The curator of Katel Delia’s installation at Kamra ta’ Fuq spoke to me before I visited and told me to expect the unexpected.
As I stepped in the dark ultraviolet-lit room, I was gobsmacked, humbled, in awe. A whole new reality was staring there at me, disguised in beauty, taking me from the heights of the heavens to the dark profound abyss of the seas, depicting the Mediterranean not as we know it in postcards or holiday brochures, but as the last place of rest of almost 23,000 souls that lost their lives in the hope of a better one.
Usually, the art exhibitions I view, installations et al, transport me into a surreal world, where myth, imagination and surreal mingle to produce something beautiful. Here in this darkness, artist Katel Delia has given us something real, something that was there in front of us all the time but, for some reason or another, we chose not to see, or perhaps we decided to skim through, let go of all the gory details and focus on something more pleasing.
This installation will bring you to your senses. It is a cry for help. It is a wake-up call for all of us here that wake up in comfortable beds, have jobs to go to, live a busy social life, have a family that is safe and sound, find time to visit art exhibitions and go to the theatre.
Well, this is the true theatre of life for those who out of necessity have to leave their homeland with the prospect of seeking pastures new, their Valhalla, the promised land.
Then it all crumbles like Babylon in a few minutes, in a few fateful instances.
There, crammed in those wooden boats painted sky blue, like the skies of the beautiful lands they hope to reach in their minds, they find their fate. They realise that the dream is over, that their lives are over, that they will not hug their children again, that all their sacrifices were in vain.
Alone in that room, I feel the silence engulf me; there is an aura of doom, gloom, amid the cold blades of the biting waves that takes over their vessel, claiming it and their future to add it to the macabre collection that lies beneath.
They look up at the heavens, as they struggle in vain to take their last breaths. The stars look magnificent up there, yet they look sad, almost weeping, like reflections of the souls that were lost in this same sea before them.
This installation will bring you to your senses. It is a cry for help
The paradise they have dreamt of for days, weeks or maybe years, seems to dissipate in an instance as the cold salty waters fill their lungs, as their tears mix with the tears of others meeting the same fate, as the last of the air bubbles are exhaled from their ailing and tired bodies to reach the surface, which surface they themselves will never see again.
The lights in the room flicker, weak, like my legs, as I notice how many of these brethren have lost their lives even almost before starting their journey. I wonder if their spirits talk to each other down there when their lifeless bodies rest in the silt of this sea that many consider the jewel of the world.
I wonder if they are envious as tourists gore on the rich buffets on the cruise liners that pass from above them every day, as they hear the music of the parties held on the yachts of the privileged. I wonder.
And yet with all our politicians’ talk, with the European Parliament philosophies, with all our arguments, still not enough is being done to grab the bull by its horns and end this genocide once and for all.
We choose to conveniently turn away from all this, maybe because the skin colour of these people is different from ours, maybe because we prefer to look at the Mediterranean Sea as the pristine turquoise waters that we dip in during the lazy summer months, sipping Spritz and donning designer swimwear.
These human tragedies are happening on a weekly basis, many are reported but hundreds of others happen away from the light of the cameras and remain unreported; the victims forgotten as they become part of the sand and the silt that lies beneath the calmness of the blue waters.
The Last Breath, curated by Art Sweven and hosted by Mqabba’s Kamra ta’ Fuq in Mqabba, is on until January 16. Consult the event’s Facebook page for opening hours. COVID-19 restrictions apply.