERS – Perspectives on migration


ALL MATERIAL IN THIS BLOG IS COPYRIGHTED © Kevin Casha AND CANNOT BE USED WITHOUT PERMISSION.
kevincasha@kevincasha.com

BEYOND BORDERS – Perspectives on migration

BEYOND BORDERS – Perspectives on migration

A project by Kevin Casha

In Malta, it is increasingly difficult to move away from the discourse on migration and integration. The island’s location, as one British writer once put it “the navel of the Mediterranean.” No one can deny that this “navel” is in the centre of a controversial maelstrom which, unfortunately, has become an endless issue with hot debate between various camps and factions.
It is a fact that Europe has an aging population and that a crisis scenario looms whereas not enough workers will be employed in European countries to sustain the straining financial requirements of pensions. However, most Europeans look at migrants only as a burden and most politicians, caught between their vote catching priorities, seem to be unable to legislate solidly and efficiently on this massive movement and displacement of humanity.

The Questionnaire

The Questionnaire

Who can blame a person for choosing to better one’s life? Are we not all born with at least the right of improving the life of ourselves and our loved ones? Who can stay in a country where the only choice is enslavement, disease, misery and, many times, death? All these thoughts and others kept churning around my brain and led me to try and explore the situation through a practical and hopefully unbiased manner that everyone can understand.

Setting up at MCVS. The exhibition will be touring various venues.

Setting up at MCVS. The exhibition will be touring various venues.

Setting Up at MCVS

Setting Up at MCVS

Beyond Borders is an attempt to look into the positive aspects of migration and avoid the dark, pessimistic narratives that the media very often dishes out. Naturally, my medium is photography so I wanted to use a genre of art that I am comfortable with. I also wanted to investigate the inner thoughts of the migrants’ stay on our island; how they arrived here; how they have been received; how they have made ends meet and how many of them have actually managed to become part of Maltese society. Moreover, I wanted to record their progress on the island as most of them are already doing their part in the local economy and towards society. In a world which is increasingly becoming globalised and multi-cultural, the sooner that societies manage to integrate migrants is vital for the benefit of all current and future generations. For sure, every race, nation and religion has its fanatics and these will never unfortunately disappear however, let us not forget the many examples were integration of migrants has been successful…. What about the Indian community in Britain; what about the Turks in Germany; what about America – a country whose strength is through its diversity?

Beyond Borders

Beyond Borders

Tackling this project has also made me realise my own weaknesses, perhaps my prejudice, and my failure to see the “other side of the coin.” I feel that he journey has made me a better man, has shown me that it is only through sincere communication and dialogue that bridges are built. Integration is definitely not a one-way issue but an issue in which all sides need to do their part. Building bridges that aid integration will safeguard host countries from forcing migrants into isolation or “ghettoes” which can only eventually flare up.

Some of the participants in Beyond Borders

Some of the participants in Beyond Borders

It is also the responsible, yet understandably difficult job of those who are in power to identify and implement legislation which addresses these huge problems – without being influenced by commercial gain, greed and inhumanity.

logos jpg

Note:
I would like to thank two persons who have made this project possible, namely Alec Douglas and Daniel Vassallo, both from Cross Culture International. Without their ongoing help, this project would have never materialised. Naturally, I must thank all the contributing sponsors and, most of all, the persons who accepted to be interviewed and be part of “Beyond Borders.”
Their importance necessitates that I mention each and everyone by their name:

ENDELEY KONBOYE
JOSEPH JNR. ONONUJU
LAURA COPPINI
DANIELLE VAN ROOYEN
DOUNIA BORG
KATINA MLADENOVA
KODES SBOUI
SABRINA WERNER
ADAM GISMALLA
GISELLA ORSINI
MARYGRACE CANNAO
MATIFADZA NYAMUKAPA
NATHAN BVUMBURAH
SAMPSON YEBOAH
STEPHEN EGBO
UMAYMA ELAMIN
VANJA VAJAGIC
AWELAGA ASEBA (ZSIXTEEN AWLAGA)

Beyond Borders

To view the interviews and the Questionnaire linked to this project see:

BEYOND BORDERS – The storytelling…

The Fine Art photography of Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

I recently had the opportunity to meet talented South African photographer Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge at Le Meridien Hotel in St. Julian’s, where she is holding her photographic exhibition. “Lacey & Lace” is a collection of works, exquisitely printed and framed in large format having a subject that revolves around the delicate structure and texture of lace and feminine beauty. In this exhibition, Nadette has actually tackled two separate genres of photography and managed to cleverly link and combine them together. Nadette is essentially a highly skilled fashion photographer with an impressive portfolio of works behind her. The work in Lacey & Lace is paired in ‘sets’ of two: a beauty female very fashionable portrait and a studied still life that complements the same portrait. Nadette’s photography background is in conventional film and the discipline that years of film photography has instilled in her is evident; her work is planned, studied and skilfully executed clearly demonstrating her schooling and wide experience in the photography medium.

