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Blog : Art

Il-Kamra Ta’ Barra | Parking Space Events in Sliema

Il-Kamra Ta’ Barra | Parking Space Events in Sliema

A living room made for on-street interaction.

Last Thursday, in collaboration with Margerita Pule, Parking Space Events moved across the water from Valletta to Sliema to create a ‘Kamra ta’ Barra’ (literally, an outdoor room). Traditionally the tidy and richly-decorated room Maltese households keep for the purpose of welcoming guests, we built one such ‘kamra ta’ barra’ within a parking space just outside a large building site in Howard Street Sliema.

For the few hours during our intervention, the rectangular lines on the ground marked the confines of our living room, which we invited attendees and passers-by to ‘enter’ and interact inside, while of course still being very much out on the street. We asked questions and invited discussions about what makes a good neighbourhood and about their thoughts about what is happening in the streets of Sliema at the moment.

“They dug so deep that they found sea water and cannot find a way to stop is seeping in. These apartments (pointing to the building site behind our living room) should have been habitable by last November and there are no signs of progress.”

Sliema residents spoke about the tensions of navigating their daily life around the heavy construction that is happening all over the town. “We’ve been dealing with construction for 25 years now” one resident commented. “My sister has been living on top of a building site for 10 years” another added. People spoke about the time it takes to navigate the streets to actually get out of Sliema. An elderly resident talked about wondering whether she could make it on foot from her house to Tigne Point given the immense clouds of construction dust that completely filled the air at Town Square, a €100 million luxury apartment tower project that the residents and NGOs have been campaigning against. The same resident asked philosophically “should we build upwards or outwards?”

Parking Space Events | Il-Kamra Ta Barra

“People complain about construction but enjoy the money that comes from it.”

“Ghada filghodu jigu l-krejnijiet u l-concrete mixers” (Tomorrow morning the cranes and the concrete mixers will take over), “I was born here but I am fed up of Sliema”. “It’s a lost cause”, “Tas-Sliema qerduha” (They have ruined Sliema), “Qed nitilfu kollox hawn” (We’re losing everything here). “We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that this is a nice environment”, “ the national bird of Malta is the crane”.

“It is the sea that saves us from going crazy.”

So what makes a good neighbourhood, we asked? “Not this crane” (referring to the big tower crane just adjacent to our living room and swaying ominously above us). “Walkways”, “Paths”, “Plants”, “Green areas”, “Safety”, “It’s not ok to put this wall here” (referring to the concrete brick wall in front of the massive building site and tower crane our living room is next to).

Parking Space Events | Il-Kamra Ta Barra

“The neighbours” was a popular answer. “We used to sit out on the street”. “In a town you want people to be on the street not off it. That’s the whole point of a town.” “I don’t know the neighbours and I’ve been living here for four years. There aren’t opportunities for people to meet. Most people who live here are in their 60s and 70s and they don’t feel safe being out on the streets. It’s an unbalanced neighbourhood because the young people have moved out of Sliema.” “We used to live in Sliema but our landlord sold the house” a young couple explained. “In the morning when I go to work I only see foreigners who have come here for work on the street”. “People have a different relationship to space when they are here temporarily. They might not care so much about the changes.”

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Parking Space Events | Il-Kamra Ta Barra

As one of the living room hosts, I really enjoyed creating a space where people could chat and discuss their neighbourhood on the street. At one point I sat down with a woman who lives nearby and had an hour-long conversation that spanned construction, living in different places, religion and beliefs and the idea of thinking about future generations when taking action today. It was clear that we were extremely different in our individual perspectives, our beliefs, our ways of living. Yet on the red sofa in the middle of Howard Street we both enjoyed learning about each other’s different ways of looking at the world and somehow expanded our horizons.

Safe, welcoming spaces for people to meet on the street can be very valuable to a community. They provide the possibility for inter-generational communication and interaction between people from different backgrounds who would not usually hang out together. If designed well they can serve as peaceful, shady oases where people can be encouraged to discuss what is happening in their neighbourhoods and find ways of improving them together. Long working hours, car-dominated streetscapes, street-area take-overs by businesses and commercial concerns, lack of pedestrian and bicycle facilities and lack of shading amongst others all tend do encourage humans to be less social when outdoors. It’s time to take this into account in our urban planning to consciously design neighbourhoods that encourage and give space for people to live better.

