Four Knights proposed for Valletta entrance

Bas-relief ‘commemorating the Knights of Malta’ proposed for Valletta entrance, where Austin Camilleri’s Zieme is currently located.

Artist's impression of the proposed project in Republic Street
Artist's impression of the proposed project in Republic Street
The project's original location in Pjazza De Vallette
The project's original location in Pjazza De Vallette

Just days after Austin Camilleri’s sculpture Zieme was unveiled – a parody of pompous equestrian sculptures – a MEPA notice was affixed right behind it, announcing the approval of a bas-relief structure ‘commemorating the Knights of Malta’.

Commissioned by the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation and designed by John Grima, the plans suggest a ‘traditional’ sculpture that jars with the clean, minimalist look of the refurbished City Gate, depicting a quartet of Knights sculpted in bronze, in a pose that suggests they’re locked and ready for battle.

The project was originally slated to be installed near St Catherine of Italy Church overlooking Piazza De Vallette on 26 March, but on 12 August it was moved to Republic Street, in the same position where Camilleri’s sculpture now stands.

The project is currently pending approval.

Camilleri’s sculpture is slated to remain in Republic Street until 5 October, as part of the Valletta International Visual Arts festival – VIVA.

‘Austin Camilleri’s sculpture takes off from a simple premise: the fact that Malta, unlike other countries in northern Europe, has no equestrian monuments. In equestrian monuments, the horse carries representatives of power on its back and hence is somewhat symbolic of power itself,’ the VIVA programme reads.

‘His horse thus refers to Malta’s historic links with other colonial powers, yet its location in front of Valletta’s new Parliament building designed by Renzo Piano supplements it with rich, additional layers of meaning. Still, a missing detail in this horse transforms the sculpture into an ironic testimony to the illusory nature of power. His loss makes him no longer productive.’

“I was struck by the work, especially since it is located in front of the parliament building,” Culture Minister Owen Bonnici said of Zieme during a press conference commemorating VIVA.

“As a member of that same parliament myself, this got me thinking: could it be that an institution that was previously the main source of power has now lost some of that power? Maybe it’s the media – and especially social media – that wields real power right now.

“I’m glad that the sculpture can lead to this kind of debate,” Bonnici added.

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