Way back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the world-famous author Desmond Morris carried out a very detailed researched study on the boats of Malta during his six-year stint in Malta – a study that he kept shelved for long years and has only now seen the light of day in a special hardback luxury edition, edited by Anthony Aquilina from the Department of Translation, Terminology and Interpreting Studies of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Malta.

It is the editor’s friendship with the author, triggered off after his translation and publication  of Catlore into Maltese (Dinjet il-Qattus), that led to this lavishly illustrated book with over 150 colour prints from among an even vaster collection of photographs, the majority of which taken by Morris himself.

In the author’s own words: “This book sets out to record one of the major art forms of the Maltese Islands – the painted fishing boats.” After making a detailed field-sketch of each and every boat he came across in Malta 40 years or so ago, he produced a study of all the colour variations of these boats which are indeed very complex. The end result is a thorough piece of work in quantified aesthetics. This research remains fresh to this very day and stimulates further studies.

This book sets out to record one of the major art forms of the Maltese Islands – the painted fishing boats

Morris was born in Purton, North Wiltshire, the UK and currently lives in Oxford. Besides being a world-famous zoologist and ethnologist, authoring about 100 books, he is also a well-established surrealist painter with over 40 solo exhibitions under his belt. Over a period of 50 years in his career, he was entrusted with the production of close to 800 programmes for television.

Together with his wife Ramona, he came to live in Malta after the publication of The Naked Ape, which was an immediate bestseller.

One could say that our country has a special place in his heart not only because it was during his stay among us that he wrote and eventually published two other great books (The Human Zoo – 1969, and Intimate Behaviour – 1972), but also because it was here that his only son Jason was conceived and spent the first years of his life.

Last year, after the publication of Aquilina’s translation of Dinjet il-Qattus, the University of Malta honoured Morris with a Doctorate Honoris Causa.

The Boats of Malta – The Art of the Fishermen is a Faraxa Publication  and can be found in all leading bookshops.


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