The fierce glare of the sun. The ocher-colored tones that adorn the island’s medieval architecture. The unimaginable blue of the Mediterranean Sea.
And perhaps most shocking - the graffiti.
“The Mediterranean Door,” a mural by the French street artist MTO, at a parking lot in Sliema, Malta. The artist was inspired by migrants who strive to find a better life in Europe. Credit Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
Most cities around the world denounce, or grudgingly tolerate, painting on public property. But on the Mediterranean island of Malta, the process is encouraged.
In the shade of a pedestrian bridge, where old men and women sit on the concrete benches, staring out to sea, a wall has been splashed with color and the spray-painted words “NO WAR.”
The phrase is part of a mural of a crying child carrying a teddy bear that’s been shot in the head.
A spray-painted mural depicting a crying child carrying a teddy bear that’s been shot in the head, by the artist James Grimaud. Credit Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
This wall, like many on the island, was earmarked by the local council for street art.
Malta is so fond of what other cities would call graffiti, a government agency, Arts Council Malta, teaches street art in schools and even in some retirement homes.
James Grimaud, the artist who painted the antiwar mural, teaches students to sketch, make stencils and use spray paint.
Sandra Borg, of the arts council, said the street art projects “engage with numerous communities and contribute directly to urban regeneration.”
Left, a mural by James Grimaud, depicting the Monopoly man riding a cart driven by four oxen, on the walls of abandoned buildings in the White Rocks area of Pembroke, Malta. Credit Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
The island’s streets had traditionally been dotted with works of devotional art, depicting figures like the Virgin Mary, and Mr. Grimaud said “there isn’t a history of vandalism on the island.”
That might be part of why the modern murals, which are more likely to focus on political corruption or the commercialization of the island, are still treated with a kind of secular reverence.
Graffiti depicting Donald J. Trump is seen here on the wall of an abandoned building of the White Rocks complex in Pembroke, Malta. Credit Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times