Maltese folk is a rich and spectacular place to navigate.
Most of the stories have been lost … or rather no one tells them anymore. Myths and legends derive their strength from storytelling. If people stop telling these stories then they cease to exist. I believe the history of Maltese myth has been one of ‘rescue’ to preserve such stories. This was done by Fr Emanuel Magri in his collection of Maltese legends and more recently by Stephan D. Mifsud in his excellent collection ‘The Maltese Bestiary’.
Similiary this research is partly that – a ‘rescue’ operation to preserve the stories, myths and legends. But it is also a little bit more – It is an attempt to build a new narrative. To establish the foundations to create new stories. For this part I have been aided by writer Teodor Reljic in forming a story within the context of Maltese folk within the set-up of the 1813 Bubonic plague in Malta.
During this period, thanks to a research grant by the Arts Council Malta, I was able to precisely re-create and work on the theme of Maltese folk.
And from my research I found it to be many things, but for sure it is no safe place for children. It seems that most of the stories and mythological creature were created to scare children off. Maybe there was good reason for that.
For instance you do not want children to go too close to a well (at the time most households had a well). So what do you do? You tell them that demons inhibit wells. If you go too close they’ll drag you down to the underworld. Such demons went by the name of ‘Mhalla’ – Well Ghoul.
Yesterday’s nightfall was darker than today. There were no electricity to keep the light going. So night came early and shady stuffy can hide in its midst. It is easy to disappear in it. So how to do you tell children not to stay out at night? Same. You tell them that there are a bunch of demons and monster waiting for you. These took the form of ‘Wahx il Bahar’ (part man, part goat, part bull …), il Babaw (bogeyman), Gadajdu and … the Sarangu – the sack man – a creature that kidnaps children at night.
As we are approaching the end of this research project, I will be uploading more concept arts in the coming days on Maltese folk
Here is the first one:
This project is supported by the Malta Arts Fund – Arts Council Malta
In collaboration with the Malta School of Art this research will be translated into short workshops.