Heritage Malta is organising a lecture to explore the messages associated with a number of food-related carnival floats whose form and shape have been crystallised in a handful of images.
Cultural historians often argue that carnival festivals are rich of symbolic imagery. The revelling and its associated mockery of ‘normality’ can be an important source of information about ethnic consciousness. Such manifestations can reinforce the existing order, but can also criticise it depending on the circumstances.
At the core of the carnivalesque is a spirit of excess of enjoyment of all sorts of mundane, sensual pleasures. Excess in the form of food and drink form an integral part of this ‘battle between carnival and lent’. As part of the imminent inversion of penance, the kukkanja or the prinjolata immediately come to mind.
However, the symbolic imagery of food draws to new social and cultural meanings when food becomes the subject of carnival floats. As another source of Malta’s past, the use of food related themes as the subject of carnival floats raises questions that so far have remained unanswered. The theme of ‘the world turned upside down’ offers the researcher a possibility to open a window onto markers of Malta’s cultural identity.
The discussion revolves around the concept that the carnivalesque could not always be safely contained. The symbolic imagery has the power to travel beyond the set practices of this popular festivity. The occasion can be used in a variety of ways, allowing for taboo-breaking moments as well as an expression of novel and alternative ideas.
So what inspires artists to take food as the subject of a float in late-nineteenth and twentieth-century Malta? How does food and drink communicate a material culture that reflects the sign of times? How could these unnoticed sources further inform about Malta’s changing culinary culture?
The lecture on food, drink and carnival floats will be delivered in English by Dr Noel Buttigieg and will be held at the Inquisitor’s Palace and National Museum of Ethnography in Vittoriosa on Thursday 23rd February 2017. The event starts at 19.00hrs and attendance is free of charge.
For reservations, and more information, please call on 21827 006.