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

Following is Nadette’s concept:

Lacey & Lace the idea behind it
The concept for this exhibition was born from my love of lace and my passion for beauty and stills photography. I wanted to do something that merged the two and so the idea came about to work on 18 pieces accentuating lace as the common theme throughout the images, incorporating a DPS (double-page spread) approach. From my years of shooting for magazines, I found that I instinctively visualized my imagery in a double page layout – so I wanted to echo that idea in my exhibition by creating images in a 2-part story.
I photographed 9 beauty portraits each exploring a different theme and flavour, and then expanded the concepts further by shooting a complementary still for each model. The images will be viewed in pairs, but can still exist as pieces in their own right.
From the onset, my aim was to create images that were extremely textured and layered. As lace is the common thread, I explored the concept by integrating lace in the styling aspects of the subject matter, and then layering the images digitally afterwards by incorporating scanned-in pieces of lace. It is my hope that the photographed lace and scanned lace are not obviously differentiated from one other, but viewed blended to create the layered effect.
The final pieces are printed on canvas at 80 x 120cm each, to fully appreciate the layered textures.
Each beauty portrait is titled by incorporating the girls name Lacey, and each complementary still using the word Lace.

Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge Email: nadettephoto@melita.com Mobile: 9935 6592

© blog – KEVIN CASHA

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

© Nadette Clare-Talbot Bettridge

KITTY CHOU – The Purist photographer

Kitty Chou was born and raised in Hong Kong in 1961. She is the fifth of six sisters.

Although outwardly shy and reserved, when talking about photography, Kitty immediately lights up. The passion shines through her eyes and a transformation comes over her when she meets people who are seriously interested in discussing her photography. Like most persons taking up photography, Kitty initially tried her hand at a number of diverse photographic genres, but she has always been fascinated and drawn to people and society. Like most photojournalists, Kitty has a natural knack of communicating and she loves engaging with people. Despite the human element features in a lot of her everyday photographs, there is, ironically, a conspicuous absence of persons in most of her Fine Art exhibition work. Her work is imbued with classicism although most of her fine art imagery borders on abstract and semi abstract subjects.

© Kitty Chou

Portrait without a Face no.2

Through her own admission, Kitty is an extremely curious person and one realizes that this characteristic filters through her work. Most of her Fine Art work invites the viewer to first of all, engage aesthetically, then to delve deeper into what the images can evoke. Kitty’s work is at times mysterious and leaves a substantial part to the interpretation of each viewer: she is not one who spoon feeds the viewer.
After attending primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong, she went to the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, United States, graduating in Business Administration in 1982. Kitty was always keen to take what would be termed snaps or documentary images. She was interested in preserving the memory of a fast disappearing lifestyle with the development of the society, especially the one in Hong Kong. She was further inspired when she saw an exhibition of Henri Cartier Bresson at MOMA in New York while she was in university. Bresson’s work not only impressed her but set her reflecting on photography.

© Kitty Chou

An interesting view of a mundane subject

Her first camera was a Minolta analog model. Like a lot of photography enthusiasts, she also developed her own films. After University, she seemingly drifted away from photography only to take it up in earnest again in 2002, buying a compact, point and shoot, two megapixel Casio digital camera. Kitty is mainly self taught and does not put much store in what cameras and equipment she employs – for her, the camera is just a means to an end and the importance of her photography is encompassed through perception, subject framing and aesthetic composition. She recalls her early days when many people she encountered would be asking her what type of camera she uses – as if the camera makes you a better or worse photographer! Many tended to be biased and look down at her photography due to her not sporting the latest “professional” camera model! This reminds me of a dear departed friend and great photographer, David Facey who, when once asked as to what type of camera he uses, he replied: “One of those little black ones!”

© Kitty Chou

The exhibition venue – the Natural History Museum, Mdina, Malta

Kitty’s first exhibition, in 2011, at the New York School of Interior Design, was urged by her professor, who seeing her work, encouraged her to exhibit at the school gallery. She entitled her exhibition “The Accidental Photographer: Line, Colour and Perspective.” The response to her work was so positive and encouraging that Kitty felt that exhibiting and showing her work was the way to go. This is one of the factors which continue to encourage her to exhibit as she particularly enjoys the feedback of her audience.

 

A year later, Kitty conducted a talk with slide show, as well actual prints at the Asia Society in Hong Kong. Ben Brown, a gallery owner, was invited to attend the talk by the forum moderator. The gallerist was intrigued by Kitty’s work and expressed interests in working together. Less than six months after that initial contact, Kitty had a solo show in their Hong Kong gallery.

She followed this exhibition by taking part in a Hong Kong collective exhibition during 2013. This was held at Duddell’s , a very up market restaurant and gallery in Hong Kong. This exhibition merits particular mention due to the fact that iconic Chinese artist, Ai Wei Wei, who was under house arrest then, was the curator. In 2014, another milestone followed for Kitty when car manufacturers Rolls Royce, converting their showroom into a pop-up art gallery, hosted Kitty’s work as their first Art Series in Asia.

