Words by Mark Strijbosch
A mixed bag of words and ideas rolled off his tongue. He would not stop talking. If you took a blender and shoved all your thoughts in it and hit the MAX button, you would get a split second of Andrew Farrugia, and truth be told when he cockblocked me during an evening chatting up a girl labelling himself “a pain in the ass”, I felt I had to let him speak. And what a conversation. Once you sort out the heads from the tails, the F-words from the Illalus, this self-proclaimed asshole reveals himself in fine spirits. I decided a chat with him was not going to only happen on the steps of Café Society, after an epic Heyday event. I invited him to Casa Stribe for a balcony chat… and I could not wait to get started.
Andrew, so truly Maltese, bubbling with passion simply loves being Maltese. It is a part of his identity, and this is not just for his love of his favourite Pink Sausages, highlighted also in a humorous way a piece of art by Te fit-Tazza which he often singles out for praise. “The best thing about being Maltese is the freedom we have.” As fireworks cannoned over us, he then mulled. “Island life is stemmed in our past – it’s a little cheesy but no one can take it away from us.” Our freedom is important to Andrew who adds, “We shouldn't have all this pressure, we are not in a rat race.”
“We have a lot of potential and it is up to us to use it,” he continued. “You can travel the world, but what we have here is extremely different. People can be happy here, it is not that hard because of what we have and how cheap and chilled our lifestyle is, with amazing things that we can achieve together.” He feels that through creativity many can be happy, but they must also alter their perspective to focus on the incredible things the islands here have to offer.
"Rather than sticking his face on a political poster..."
Never have I met someone who spoke so highly about Malta, at such a long length. Rather than sticking his face on a political poster, Andrew wants to change Malta in an artistic way, by celebrating her as an incredible island. He is doing so in a way which is captivating a large audience. When Te fit-Tazza launched with its traditional Luzzu, a popular debut piece, he never expected such a huge response. People lapped the art pieces up and suddenly this guy from Malta had a reputation and a name. He wants to showcase his love for his island even if “we have a bit of a dark side because we do not fully understand how good we have it here.”
Te fit-Tazza, Maltatype, artwork from Mark Scicluna and more show that we have moved on from the mocking culture of our islands to a glorified one. “Sites like onlyinmalta.com documented Malta and mocked her as it was the easiest thing to do. A good art piece takes time, and our collections took time but also gave us a good showcase of our unique identity and some can be tongue in cheek, like our love for Pink Sausages”
[Side note readers, he brought with him a bag of these sausages, chucked them on the barbeque as we chatted. His love for them is real, even if he is not too sure on their nutritious value, their nostalgic value makes up for it!]
Andrew himself is never shy to admit he dropped out on the University idea a couple of weeks before his 2nd-year finals. Admitting that to his Mum, a typical loving mother who always encouraged him to find his feet was the toughest part, but his education did not stop there.
"He chose instead to jet off to Japan"
He chose instead to jet off to Japan meaning he had to suspend his studies and eventually his thirst for travel led him into shelving the University idea altogether. “Suspending my studies was frustrating and to me made no sense because my time in Japan taught me way more than what I would have learned by living at home attending lectures.” – He wishes the education system would cater more for pupils who wanted to further their education abroad, as the way it looks on paper; Andrew did not carry on his studies. “While abroad, out of your comfort zone, and actually learning a trade related to your work, University should support you and not force you to quit.”, he barked.
His life in Asia would change him forever. Here he felt he needed to stand on his own two feet, completely independent of an easy Maltese society, which is much more tightly knit and dedicated to helping each other. In Japan, “I switched my interests from economics to marketing and focused on discovering this new culture and traveling.” This switch in interest is the key to his life now, and Te fit-Tazza is a result of that change of heart.
At 17/18 years old typical students start making life decisions about where they want to be in life, but they never ever take time to focus on the self, and the self to Andrew is the most important. “Being self-aware of what you need is important in life and the fact that the local education system does not cater for it only contributes a frustration felt by some individuals who perhaps want to focus on their creative streak without falling into the traditional units of study.”
If you thought Japan would have been enough for him, you are mistaken. He only developed a thirst for life and traveling while there and was quick to pick his next destination. Andrew packed up again and headed westwards, this time landing in Canada, where he worked in the Apple’s flagship store in Montreal. “Here is where I learned about the importance of company culture, and this is something I strive to keep at Te fit-Tazza.”
Te fit-Tazza is now still in its infancy. They are celebrating their 1st birthday, but in truth it took Andrew and Craig 18 months to get it up and running and are indeed still working on their company culture, maintaining that having fun remains at the heart of their intentions.
When you spend more than two minutes with Andrew, you can quickly see his different passions. He is not hard to read and talks happily about Malta, culture and just having fun. Put those three elements into a shaker, go wild on it, and pour out a Te fit-Tazza.
Now, his company and ideas are on the tips of people’s tongues and despite having never imagined it, Andrew himself is engaging his own audience and people are reacting to him. “This is shocking even to me”, he bounced “as I would have never thought that a dude like me would make something out of himself, particularly not while studying economics, but God knows where I would have ended up had I carried on with my studies in that field. . .”
He gazed slightly at the full moon, grabbed another Cisk and said, “Fuck it, didn't learn much at University, which is a pity but indirectly I learned loads and I unlocked a very important part of my life: discovering new things and the importance of traveling and learning.”
The pressure of the education system throws us all into that rat race, and we often end up doing things we do not like, in order to satisfy people or systems we don’t like.
One barbeque set on the roof of an old townhouse in Isla between two people who love a good chat could not have been more Te fit-Tazza. We shared Pink Sausages, enjoyed fireworks, mulled over our childhoods while washing our thoughts down with a Cisk. It was an incredible evening, backed by a huge full moon over Birgu and getting to know Andrew really excited me and quenched a thirst to know what it really feels to be fully Maltese.
After getting to know his story and background I felt a little pinch. If Andrew is so cool, who knows what I can pry open from designer Craig Macdonald. . . the other half of this incredible story.