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by Jaqueline Goetzke and Rebecca Muscat
November 2018 the Mahalla festival came to Malta. During the last few weeks of November a number of Maltese locations became the site of various discussions, concerts, workshops and other activities with regards to the topic of migration, especially in relation to the European Union. Its aim was to create new perspectives with regards to Migration hence, the name ‘Generating new narratives’. This festival helped in bringing together Maltese citizens and new comers thanks to a number of cultural and artistic presentations which were held during the festival.
Malta was chosen to host this festival due to its strategic position at the centre of the Mediterranean and its rich history. Throughout the years especially since 2001, the island has seen thousands of refugees coming from Africa in search of exile in Europe. On top of that, various aspects of the Maltese society are clear reflections of the variety of the past rulers’ cultures. Therefore, the choice of having such a festival in Malta was a natural one.
Thirty-seven participants from sixteen different countries presented their experiences and projects relating to migration, exile and cultural identity. Some of the participants were refugees themselves. These participants celebrated the importance of unconditional hospitality towards anyone arriving in a new country or neighbourhood, since those arriving have a right to be protected and assisted. These participants came up with various initiatives in order to question the traditional concept of excluding the other especially when it comes to migrants.
One of these events took place at the MUZA (Valletta) where the African Diaspora Cinema Festival screened a collection of their movies. Ten various screenings on the subject “Stop Human Traffic” were presented. It was interesting how the directors interpreted the theme in wide-ranging ways and told their own stories in relation to self-experienced escape or from others, while they used the modern narrative perspectives and techniques of film making.
Another venue was the Valletta Contemporary where Fikret Atay presented FLOATING IMAGERY. A collection of 3 different artworks. With the connection of a picture and two videos, he deals with the controversy of social economics and politics in combination with refugees.
On another day the MUZA opened their doors to the public for different screenings. 3 imposing movies were presented, which deals again on their very own way about minority groups and the Syrian war.
In conclusion the festival is about giving people the opportunity to express theirself with the help of film screenings and other artistic forms. In advance the artists get in touch with each other, the local exhibitors and of cause with the audience. This exchange is like a bonus of the festival. A lot of different people came together to experience the diversity and input, share each others story and discuss various themes. Often an intercultural exchange is only a side effect of interesting and varied conversations about experiences and the inspiration to create artistic works. Sometimes new connections are being made, therefore the “festival spirit” keeps going on. Which means that the screenings will be continued and new pieces can be created in future.
The Wandering Tower is the title of a surrealist short story by Sergej Prokofiev from the times of vivid migration movements on the edge of the world wars.
The Festival was quoting the title as a metaphorical frame for Mahalla 2020/2021. The tower of Babel is connected as a motive to the search for the origin of language and the access to the divine.