Coordinator: University of Malta, Department of Arts, Open Communities and Adult Education within the Faculty of Education
Research Team: Prof Raphael Vella (Malta Project Lead), Prof Milosh Raykov, Dr Isabelle Gatt, Dr Karsten Xuereb, Margerita Pulè
Local Stakeholder: Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)
Artists: Raphael Vella (project lead), Giola Cassar, Luke Azzopardi, Sarah-Maria Scicluna
Participants: Habtom Tsigehans, Tesfay Simon, Helen Adhanom, Edith Flore, Precious Orogun, Daniel Okoegwale, Major Sium Yimesghen
Explored Media: photography, screen-printing, sewing, fashion
Study February -July 2020
How can collaborative art workshops bring people from different backgrounds together in a community-building process that simultaneously advocates for social justice, empowerment and civic engagement?
How can this artistic advocacy be promoted beyond the parameters of the workshops?
The project Suitable Citizens brought together a group of participants from different African countries and local artists and educators to produce various artefacts: photographs, screen printed tote bags, scarves, face masks and a large group textile artwork mixing stencilling with collage and painting.
The Suitable Citizens project engaged with the challenges of integration and inclusion of third country nationals in arts events and projects. It aimed to bring artists and non-professionals together to work in a non-hierarchical process of co-creation, and to study the impact of participatory art on societal challenges related to a sense of belonging and citizenship. Amid prejudice against migrants, the project aimed to empower third-country nationals through the training of creative skills.
The project was a collaboration with the local branch of the Jesuit Refugee Service – an NGO which works with migrants to provide practical support and advocate for their rights in Malta. JRS brought participants to the project through their networks, taking note of potential participants’ language, availability and interest in creativity.
One of the participants was trained in filmmaking. He documented the process through photography and videography - this is his short film of the process.
In Suitable Citizens, a valuable lesson learnt has been the importance of co-creation and collaborative work in group projects. As the participants warmed up to each other and the artists, they participated in various activities without giving too much thought to the sense of 'authorship' that is so often associated with art-making. They took photos of each other, helped to print each other's images on paper or fabric, cleaned each other's screens and ironed tote bags, regardless of whether the image on the bags had been produced by them or not. At the end of one of their screen printing exercises, they shared images with each other, so that they would keep memories of each other alive even after the project. Having a laugh together over coffee or lunch contributed to creating an informal environment that was beneficial in the more creative and task-oriented parts of the sessions.
Photos: Elisa von Brockdorff