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Different perspectives on women in the arts

Learning from University of Malta Conference Tuesday 28 March 2023 at 10:23 am

by Nataša Pantović

As Malta approaches another Equinox, or Eastern, University ensures that the programme of events celebrate Woman’s Day with a cultural twist. The spring season brings another Conference entitled: ‘Different perspectives on women in the arts'.

The women’s activists fought for women’s right to work, to vote, and to have equal access to education. In 1882 in England, women were for the first time allowed to keep their own earnings, and were allowed into Oxford or Cambridge University much later. Change came at a snail’s pace.

We examined the fascination Oriental art and life in the Middle East held for European artists. What appears to have been a ‘golden cage’ carried an unusual amount of freedom. Oriental interiors, depicted usually in Constantinople (Istanbul) hid pictures of exotic, colourful Oriental carpets, servants bringing in entertainment, and the naked women bathing or resting on the carpets or sofas seemingly perfectly content.

However, in Europe women’s natural place was in the home, where she is protected from all danger and temptation. The man guards the woman from all, within his house. A luxurious enclosed life did not refer to a working class or a village women cultivating lands, or slaving away surrounded by many kids in a house with no electricity, no running water, with heavy loads to carry.

The pictures do say a lot more about male fantasies than the reality of life in a harem. Ottoman Princess Senila Sultan in a letter to her friend says: ‘The things they make up about us are unimaginable. They believe that we are slaves that we are shut up in chambers and left to die. We live in our cages, dressed in costumes of pink and light green satin and dance and sing songs, and even pipes of opium.’

This event was introduced by Dr Charlene Vella (Department of Art and Art History), and chaired by paintings conservator Rachel Vella. Dr Mark Sagona (Head of Department) delivered a welcoming note. Papers on varying topics on women in the arts were presented by Art History graduates Rachel Abdilla, Nadette Xuereb, Hannah Dowling, Fine Arts graduate Marie Claire Farrugia and textile conservator Leyre Quevedo Bayona.

Chairperson: Rachel Vella

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Italian Theatre Shamans

Learning from Lecture The Maltese and La Commedia Dell’Arte Sunday 26 February 2023 at 5:24 pm

Ancient Theatre   

by Nataša Pantović

Theatre is one of the oldest way of expression. It was at first a religious expression, meant to communicate with the Gods. A Scottish friend of mine Nicholas Jackman acted Macbeth, in the Shakespeare’s performance, at the Valletta’s Manuel Theatre this weekend. To be true to the play, at the time of our ancestors, the actors did believe in the witches they portrayed. To the audience, witches were a fact of life, real force manifestation, as real as the Hamlet’s ghost of his late father. That is why it is the most difficult to act a mad man.

In traditional societies the first shamans were our first actors. They improvised, channelling  subconscious states. What psychologist Jung found in alchemy (transforming metal into gold) is a precursor guide to the psychology of humanity.

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Ancient Ritual King Carni-val

Learning from Carnival in Malta Sunday 19 February 2023 at 1:59 pm


by Nataša Pantović

Carnival in the Middle Ages took not just a few days, but the period between Christmas and Lent. In those two months, of winter, when the most of the population rested from their usual hard agricultural work, populations celebrated.

The Roman Saturnalia, was a festival organised at the same time, with lots of food and drink, dress-up and parades. The social order was reversed and rules of behaviour were suspended, also a temporary King was crowned and everyone had to abide by his orders. Even today, participants elect a King Carnival.

Historically in Malta, this festival can be traced to the 1400s where we find the Universita’ issuing directives about the price of meat during carnival. 

With the arrival of the Grand Masters of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1530-1798), Carnival was recorded in 1535. At that time the festival was all about knights entering various tournaments. 

Ancient Ritual King Carnival

The two festivals share features of masks, role reversals, temporary social equality, and permitted rule breaking.

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Late Medieval Malta (1091-1530) & Knights of St John

Learning from the Lecture Siege of Malta 1429 & The Art Collections of the Order of St John, authored by Dr Theresa Vella Thursday 02 February 2023 at 1:20 pm

by Nataša Pantović

Yesterday I visited Mdina Cathedral, to listen to a talk of Prof Adrian Mario Gellel from the Faculty of Education from University of Malta about a Literacy project his Department is conducting with year one pupils of Primary Schools in Malta.

The five year old explored the themes provided by the 16th Century painting of Mattio Preti in Mdina Cathedral.

The idea behind the project is to allow the painting to come to life through symbols.


Public Lecture 1493 Mdina Siege the 16th Century painting of Mattio Preti in Mdina Cathedral

Malta Micro and Macro Historical Dynamics 

Standing mid-way between the western and eastern halves of the Mediterranean world with Sicily and Tunis 100 miles away, the place has a favourable position for multicultural interaction. A part of the Eastern Roman Empire or the Byzantines (sixth to ninth century, by 600 AC the island had a bishop subject to Syracuse), Musilim emirate (ninth to eleventh), Latin Christian Kingdom (11th to 13th cemtury) and Catalan-Aragonese affiliate (13th to 16th century). Malta boast a variaty of cultural experiences across two major divides: Muslim-Christian and Latin-Greek. Both Salini Bay cemeterial complex and St Paul’s Catacombs are Byzantine oratories. The basilica construction with a Christian baptistery, discovered at Tas-Silg was built on the site of an ancient Greek religious complex. 

In September of 1429, the population of the island was 10,000 to 12,000 with 4,000 able to fight with just two main fortifications: Fort St Angelo and the Mdina bastions.

It is recorded that the soldiers were called “Guardia”, who used to guard the shores, and the “Dejma”, who used to guard the villages.

The Egyptian chronicler wrote that the Lord of Tunis sent a fleet with 200 horses and 15,000 fighters to Sicily where they took the town of Mazara and they moved on to Mdina (Malta) which they kept besieging. After they took 3000 people into slavery the siege was lifted.

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The Mystics

Wednesday 25 January 2023 at 11:21 am

Worshiping Silence following the Mastery of the World’s Best Mystics we can touch Samadhi...

A-Ma Alchemy of Love by Nataša Pantović

What happens when you find a perfect note? What happens when you experience Samadhi listening to the perfect sound or observing a perfect painting? What happens when your expand to such an extend that it is blessed by , unexplainable, most subtle beauty?

your-highest-potential-is-waiting_blessing poem by Natasa Pantovic

Your Highest Potential is Waiting Blessing Poem by Natasa Pantovic

At a music concert of Armenian State Orchestra of around a 100 talented and for decades trained musicians a Master violinist took us to this magic state.

A grand piano recital of one of the best world pianist Grigory Sokolov entitled "The Legend is Back" took us onto a 3 hours journey through Haydn's sonatas and finished with 5 encores at midnight. While on this "single man on a piano" marathon, we as his audience stopped breathing with every pause he performed. He mastered his and the energy of entire Conference Centre crowd, taking us into the higher states of consciousness...

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