My essentials: Rachel Baldacchino’s cultural picks

No 68 | Rachel Baldacchino, 40, educator, writer, researcher

Photo by Julian Vassallo
Photo by Julian Vassallo

1. Book

The Moomin cartoon books of Finnish author, painter and illustrator Tove Jansson (1914-2001) are what I will read over and over again. The Moomins are a family of hippo-like trolls from the Nordic Valley of Moomin. They have many friends in curious abodes across the valley where they explore, love, connect, clash, rebel, fail and seek comfort. I continue to return to anything that Jansson has drawn or written, from short stories to comics, memoirs and paintings, because of her tact and agility with humour and craft and because she keeps the child in me curious and alive.

2. Film

Last year I came across My Survival as an Aboriginal (1979), the first documentary directed by an Indigenous woman, Essie Coffey (1941-1998), a Muruwari filmmaker and co-founder of the Western Aboriginal Legal Service. It documents the history of the displaced communities of Brewarrina in New South Wales and has stayed with me because of Coffey’s captivating presence. I loved watching her teach the children of Brewarrina reserve how to hunt and cook porcupines and echidnas, quench thirst with eucalyptus leaves and to always suspect the education they receive in school.

3. Internet/TV 

Podcasts have improved the way I think and learn. Amongst my favourites is Cree journalist Connie Walker’s investigative podcast Missing and Murdered (2016 - 2018), which forms part of a wider movement in the US and Canada to raise awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) through the dissemination of information, mobilising people in marches and protests against institutional racism, building databases of the missing and conducting domestic violence training and information sessions for the police.

4. Music 

The music I listen to comes from my friend Francesca Mangion who archives cultural sources in a most inspiring, meticulous manner. She recently gave me Silvia Tarozzi and Deborah Walker’s treasure of an album, Canti di guerra, di lavoro e d’amore (Unseen Worlds, 2022). Tarozzi and Walker are rigorous string players. This is their contemporary classical reinterpretation of mondine protest songs from 1930s rural Emilia. Mondine were women who worked the rice fields of Northern Italy and sang about work, love, oppression, violence and the need for political awareness.

5. Place

I will go to any public library and linger, not necessarily to read or write but simply for quiet time. In the past, libraries were viewed as male spaces so I do not take for granted my presence, as a Southern Mediterranean woman, in a library. I visit the local library in Qala, where I live. I go to the children’s library in Rabat, Gozo to look at picture books. I am not often proud of where taxpayers’ money ends up but local libraries give me hope, I see a lot of what democracy can look like in them.