© Kitty Chou

Kitty’s keen sense of light and texture

Ironically, there was a time when Kitty refused to go and see other photographic exhibitions as she felt that her work would be influenced and lose its distinct, personal character. Yet, today she has reversed that, mainly because she is confident enough about her work. These last years, she feels unshackled and free to do her ‘own thing’ and not be unduly influenced by what people say.
Kitty does not use any supplementary lighting in her images, preferring to keep her work as simple and true as possible. Her main ally is natural light. In fact, her style and work resemble more the photojournalistic or ‘street’ photographer. She does not manipulate, arrange or set up her images – her process is one of keen seeing and intelligent selection, cropping only in the camera and not in post process,maintaining that, if this is done, her images would lose or stray away from their initial purpose and concept. For this same purpose, even her digital editing is kept to a minimum – just some minor colour correction and brightness and contrast levels. Apart from Cartier Bresson, who remains forever one of Kitty’s inspirations, other photographers she admires are Horst P. Horst and Herb Ritts. She is particularly attracted to the more vintage photographers due to their studied composition and intelligent perception. This is actually interesting as in fact, although a large part of her work ends up being abstract and semi abstract, Kitty’s work is always imbued with classical inference.
She has now been working totally with the digital medium, due to its convenience and wide creative possibilities, printing her Fine Art exhibition work on high end special art paper. Kitty is increasingly looking to explore subjects which have a meaning to her and is interested in producing more work that possibly can have a social concept. Kitty is also looking at future challenges, and a project that is slowly taking birth is the production of a book on her photography.
Finally, I asked her how she would describe herself, a fine art photographer, or perhaps a photojournalist. She promptly replied that she really does not feel boxed to any particular type of photography but that photography has gradually just become an integral part of her lifestyle and is one of the main purposes and driving forces of her life.

Kitty today is married and has one son. She commutes regularly between New York, Paris, and her own Hong Kong.

© Kevin Casha, 2015
www.kevincasha.com

Note: Kitty Chou will be exhibiting her latest work in Malta at the Natural History Museum in Mdina between the 20th of May till the 7th of June, 2015. The exhibition is called “Cotidie The Magic of the Everyday.”

http://www.nysid.edu/news-events/events/kitty-chou-exhibition

http://duddells.co/venue/en/

Transcript of all Viewers’ comments at the Likeness Project Exhibition

The following is the transcription of the viewer’s comments:

(Whilst viewing, open the link in a new window to all the photographs for reference –  http://kevincasha.com/blog/reference-to-all-exhibits-at-the-likeness-project/)

 

We really liked it. Thank you.

Raphael aged 7.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Sergio Muscat

General note: it is difficult to gauge the character of a person from these images. Some people I know are well represented but others give a totally different perspective altogether. There is variance so it is difficult to come up with a conclusion on the results.

In general the frontal shots are possibly the most telling. It could be because we love and value eye contact. The full profiles and inverse only give indicative physical characteristics and little else. The portrait profile gives sometimes some indications, whether correct or otherwise.

No. 13    Materialistic, slightly bored. Fond of physical appearance.

No. 12    Quiet, nice guy, enjoys life but enjoys also solitude. Intelligent, possibly an engineer.

No. 11    Superficial, very self conscious about her appearance.

No.  8     Difficult to judge. Possibly introvert, builds a defence against vulnerability, but might have an   aggressive streak if provoked.

No. 7      Quiet and friendly, seems like an approachable person with a great sense of humour.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Very innovative concept. Food for thought!

Nicole

___________________________________________________________________________________

Very, very nice. Wonderful.

Gary

____________________________________________________________________________________

Kevin, this is really strange exhibit. It is so classic, you know the traditional studio portraits. It makes you feel like you are not at St James Cavalier, but at some old fashioned photography studio (I have been to one and it was a magical place, out of time, with character). It seems like all the prints have been done in a traditional way, with chemical rather than with digital print. You managed to capture the essence of something that is slowly disappearing. The photos in the middle of each print look like a negative slide (even if they are lighted this way). Another reference to the ‘old good days’. But what is really ‘troubling’ about this exhibit that it reminds me of mug shots, police photos, prison photograph (i.e. in the US). Perhaps it’s just me, but this is what this collection reminds me, the way their profiles (left – centre – right) are positioned and the silhouettes above them. Some have these looks about them (no. 3) that you wonder what have happened to them, what is their story.

It is kind of spooky, just before Halloween, but then it is me J I see a lot of strange things in various places.

Overall, it is a great thought provoking little secret. Well done!

Xxx MAL

____________________________________________________________________________________

Ing! Gorgeous! Lovely, beautiful… XOX

____________________________________________________________________________________

Prosit Kevin!

Martin Dimech

____________________________________________________________________________________

Well done!

Luke Briffa

____________________________________________________________________________________

Rebecca – Pauline – Mark – Rachel – Charles / Great Salisburg 31/10/2012

____________________________________________________________________________________

Silhouettes … ! I am sadly aware of my sagging chin nowadays (I am 65 yrs) so I found the chins on all your subjects of interest! I like your proper photos in each of the ‘pictures’ (bottom left) best.

