Three rooms, five different collections, one thing that ties them all – an all-pervasive sense of nostalgia for all those little quirks that make us ‘Maltese’, presented in beautifully- rendered geometrical lines and curves and vibrant shades, united in a print.

Welcome to the first Te fit-Tazza exhibition, currently running at The Splendid, in Valletta. Who would have thought that the humble pastizz, the beloved Kinnie, the iconic milk cartons (pre-snazzing up and pre-upsetting every single environmentalist on the island) and that much-maligned (in the most affectionate of manner) textbook, Id-Denfil, would prove to be such intriguing models for a contemporary exhibition?

Unless you are already familiar with Te fit-Tazza, you might be forgiven for thinking that the topics are a cliché. After all, who hasn’t seen a photo/painting/print of most of those things that we consider quintessentially Maltese? Ah, but you’d be wrong, because all that matters is execution and delivery, of course. And Andrew Farrugia and Craig MacDonald – the two young men behind the moniker Te fit-Tazza – manage to capture the zeitgeist of an entire nation without being derivative.

Te fit-Tazza manages to capture the zeitgeist of an entire nation without being derivative

Because Te fit-Tazza collections may focus on the traditional, but the approach of Farrugia and MacDonald is anything but. The beauty of each work is its unexpectedness, the wonderful way a collection of squiggles comes together to redefine a known and beloved subject in a refreshing way. Gorgeous curves, in bursts of turqouise and brown, rearrange themselves into the iconic landscape of Comino’s Blue Lagoon. Ta’ Ċenċ Cliffs is a study in geometrical perfection, the contrasting shades luring you in for closer inspection. St Peter’s Pool presents the instantly-recognisable cliff face seemingly suspended in two shades of blue, surreal. Wied-il-Għasri, my absolute favourite, offers a hauntingly dark perspective, an alternative view of the valley that has been the subject of so many odes.

There are five collections being showcased in this exhibition: Series 1, grounding the Maltese identity with works like Is-Sur tal-Belt, Il-Qbajjar and Luzzu By Day. Elements of Malta, a journey into past, present and maybe future, with its Kelb tal-Fenek, It-Televixin tan-Nanna (remembers those old Grundigs?), the Karrozzin and the flixkun Lager.

The Club Series is a set of prints that tug at the heartstrings of anyone who has experienced the old-school clubbing scene in Malta. Colours of Malta showcases iconic landscapes in shades and hues that leap out at you. And, finally, Series 2, a progression of the very first series, showing off our island’s landmark locations and their surroundings. It-Tieqa tad-Dwejra, in particular, should tug at the heart strings.

The Splendid turns out to be an exquisite location for this exhibition, the contemporary prints juxtaposed against the layers of history that have shaped the spirit of this old space in the city, a bordello that masqueraded as a hotel in the heydays of The Gut, and that was the scene of a rather gruesome murder.

It really doesn’t get any more Maltese than that.

Te fit-Tazza exhibition runs at The Splendid, Valletta, until January 6.

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