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More about Il-Kamra ta’ Barra:

Times of Malta

Kultura News

Project Disintegration

Malta’s Muses – Goddess, Madonna, Witch | Fragmenta

Malta’s Muses – Goddess, Madonna, Witch | Fragmenta

Kay Turner brings together the goddesses from Maltese religious and folk tradition at Tarxien Temples

It was such a joy to be around such absolutely kick-ass females at this edition of Fragmenta. Donning different Madonna t-shirts from various tours and the kind of self-assured, no-nonsense presence that tends to come with being on this planet for a while, Kay Turner (New York, USA), Paula Schorr and Karen Siegel (Highland Park, New Jersey, USA) assisted by Mary Sanger (Austin, Texas USA) provided the exact image of what I want to be when I grow up.

Kay spoke about her work, about goddesses and altars, about the figure of the witch. More females are identifying with the characteristics and values of the witch: standing up for social justice, putting her foot down, saying no, speaking out, not being taken for a ride. Of course, these are all problematic traits for those who wish to get away with murder and the witch has been demonized and downtrodden over time. The more acceptable angelic, silent, fertile goddess being favoured and lauded by the establishment.

Whooshing around on her absolutely massive and beautiful broom (the perfect vehicle for getting out of a sticky situation), Kay created the possibility for an update of the witch persona. She’s loud, she’s wickedly funny, she smashes patriarchy’s knickknacks with a hammer as she sings in celebration.

Kay spurning fertility and smashing tchotchkes.

 

The witch is queer. With Kay reading Grimm’s Frau Trude tale about the little girl and the witch who turned her into a block of wood, Paula and Karen continue with their amazing performance, singing about the old witch and the young gay girl who crosses the threshold thirsty to learn about the arts of seduction.

 

Paula and Karen’s performance ‘Playing with Fire’ from a few years back at NYU.

 

Enlivened by the singing and smashing we stand up and gather for the procession through the temples. With Kay at the helm we make a run on our brooms laughing gleefully as we whoosh forward. We eventually meet the goddesses on our journey.

 

The Maltese Woman | Fragmenta | Kay Turner

The Maltese Woman

Dressed in black with a traditional Ghonnella and a string of pearls, the Maltese woman is seen waving in a friendly manner. She waves, she moves, she waves some more, silent, smiling, beautiful. Is this what we recognize as the ideal?

 

Sansuna the giantess | Fragmenta | Kay Turner

Sansuna the Giantess

Sansuna is the builder of Ggantija. She lives on broad beans and honey as she kicks massive stones up the hill, her hands occupied with the baby she had with a human. At Tarxien she was offering passers-by broad beans to place on the main altar.

 

The Witch with the crooked nose

Sporting a very respectable long and pointy noise, the witch cackles as we walk past. Is she righteous, is she evil, is she beautiful, is she ugly? Who is she for us?

 

The Night Hag

Traditionally known to sit on humans at night and cause sleep paralysis. Sleeping with a knife under the pillow is said to keep her away. Here the Night Hag is seen snapping knives in two and offering them to passers by. What if we invite her to visit? What gifts does she bring?

 

Protection Mudras at the Tarxien Temple entrance

At the entrance to the inner temple, Paula and Karen stand at the monumental stones. We watch them re-enact goddess protection mudras and copy their gestures before walking in, greeted by more goddesses.

 

The Virgin

Dressed in white, veiled in blue and carrying a mini-me glow-in-the-dark Madonna, the virgin has stars in her hands that she passes on to people as they walk by. The stars are made out of religious pages turned into confetti for the Immaculate Conception feast celebrated a day previously.

 

The Witch and the Goddess

Flanking a narrow passageway inside the temple, this surprisingly compatible pair whispered simultaneous suggestions into ears. “The witch in me recognizes the witch in you” from one side and “The goddess in me recognizes the goddess in you” from the other. Who do we identify with?

 

Back out of the temple we walk up to the altar built for the occasion, decorated with scarves, goddesses, offerings, flowers and flickering lights. We add the offerings we collected during the procession – broad beans, flowers and stars.

Kay, Paula and Karen gather for one last invocation, putting the power of three to the service of a fourth in trouble. Kay brings out a photo of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the journalist whose murder is still unsolved. Daphne is her fourth she explains as she invites us to find our own ‘her’. We chant together, calling on our collective power to the service of our cause.