On your screen display I thought your shots all excellent but loved the non fashion shots best of all, youth and old age in particular.

Sorry, I have not responded to your request on each individual display.

 

Anne Morris, South Manchester UK

____________________________________________________________________________________

Prosit, bhal-dejjem Kevin. Kuncett straordinarju. Hubert Cini 01/11/12

____________________________________________________________________________________

Lovely. Aj lajk jor work hij. Prosit. Abdilla Castillo & familja

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Intriguing! Complexity drawn from simplicity.

Arthur Felice 03/11/2012

____________________________________________________________________________________

Extraordinarily introspective view of these faces. Thank you.

Jack Matelot

____________________________________________________________________________________

Interesting! Well done!

David DP Attard

____________________________________________________________________________________

Kev,

Opposite to your instructions, looking at the people I do know, I have realised that I Know only the character they choose to show me wherever I meet these people.

These photos allowed me to allow my imagination to roam free and wonder at the other characteristics of these people and the sides of their personalities I do not know, but got a glimpse of from this project.

Very inspiring work as always!

Rene Attard

____________________________________________________________________________________

I was moved. Amazing!

Unknown

____________________________________________________________________________________

This is not very good I have seen better work.

____________________________________________________________________________________

I like the work.

Lara Asciak

____________________________________________________________________________________

I came here with an open mind. When I saw the portraits one by one, I was interested in the presentation mainly because

A)    The silhouettes are unknown, they do not reveal much however a slight tilt of the chin can indicate a confident person / or  whereas a certain shot with relaxed / or slouched shoulders indicated maybe a subject who does not care how he/she looks.

B)    I am a fan of the bottom left photos because of the approach in photography light in both eyes highlights the innuendoes of the soul, people look more approachable.

C)    Am in awe with the middle shots, they are scary and give me a void feeling … could it be the loneliness of our souls?

D)     The split shot is the most direct and the viewer challenges you to look head on at them, but do we dare look?

I love this exhibit … can’t comment on individual shots since I know most of the sitters.

The presentation made a fresh impact to ordinary portraits seen around most galleries! Well done.

Therese

PS: Mom loved the portraits on screen …

____________________________________________________________________________________

Very nice photos J

12 & 11           Look like good, warm-hearted people

5 & 7               Look a bit meaner type, persons with dark secrets

6                      Wants to achieve his goals badly

9                      She looks gentle and calm. Quite a peaceful person.

I didn’t really feel like I got such immediate impressions from the other portraits.

The concept behind the exhibition has given me something different to think about now.

Lovely work!

____________________________________________________________________________________

04/11/12 Mi piace….

____________________________________________________________________________________

04/11/12 Molto bello, buon divertimento / Italian visitor

____________________________________________________________________________________

05/11/12

Very interesting, yet demanding topic – portraiture. I like the silhouette effects in the first place and the natural window light. Very innovative idea to keep the picture as it is taken and not made-up. I like it. Prosit. Keep up the good work.

Silvanne

(Your self portrait suits you well)

____________________________________________________________________________________

05/11/12

Kevin,

Prosit. Unusual aspect of photography. Very well presented and compelling to look at.

No. 1               Pensive, intense person

No. 2               Aggressive, gets things done

No. 3               Worried, insecure

No. 4               Happy, motherly type

No. 5               Technical, intelligent

No. 6               Artistic, caring

No. 7               Hard life, manual work, mischievous

No. 8               Business like, maybe artistic

No. 9               Caring (nurse), mother

No. 10             Fashion conscious, artistic

No. 11             Happy, fulfilled

No. 12             Calm, serene, forward looking

No. 13             Mysterious (could not immediately decide), ambitious maybe?

Andrew

____________________________________________________________________________________

I like your idea, I think that there is a mystery to them; you do not know their background – if they are important people, just plain old simplicity.

Thanks for your exhibition.

____________________________________________________________________________________

06/11/12

Prosit

Felicity Zammit/ B’bugia

____________________________________________________________________________________

06/11/12

No. 5               Quite serious about life and himself. This does not mean that he has no sense of humour. Intellectual

No. 6               Gentle, careful not to hurt or insult people. A bit shy. Likes to be on her own.

No. 7               Takes life as it comes. Sometimes taken advantage of. Kind. Not overly clever.

No. 8               Likes women and friends. Quite good self esteem. Likes ‘hip’ things/ crowds

No. 9               Conscientious. Likes routine & orderliness. Not very wild (a bit dull).

No. 10             Assertive, educated, but likes to present himself / be an individual

No. 11             Talkative, laughs a lot. Likes activity.

No. 12             Gentle. Religious. Not always gentle. Can probably change moods quickly.

No. 13             An underlying insecurity. Not intellectual. Likes to be accepted & mainstream.

No. 4               Talkative, friendly, has some very close friends

No. 2               Kind and a little shy

No. 1               Sometimes unkind to others. Can be judgemental towards others

No. 3               Lively & spontaneous.

