the liveability of the Biċċerija
PAĠĠATUR by Chakib Zidi, Fatima AM, Noah Fabri
Bull Street, Valletta
performance, video, intervention
This multidisciplinary project places its entire focus on the stories associated with the ex-residents of the Biċċerija. The artists wanted to bring light to the most intimate, intrinsic details of existence and life of the area, as well as the community’s relationship to the physical space that they occupied over time. Both Noah and Fatima joined several community sessions to discover personal stories around place-related aspects that would have otherwise remained unknown. Their research process also entailed meeting up with ex-residents who no longer lived in Valletta. Although the process of identifying ex-residents of the Biċċerija was complex at first, it became easier once connections were being made and the artists steadily earnt the trust of community members.
Is-Sinjorini. Seamstresses. Family Lunches. Lożor fuq il-paġġatur. Tfal rieqdin.
Carnival. Id-Duddlu. Intriċċi. Poġġatur jew Paġġatur?
As we learnt more from current and former residents, we understood how the Biċċerija characterised more than just a building housing several people. People lived in close proximity to each other, they were all neighbours, they all helped each other – most even raised each other’s children. There were characters who were more prominent protagonists than others – including feuds – yet we came to know all of them as being equally proud of the place they lived in.
Following several discussions, Noah and Fatima each wrote narratives separately, in both Maltese and English, conveying different aspects of what we were told. They then came together to combine them, as if interpreting various voices as one whole. Once the script was finalised, Chakib beautifully choreographed a performance based on the different emotions reflected in the script, using the physical characteristics of the paġġatur, the Biċċerija and Bull Street to bring out prominent narrative elements that converted the built context into the artwork’s set.
As a memoir of the voices of the people of the Biċċerija, the narratives were then composed and printed on woven fabric. The three pieces were designed to hang from the walls of the paġġatur, reminiscent of the bedsheets and drapes that once hung from one side to the other, protecting the boys from the scorching sun. The fabric was left unfinished, with fraying edges as a symbol of a community that is ever changing.