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Valletta statue depicting proverb gets tongues wagging online

Temporary art installation includes 13 statues dotted around the capital

'Il-ħuta ż-żgħira qatt ma kielet il-kbira'. Photo: Facebook/Greta Ellul Xuereb

'Il-ħuta ż-żgħira qatt ma kielet il-kbira'. Photo: Facebook/Greta Ellul Xuereb

A public art installation celebrating Maltese proverbs was unveiled in Valletta on Friday, with one statue prompting reactions ranging from puzzlement to sniggers.

'Min jidħol bejn il-basla u qoxritha jibqa' b'riħitha'. Photo: Facebook/Greta Ellul Xuereb'Min jidħol bejn il-basla u qoxritha jibqa' b'riħitha'. Photo: Facebook/Greta Ellul Xuereb

The 13 sculptures have been placed across the capital city, with each visually depicting a specific Maltese proverb. They form part of the Valletta 2018 project Kif Jgħid il-Malti.

Design creator Joel Saliba said that he hoped the installations would be "thought-provoking" and prompt people to reflect on Malta's national language.  

Installations vary from one of a prickly pear-headed figure looking at their watch ('Iż-żmien isajru l-bajtar') - to one of a minnow trying to swallow a far bigger fish ('Il-ħuta ż-żgħira qatt ma kielet lill-kbira') and another of an eyeball resting in a spoon ('L-ewwel ma tiekol l-għajn'). 

But it is a depiction of a figure bent over with their head caught in an onion ('Min jidħol bejn il-basla u qoxritha jibqa' b'riħitha') that got most tongues wagging on social media, due to the awkward positioning of its key figure. 

Photos of the statue, which has been placed in Castille Square outside the Prime Minister's office, prompted incredulity and mockery on Facebook, with users quick to post photoshopped memes and gifs in reaction. 

"Imagine all the creative selfies," one user wrote, as others joked about its accompanying plaque warning viewers "do not mount". 

Others thought the criticism unwarranted, saying the installation was "unique and interesting" and the criticism childish. 

"Quite said to think that the public had already appreciated nudity in art in the renaissance period, but some can't see a bum 500 years later in 'modern' times," wrote one Facebook user. 

The temporary installation, which is supported by the Valletta 2018 Foundation, is the work of Mr Saliba, Margaret Pace and Ikona Artworks Ltd. Sarah-Lee Zammit helped with research, with Chris Galea providing logistic support and Perry Scenic Ltd. tasked with manufacturing the designs. 

'Min jorqod bil-ġuħ joħlom bil-ftajjar'. Photo: Facebook/Greta Ellul Xuereb'Min jorqod bil-ġuħ joħlom bil-ftajjar'. Photo: Facebook/Greta Ellul Xuereb

'Minn widna jidħol u mill-oħra joħrog'. Photo: Facebook/Greta Ellul Xuereb'Minn widna jidħol u mill-oħra joħrog'. Photo: Facebook/Greta Ellul Xuereb

'Il-baqra kollha tinbiegħ'. Photo: Facebook/Greta Ellul Xuereb'Il-baqra kollha tinbiegħ'. Photo: Facebook/Greta Ellul Xuereb

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