Valletta: showcasing its inhabitants

The Valletta 2018 Foundation will explore what it means to be a Valletta resident – a ‘Belti’ – with a new project combining research and film photography, culminating with an exhibition starting at the end of the month and forming part of the Valletta International Visual Arts Festival (VIVA)

Who are the people living in Valletta? What does it mean to be a Belti? How do Beltin see their city? While Zvezdan Reljic photographed the twenty volunteers, these were the questions anthropologist Elise Pisani asked. There are many different ways to define what makes someone a Belti, there is no single legitimate definition. 

“Artists come to live in the old capital for its unique feel, its modernity deeply embedded in nostalgia. Some people fell in love in the city and then fell in love with the city. Others, ‘born and bred in the streets of the city’ claim that they have no home but Valletta,” Pisani said. 

(Silver gelatin lith print by Zvezdan Reljic)
(Silver gelatin lith print by Zvezdan Reljic)

The street life is in every one’s mouth. It’s “grandness”, its “five-star buildings”, or the playfulness of everyday encounters, the urban feel without the anonymity and loneliness.

However, Pisani adds that it “would be a mistake to think that every inhabitant of Valletta shares this pride like a decoration pinned on their chest”. 

(Silver gelatin lith print by Zvezdan Reljic)
(Silver gelatin lith print by Zvezdan Reljic)

“As some confess, they refrain from stating that they live in Valletta; but even those who keep their roots discreet still go out of their house to spend hours looking at the sea. 

“When in a melancholic mood they sit on St. Barbara’s bastions and when in love they meet at the breakwater. Whether emphatically proclaimed like a poem to life, or hidden like a shameful family secret, the city always penetrates the body and memory of its citizens,” Pisani says. 

Artist’s bio

Zvezdan Reljic is a publishing industry specialist with 30 years of hands-on experience in photography, pre-press, printing and graphic design. He graduated from the Graphic Arts School in Belgrade in 1983 with a specialisation in Photography Reproduction. During his career he worked for several pre-press, newspaper and magazine design departments. He currently holds workshops on black-and-white film photography and darkroom printing and is working on several of his own photography projects.

Researcher’s bio

Dr.Elise Billiard holds a Ph.D in Anthropology from the University of Aix-Marseille. She has also exhibited her photographs and installations in Germany, France, Roumania and Malta. In 2012, she published, with photographer David Pisani, a collaborative research project on Valletta’s City Gate entitled “Transit”. Last year they published another photographic project on Paceville and its public spaces, entitled “Night&Day”. Dr.Elise Billiard lectures at University of Malta.

The Beltin exhibition will take place at Heritage Malta, Melita Street, Valletta from August 31 to September 20 

More in Art