The small island nation of Malta is famous for many, many things. It has long been a favourite destination of tourists, with its warm climate, cool ocean breeze, and beautiful scenery. It’s been a favourite place for other nations to take over as well, given its favourable location, and has been occupied by almost all of the major players of Europe at one time. But since 2013, Malta has been occupied by something much cooler than old European brigades. It’s been taken over by street artists.
The Malta Street Art Festival actually started elsewhere on the island, in the town of Sliema as the Sliema Street Art Festival. The smaller town feel, even in one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries on the planet, made an ideal location: more space to spread out, far enough away that people would travel away from the nation’s capital to see the art, and an opportunity to create a tight-knit community.
The small start worked wonders and, in 2013, the festival’s community decided to take over the capital of Valletta, expanding out so that the impact and festivities could be experienced by even more people. And so the Sliema Street Art Festival turned into the Malta Street Art Festival, and with the new name, things began to grow and change.
The festival in Malta was a bigger affair than previous street art festivals in the area, and has since grown outside the realm of just street art. All along the promenade, the festival set up four stages where local and visiting musicians played anything from reggae to rock and roll. A market for local vendors was also set up, letting locals sell their creations and giving visitors a chance to leave with more than photographs of the stunning artwork being made.
The extra space afforded by moving to Valletta gave the organizers a chance to create a skate park directly on the beach, which local skaters and riders used during the three-day festival set in the heat of the summer sun. Another cool thing they set up was a series of cars and trucks along the seafront, which artists could give a fresh coat of paint and give the vehicles a truly unique look.
For the 2015 festival, the organizers decided to go with a theme that strikes home for Malta: knights. Since the island nation has a long history of military incursions, it gave artists a chance to dive deep into what makes Malta a unique country in history. A literal battlefield was present and light shows were put on to entertain and amaze.
Street art festivals, like the one in Malta, show how international and inclusive street art can be. It’s more than simply putting paint to a wall. It’s about fostering a community, celebrating local flavours, and giving people the space to express themselves creatively, whatever their chosen medium may be. And with the Malta Street Festival, that feeling will hopefully be around, every summer, for years to come.