The Maltese festa joining the ranks of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO

No. 221 - Intangible Feasts

File photo
File photo

What are we skinning? The Maltese festa joining the ranks of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Why are we skinning it? Because although I can understand the reasoning behind it perfectly, it still feels odd that something so tactile to our public life -- to even a sweatily olfactory degree -- is considered 'intangible'. And because it's a great honour worthy of announcement and celebration, of course.

Of course. Who are its classmates in this hall of fame? So far we have ftira and għana, whose 'illustrious ranks' the festa now joins, as per the culture minister's own words.

Funny that something so germane to our vernacular culture requires crowning by the global cultural hegemony. What can I say? Everyone needs their time under the sun.

But the festa is best experienced at night. But the ftira isn't. Indigestion does nobody any favours.

Speak for yourself. My pure-red (and blue) Maltese stomach lining has evolved to painlessly process ftira at any time of the day. I'm assuming the same goes for festa fireworks?

Yes. They don't even bother me if I'm fast asleep in the middle of the night. They probably morph into the sounds of both the Great Siege and the Blitz over Malta as you dream, becoming oneiric symbols of the island's resilience and resistance.

That's my own private intangible heritage right there. We should all have some locked up in the oiled and dusted komodina of our subconscious.

Do you think this nomination will alter the way the festa is experienced by the general populace? I certainly hope it doesn't gentrify the entire thing.

But wait, is pique and rivalry a part of the package? It would be a shame if it didn't. Dialectics has it that culture is kept fresh through the struggle of opposites: it is friction, not polite stasis, that keeps us all going and growing.

Tradition is all about stasis, though. That's one way to look at it.

The UNESCO stamp all but seals it. Look, Valletta is a UNESCO heritage site and it's hardly been immune to aggressive expansion over the decades. So I wouldn't worry too much.

Do say: "The recognition of the festa by UNESCO is a welcome accolade that pays tribute to all those who work tirelessly over the year to ensure that this mainstay of Maltese culture remains an active presence in our community."

Don't say: "The 'Illustrious Ftira' option at the boutique hotel gastro-bistro-restobar is totally worth it at seven euro a piece. I could feel the heritage in every bite."