Blogger Geraldine Sammut talks with artist Adrian Abela about his exhibition MATERIA, currently running at Spazju Kreattiv till the 3rd July and his CHARTI project. Read on to find out more about Abela’s work and how this relates to ritual and Maltese festi…


Whether you’re religious or not, everyone can acknowledge that ritual is a cornerstone of Maltese culture, past and present. There is a sense of performativity behind ritual which is captivating not only for those who are participating in the act, but also for those watching it occur. It is this potential for performance in ritual that architect and civil engineer Adrian Abela, along with various other contributors from across the islands, are interested in exploring through their project CHARTI, a Valletta 2018 project.

To dive deeper into the elements that contribute to the forming of ritual, CHARTI has recently opened an exhibition entitled MATERIA, which is centred on the use of paper material in feasts as a form of celebration. The people attending a feast are typically fully engaged in throwing the paper, playing with it, and generally enjoying it. Once the festivities are over, the paper is left abandoned without much further thought. However, this paper has become something other than ordinary paper, since it has gone through a ritual and a performance itself and carries the memory of that with it. This is why CHARTI collected paper from various feasts, and recycled it for the purposes of MATERIA.

‘The exhibition MATERIA was born from the documentation and the historical research I have been doing for the past two years. MATERIA, which means material in Latin, glorifies the materials used in the Rituals of the feast,’ commented Abela, continuing that, ‘the material also functions as a universal mode of looking at things. One can take any Ritual occurring in any place of the world and once it is diluted into its simple constituents one would find that we all use very similar modes of creating celebrations.’

The MATERIA exhibition is segmented into three principle parts: Mater, Gentes, and Ritus. Mater portrays the ‘origin’ of the exhibition, the paper itself before it has been recycled into something else, fireworks, and even marbling works done by talented creators Luke Grech, Raymond Galea and Joseph Cauchi. Gentes features a video composition of the people during feasts participating in their ritual. The composition was shot using DV tape in order to capture the nostalgic atmosphere associated with rituals. The video documents the gestures of the people as contrasted with five sculptures used to decorate the streets during feasts.

Ritus is perhaps the most abstract of the segments, where all the easily identifiable materials are removed and instead the perception of the material is angled in such a way as to highlight that, ultimately, paper and marble and fireworks all share a common aesthetic that cohesively form an undeniable narrative of ritual.

If you’re interested in learning more about MATERIA through first-hand experience, the exhibition will be running at Spazju Kreattiv till the 3rd July.