Thanks for an interesting exhibition.

Glen

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

06/11/12

  1. Sensitive complex
  2. Gentle, romantic
  3. Focussed, energetic
  4. Kind, brave
  5. Thinker, intellectual
  6. Artistic, creative
  7. Pragmatic, intelligent
  8. Intense, deep, scorpio
  9. Caring, teacher, spiritual
  10. Humane, musical
  11. Fun, lively, athletic
  12. Religious, steady
  13. Dancer, elegant, idealistic

Well done Kevin!

Anonymous

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

06/11/12

  1. Serious, likes order, a bit naive
  2. Kind, extroverted, easy going
  3. Creative, a bit stubborn, has aspirations
  4. Sense of humour, self-sarcastic, sensitive
  5. ?
  6. Generous, honest, ambitious
  7. Calm, friendly, a bit introverted
  8. Decisive, thinking big, gentle
  9. Strict, serious, honest
  10. Artistic, vain, self-involved
  11. Social, kind, a bit selfish
  12. Caring, sensitive, serious
  13. Self-centred, a bit naive.

Good job!

Anonymous 2

____________________________________________________________________________________

06/11/12

Why is 12 different?

Pete

____________________________________________________________________________________

Prosit Kevin.

Vincent Zammit

____________________________________________________________________________________

08/11/2012

Prosit Kevin.

Excellent work. I like the idea. Great!! Very inspiring.

Keith Ellul

____________________________________________________________________________________

09/11/12

  1. Young, untroubled, a bit bored
  2. Easy going, looks like trying not to laugh
  3. Looks a bit rushed, possibly a fidget
  4. Friendly, intelligent eyes, thoughtful
  5. Serious, moody possibly
  6. (Beautiful big eyes, by the way) Sad looking, though determined
  7. Bit of a joker, sarcastically minded
  8. Inquisitive and curious, friendly
  9. Shy, straightforward
  10. Quiet, hard worker, a bit contemptuous
  11. Friendly, artistic, loving
  12. Nice, unassuming, relaxed
  13. Very sensuous lips! Not serious –jokey, vain

Sandy C

____________________________________________________________________________________

In a world where everyone wants to be ‘tagged’ on social networks, the notion of portraiture is increasingly elusive. I very much admire the qualities you convey in your subjects.

Den Carter UK

____________________________________________________________________________________

Good work, however when one looks at the collective exhibition you’d easily realise that ‘a template’ structure was preset in the photographer’s mind. Thus, I would have preferred if you were to change the angle of some photos.

Hope you find this comment useful, didn’t want to offend you in any way, shape or form.

Ian Karl Coleiro

____________________________________________________________________________________

Well done.

Laura

Prosit hafna ta, Kevin!

Unrecognizable signature

____________________________________________________________________________________

Very interesting and extremely inspiring.

Suz

____________________________________________________________________________________

Great work Kevin! Gives me a feeling of going back to photography’s roots which is great. I obviously cannot comment on the photos as I recognise or know many of the people here.

Very interesting and inspiring work. I enjoyed it!

Elliot

____________________________________________________________________________________

Inspiring… Should get back to my workshop.

Aslihan

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. Bitterness
  2. Contentment
  3. Emptiness
  4. Happiness
  5. Seriousness
  6. Hope
  7. Experience
  8. Emptiness
  9. Hope
  10. Pretence
  11. Satisfaction
  12. Contentment
  13. Superficiality

Joseph

____________________________________________________________________________________

12/11/12

Interesting concept and study. I am afraid to comment as I know most of the subjects. However on a general viewpoint, if images were portrayed in a mix, they would be quite puzzling to identify.

Interesting silhouettes, these are more complex and unidentifiable .

Well done!

Charles Calleja

____________________________________________________________________________________

No. 10             Reserved, afraid to share emotions, does not like to expose his personality / himself

No. 11             Warm-hearted, shy, timid

No. 9               Has high expectations towards herself, very ambitious, strict with herself.

No. 7               Friendly, sad, likes to look back / nostalgic

No. 1               Bored

Kevin,

Very innovative and artistic concept. Prosit! We need to see more of such art in Malta!

Nathalie Attard

 

 

The Likeness Project

Artist’s Statement – The Likeness Project

It is not easy for a person to live and breathe photography and to keep challenging and stimulating himself with his work. It is a hunger which needs to be satiated every day.

It is also a shocking awakening when an artist sometimes gets that sinking feeling that he has done it all wrong and his path has, perhaps, taken him nowhere he would currently like to be.

Making a living from professional photography has never been easy, particularly now, in this extremely competitive and saturated digital world. For me it has always been trying to find a balance between my commercial and my artistic work. My commercial stimulus has always been that paid work would subsidize my personal projects. I have always had to work hard to get results.

Recently I have been asking myself where I want to go from here. A career of over thirty years is not easy to handle and it seems to get harder to map out one’s journey.

