Thursday 5 May 2016

Light and Passion #FaeVisions

Guest post by Maria Grech Ganado

Għanja Bla Flus / A Free Song

Towards the Light, © Ġoxwa Borg, reproduced with permission
The migration issue was a distressful problem for the Mediterranean long before it became a world-wide one. Ġoxwa Borg, a Maltese artist living in Paris, captures in this painting, Towards The Light, a familiar scene which has provoked emotions in Malta beyond those of compassion for the suffering and the drowned. Controversies caused by the inability of such a small island to cope with the incessant boatloads arriving from Africa has provoked extreme xenophobia in many, and a sense of impotence in the sensitive caring. My poem seeks to address the latter with an imaginary picture of what could have been, in the long run, preferable to an escape from drowning—worse is the horror of finishing up in Malta’s Safi detention centre for immigrants. Here, overcrowded, unhygienic conditions are far from ideal, and violence can break out to further pollute these conditions’ not only between the guards and frustrated, exhausted, disillusioned, disorientated, unhappy, desperate survivors, but also among themselves. ‘Towards the Light’ indeed!

Il-Passjoni Ta’ San Ġorġ / The Passion of St George

Mattia Preti, St. George Victorious (1678)
What I call ‘the passion of St George’ is, of course, ironically meant to deride the chauvinistic attitude of the knight in the legend. His intention in saving the helpless damsel is to prove his courage and strength, and she is cast in an image of the chaste, modest, grateful woman Religion would have her be. In Catholic Malta, where every location celebrates its patron saint with boisterous pomp and gusto, St George presides over two big towns, one on the main island and another in Gozo. Mattia Preti’s commissioned paintings of the saint are more concerned with his valour vis-a-vis the dragon, and not at all with the poor damsel (another macho trait). It is the martyrdom of St. George the feasts are meant to commemorate. I have set things to rights in the poem by having the fiery woman preferring the advances of the passionate dragon.

Maria Grech Ganado’s poems “A Free Song” and “The Passion of St George” can both be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

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