Feasting my eyes on the freshly printed, gorgeously coloured, soft prints I could feel an urge growing inside me which was difficult to place or understand. Was I simply craving a soft ice cream or was it something deeper?
"But a walk in your local village is more than just a stroll"
I stood at the prints, eyes taking them all in – made a U-turn, headed down the steps of my townhouse, out the front door and into the streets. Instantly the heat trapped me, but I felt relieved. Gazing at the prints for so long gave me the instinct to head out into the Maltese summer, and a heatwave in the middle of August was just the cure for the craving. “Mort Passiġġata” as we would say, but a walk in your local village is more than just a stroll.
I opened those senses a little bit more and tuned into all those sounds that surround us. I slowly became a part of that scene. Listening to the footsteps, birds, occasional fireworks and just inhaling the environment, I was suddenly drawn to a fondly familiar noise which stole my attention. Right on cue, the chimes of a near distant ice cream truck blared around the square, and kids paced towards it.
An ice cream truck is more than just a yellow sugar filled van. A parent knew that once Grezzju arrived, the kids were going to be instantly happy for a mere 25c. Take yourself back to being a kid. There you are in the sweltering heat having fun splashing around in the sea and building sandcastles. You are having fun but slowly draining your energy. You probably broke down in tears a few times with mum and dad trying to calm you down. Nothing, and I mean nothing could be the hero that the ice cream truck was to you and your family.
As we moved into our adolescence, the truck still played its part in our lives. Andrew always ordered “Scoop strawberry bil-flake u bla karawett – imma bil-flake, ħabib” and his summer day was made. It is a priceless part of our summer, and this particular piece will also strike a chord with our foreign audiences. A quick little experiment in my house showed us the reaction we sought when I asked two German visitors which piece resonated with them the most. “Ah, we have this back home too” one mused… “and we love it too!” That ice cream man played the hero we all needed at some point in our lives, and as our villages grow and sprawl into cities, one hopes Grezzju keeps doing his rounds and making our days brighter and more innocent. . .
"Te fit-Tazza also presents us with the mighty paddle boat"
As if to knit the two ideologies together, Te fit-Tazza also presents us with the mighty paddle boat – the first form of vehicle for many of us. The liberty to leave the shore, captaining our vessel was the highlight of our childhood. We would alternate between paddling or helming, and let’s be honest – who did not love helming? Having your two best buddies exhaust their energy as you directed them to the sweetest cove and inlet near Għadira bay? Talking of Għadira – what about that light blue tone that sets this piece off? Jaw, meet floor. Good luck not drooling too.
"Its unique backdrop propping it up like a trophy"
In contrast to an emotional piece, we also have the subtle but brilliantly designed Bajtra tax-Xewk, with its unique backdrop propping it up like a trophy. And what a trophy indeed. One that has captured local imagination so much, we even bottle and sell traditional liquor. The story behind the fruit is that, like many of us on the islands, its routes come from afar. This unique celebration piece was chosen as Andrew was always fascinated by the heaps of colour his nannu brought home after a day out in the fields. That colour gradient is truly Mediterranean, and the wonderful backdrop sets this piece off, a trophy of Malta in your own living room.
"The boys felt like it needed more time in the incubation chamber"
The most outstanding piece in the new collection is full of movement, light and noise. How Craig managed to freeze this moment in time and offer us a Festa view from a distance is fascinating. The ground firework evolved from work which started a year ago, but the boys felt like it needed more time in the incubation chamber. Set on the slow cooker, the piece slowly grew in Craig’s mind, and the total eclipse happened when the backdrop was altered from day time to night time. Wrap this in a rose gold frame, and you will have yourself one of the only graphical illustrations of one of the most Maltese things imaginable – il-ġigġifoku– good luck googling that!
“Can I save this one?”
We’ve met the emotional pieces, childhood memories, and bizarre traditions – but I am saving a local treat for the end. Reach into your parents’ freezer. Dig deep beyond the frozen ravjul tal-irkotta and the smiles ice cream tubs (probably deceivingly fitted with fish pie), and grip that cold, hardened block of ice. Thaw it and reveal the item inside. Pink sausages. Yes, the jackpot and the unsung hero of all our beach barbeques. How many have you dropped into the sand and thought “Can I save this one?” No need to, as you and your friends always packed four packets and ketchup. Messy, but brilliantly easy to grill, eat and kill the hunger of a day roasting on the seaside.
This piece split the duo in half. Andrew insisted this Maltese favourite summer time snack was local enough to celebrate. Craig looked confused. How can I make these weird looking sausages (with God only knows what is actually in them) into something sexy enough to hang and call art? He thought. But he managed, even to fit the price tag on, which was clumsily put anywhere on the packaging reminding us just how cheap Maltese lifestyle truly is. “Iftaħ lager u sorted.”
This was where we saw Andrew’s Maltese stubbornness come into action. There was no way Te fit-Tazza would not release this snack – and even though this piece is a niche, it will be the talking point of your living room.
Written by Mark Strijbosch