Although a general practitioner, I am mostly known for my portrait and fashion photography, which used to rather satisfy and content me. But currently I have been tortured by doubts about this genre of photography. Is it all made up? Is it all fictitious? Have I really been creating images which show character, mood or a message? Searching deep in my soul and my work I can only come up with few images which fit these criteria.

This is where this exhibition, and its name, “The Likeness Project”, come in.

The Likeness Project

The Likeness Project

Why Likeness? In the early days of photography, portraits where actually termed as “Likenesses” and photographers toiled in order that in some way, compete and better the work of painters and their portraits.  A “Likeness” rarely attempted to show anything more than a similarity and a record of the person.

Matters changed drastically as technology progressed and photographers, (as well as their subjects), strayed further and further away from the truth to create idealised or clichéd portraits of their sitters.

The more I think about my past work, the more I am inclined to revert back and return to the basics of photography – of trying to capture people in a truer and more realistic way – attempting as much as possible not to alter reality and just showing and conserving people’s real features, moods and characters.

The work in this collection consists of images which all have the human element as their subject. Images which are basically unaltered and which require and intrigue the viewer to look deeply and in detail at the subtle nuances of a portrait by comparing silhouettes, facial negatives and portraits simply shot with natural north light coming from a window – just as vintage studio portraiture was originally conducted in the early days of the medium.

My subjects were instructed not to apply any make up or physical enhancements, not to wear any jewellery or ornaments and where only given a plain black top to wear.

In this exhibition, the idea is to invite and encourage those viewers, who must not know the actual subjects, to write down their thoughts on such matters as what they consider the subject’s characteristics, mannerisms etc. to be. That way a debate can hopefully be entered into as to whether the portrait as we know it has been giving us the wrong impression of a person’s countenance and character.  Perhaps hidden nuances about the subjects can be possibly borne out and give a deeper insight into our character than fictitious, unnatural, posed portraits.

The main manipulation I have done to the images is by turning them into monochrome to remove the distraction of colour and to also give them a timeless, retro feel.

 

Kevin Casha – The Likeness Project

St James Cavalier for Creativity, Valletta, Malta 2012

Inspirational, Exciting & Creative

Inspirational, Exciting & Creative!

Following last year’s great success with the visit of well renowned photojournalist, Lorenzo di Pietro, a guest of the Malta Institute of Professional Photography (MIPP),  this year, the Institute will be going one better and will be giving their members, as well as other local photographers, something really special. The MIPP’s guests in August will be international photographers Witold Flak and Chiara Fersini.

Some photographic enthusiasts should remember Polish personality Witold from a previous visit to our island. At that event, his lecture and character were a breath of fresh air and incredibly inspiring. Chiara, who hails from Italy, will be visiting Malta for the first time, and will surely leave an impression with her fantastic brand of photography.

This event is purposely linked to World Photography Day, which is celebrated on the 19th of August. What better present to give local photographers than this veritable feast of creative and inspirational photography and networking?

The scope behind this event is twofold: Firstly to nurture the ideal conditions for  MIPP members and local photographers to come together in one big event and, secondly, to enable the MIPP to bring international personalities in the photographic field so as to act as catalysts to further stimulate and widen the horizons of local photography.

To coincide with this event, Chiara and Witold will also be exhibiting their work at the Cavalieri Hotel in St Julian’s from the 18th of August till the 31st of August. The Exhibition is entitled, “Insight.”

Chiara Fersini (www.himitsuhana.com) holds a degree in English and Japanese. She investigates the intriguing inner relation between photography and painting, and takes inspiration from thePre-Raphaelite painters and the Liberty style.

She has already participated in many art exhibitions and contests; and she’s been featured in magazines such as “Advanced Photoshop, NL” and “ Fashion Capital, UK”.She has experience as a designer for storybooks, fashion and the entertainment sectors.

Her photography is a mix of art, technique and poetry. Her work is stunning and surprising. Her set of photographs, which will be exhibited in Malta, belie her young age but undoubtedly bear the stamp of a very talented and sensitive artist. Not only is her technique to a high level, but the content of her work stimulates the viewer to look deeper and explore the artist’s message. When one takes into consideration that Chiara also at times models in some of her own images, one starts to understand the talent of this Italian image maker.

In “Gravity is a lie”, Chiara creates a surrealistic mood in her image, very reminiscent of Salvador Dali’s paintings. All her works embody a process of thought, imagination, high standards of technique and post processing. But what makes her artworks a cut above the rest is that she knows how to pose and portray her subjects to pass on her pictorial message, whilst her knowledge of light and imagination further enhances the final effect.

Gravity is a lie

Gravity is a lie

In another image, “L’ audition”, Chiara creates a mood of mystery and expectation by covering the faces of most of the figures and just exposing one face, whose melancholic expression seems to convey the sometimes futile attempts of impressing a judge or selector during an audition.

L'audition

L’audition

The colour harmony and warm tones suit this dreamy image perfectly and the feather held in one of the models’ hands contrasts sharply to the impersonal numbers which all the others are holding. This leaves the image very open to the imagination and to individual interpretation.

“Portrait de l’Artiste” is a fantastic journey into classic art. The subtle, directional light coming in from the window has superbly illuminated the model’s face reflected in the oval mirror. The shy, downward glance of the model implies the uncertainty that an artist is many times faced when confronted by his blank canvas. The chiaroscuro effect, warm tones and excellent choice of props in this photograph demonstrates the heights that a photographic artist can achieve by employing his visual and mental skills to his utmost. “Teli e Toiletta” is another image which merits the same study and is in the same league as Chiara’s “Portrait de l’Artiste.”

Portrait de l'artiste

Portrait de l’artiste

“Tranquilize” is another work which invites the viewer to try and fathom and interpret the thoughts of the subject, whilst “Crushed Spirits” has obviously been inspired by Raphaelite art.

When viewing Chiara’s works, one cannot help (if he is sensitive and open enough to art), but feel mesmerized with each and every photograph his eyes rest upon.

To me, Chiara has superbly managed to take the right inspiration from past classical art and artists and further imbue her work with her own fantastic skills and creativity to take us on a journey of reflection, mystery and discovery.

In contrast to Chiara’s classical studied approach, Witold Flak’s (www.flak.pl ) work is surprising and, in many ways, an eye opener.

His work, in this exhibition, all in monochrome, bears the hallmark of someone who has a keen natural eye for a picture and of a photographer who is not tightly bogged down by technicalities and convention.

Flak loves working with people and his knack for handling his subjects regularly demonstrate an innate sensitivity and a great passion both for photography as well as for the human race.

Witold’s photographs show perception and unusual viewpoints. They bring joy, trigger passions and encourage dreams. By his own admission, Witold is no digital editing guru or technical wizard, but his passion for the art is incredibly inspiring and fresh to both professional as well as amateur photographers. His vision is like a breath of fresh air in what sometimes is becoming a claustrophobic and fictitious environment.

All of Flak’s work in the Cavalieri Hotel exhibition depicts the human subject.

His approach is more that of a benign predator who stalks his subject and coaxes out the expression, the angle and the mood in a non-intimidating manner. His subjects rarely show shyness – in fact, most of the expressions and body language demonstrate a sense of trust in the photographer taking their image. “Reflection” and “Thought” are two images which bear this out.

Thought

Thought

I think Witold excels when he is portraying the female form. Looking in depth into this attractive but difficult subject, Witold manages to actually highlight the respect and love he has for the female sex and glorifies his women in such a beautiful and sensual manner. “Here I am” and “White and Black” are two of his works which stand out.

Here I am

Here I am

In “Side by side”, in the fleeting instant of a shutter click, Witold has captured an expression that is pregnant with emotions and interpretations. The slight blur on this image adds to the mystery and questions that this photograph raises. Here Witold is again refusing to miss the crucial expression or mood of his subject, by getting entangled in obtaining the “right” technique, and his boldness has produced a very powerful journalistic image.

Side by Side

This is again brought out in image “The Unknown” where Witold’s choice of purposely not showing the face of his subject strongly emphasizes the mystery and ambiguity of his subject matter.

The Unknown

The Unknown

“Look” is a fine example where “less is more”. Flak’s clever cropping and choice of viewpoint and subject give this photograph much more impact by stimulating the imagination of the viewer. His unorthodox, unshackled way of capturing pictures uses the power of photography and its message-telling abilities to the best possible advantage.

Look!

Look!

His work is infectious, and inspires us to just pick up our cameras and go out there and capture the beauty, and maybe sometimes, the horrors of life.

The MIPP would like to thank the management of the Cavalieri Hotel for their kind help and sponsorship of this Exhibition

The Exhibition will be open from the 18th of August till the 30th of September.

 

© Kevin Casha

Master FSWPP FMIPP AMPA AMPS

Exhibition Curator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring different ways of doing art photography

I make it a practice to try and view as many art exhibitions and events as possible. I firmly believe that a creative soul can take inspiration and ideas from being sensitive to all around him. Naturally, other artist’s endeavours and offerings are a rich source of contemplation and can generally stimulate debate and spark off the imagination – things which are so vital to art evolvement.

Naturally, due to time constraints, I do not actually manage to see all the exhibitions I would like to, but then I really try to make time when the subject is photography – my passion. So I just could not fail not to go and view “Divergent Thinkers”, a collective exhibition held at St James Cavalier, in Valletta. Giola Cassar, one of my current Higher National Diploma students, was amongst the seven artists taking part – so this was a further reason for my visit.

This project was made possible through Agenzija Zaghzagh’s (Youth Agency’s) Empowerment Programme. I feel there is much to improve in governmental cultural policies, but this programme, directed at promoting and aiding art and culture amongst young people is to be lauded. As the Hon. Clyde Puli, Parliamentary Secretary for Youth and Sport, ably put it in the exhibition Catalogue’s foreword, “The contribution that young people can make through their artistic endeavours to the cultural life of the nation and its further enrichment is, I believe, immense.”

I cannot agree more with this statement. Without a fresh crop of young artists, art can become stuck in a rut and perhaps churning out a diet which might be somewhat unadventurous, gimmicky, stale and at times, downright boring.  Granted, established artists and trail blazers who have come before us are a source of constant inspiration to up and coming artists, and it is vital that those making their first steps in the art world should constantly study, absorb, and question what has come before their time. The important thing is not to become slavish and copy but to try and question, explore and give new interpretations to past work. Young artists also push established ones to greater heights and challenges.

Alas, today, despite the many opportunities and increased awareness given to young artists, the many distractions and perhaps soft, easy material life which we have now become accustomed to, is, at times, feeding a lack of drive, determination and will in our youngsters. Youth are usually very excited and interested in the art world, as they visualize it as a glittering, fashionable and desirable lifestyle, but when they realize that it can be such hard work, that it is so difficult to lift your shoulders above the rest and that, in the majority of cases, not very remunerative, most quickly fall by the wayside and unfortunately quickly abandon their dreams. Most youngsters do not realize that success and fulfilment is neither fast nor easy. An artist can only succeed if he has the passion, the drive, the determination to succeed. Unfortunately there are no easy ways.

Which brings us back to the Divergent Thinkers project.  I will only endeavour to review and comment on Giola’s photography, because most of  the other offerings at the exhibition are media and art forms which I do not consider myself conversed enough to assess. Some of the work has made me reflect, some has given me very mixed feelings, whilst some of the work did not stimulate any reaction in me. That does not mean that some art has no value. The beauty of art is that it arouses different feelings and reactions in those who view it. Art is so subjective and the culture, character, awareness, past experiences and sensitivity of the viewer will impact each and every one in a different way. Even the current state of mind of the viewer will influence his reactions. My view is that art needs to energize a reaction in those encountering it. Even a “bad reaction” is desirable to “no reaction.”

Timeless 1 by Giola Cassar

Timeless 1 by Giola Cassar

Giola’s offering in this project is four photographs which come over to us as sets of two.  The images in the sets relate well with each other but then contrast greatly between them.

Knowing Giola’s work from college, I know that she researches very extensively and, rightly so, she takes great pains in her concept and preparation. She is definitely not trigger happy. All the four works in this exhibition bear this out. She has painstakingly planned and studied her subjects and props and this track invites the viewer to do the same. One needs to take time and explore the nuances, detail and mood of her images. The time taken will not be wasted.

Timeless 2 by Giola Cassar

Timeless 2 by Giola Cassar

In her “Timeless” duo of prints, she has attempted to recreate a long gone age and succeeded quite well. The mood is definitely there. After one absorbs the fashion of that era, one is intrigued by the expressions of the “models”.  It’s a somewhat vacant, inscrutable and obscure expression which made me think. What did these two girls feel like, dressing up and “going back” in time? The plain warm, retro tones of the images complement the subjects and bring out the mood in an ideal way. Still, I guess the debate can rage here as to whether these images are documents or contemplative, records of an era or deep character studies. The answers will be as diverse as the viewers.

The other set of two prints, entitled “Internal and external vastness of Space” are in direct contrast to the “Timeless” portraits. Here Giola shows that she is still grappling as to what direction her photography will eventually take. It is the right way that at her young age she is exploring several ways of expressing herself with photography. It is a process that one should pass through, and keep passing through, in order to constantly challenge and excite him or herself. The operation is never ending.

Space 2 by Giola Cassar

Space 2 by Giola Cassar

In my view, this second set of work gives the viewer much more scope for reflection and speculation – thus it makes them more engaging due that they leave a lot of questions unanswered and camouflaged.  Giola here delves into the mysterious vastness of Space.  A subject which has intrigued and mystified all generations since time immemorial.

The girl seemingly trapped and constricted in a claustrophobic cubicle (a refrigerator?) gives us the feeling of immobility, of being eternally trapped in the little space that she has been confined to. Yet the expression is not of despair or anger but more of being resigned       to her fate.  Is not this perhaps a metaphor or allegory of the way some people feel inevitably trapped and restricted in their surroundings, their life, their Space? Technically this image could perhaps have been slightly improved through light direction, but then technique is at times less important than the message and I feel this print certainly delivers the message and creates curiosity and discussion.

Giola’s other image, my favourite in this set, is of a “ghostly” whimsical girl apparently floating in a dark and forbidding space. The high viewpoint purposely distorts perspective and makes the girl more vulnerable and helpless in such a vast and unending space.

Space 1 by Giola Cassar

Space 1 by Giola Cassar

One of the definitions of space is that Space is capable neither of resistance nor motion. I feel this concept has been brought out very well, particularly in this image. The girl’s pose offers no resistance and demonstrates her immobility when faced with the unknown and greatly unexplored vastness of her surroundings. Her gaze does not betray any emotions and further invites us to perhaps stare into the seeming nothingness of space.

I think this is a well chosen subject and concept and I do look forward to seeing more of Giola’s “struggles” with such unexplored regions of the psyche.

© Kevin Casha

 

Divergent Thinkers is open from 27th July up to 2nd September, 2012