I will be reading a paper, chairing a session and reading some of my poetry from Xufftejk Spjegati/Deciphered Lips (Verbal Arts Centre, Derry, 2013) at the Mediterranean Fractures -Contested Pasts, Unrealised Futures’ two-day symposium on 5-6 November 2015 at the University of Malta Valletta Campus. This major international event is being organised by the Mediterranean Institute, University of Malta in collaboration with the Centre for Postcolonial Research, University of Kent and the Associazione Italiana di Studi sulle Culture e Letterature di Lingua Inglese (AISCLI). The coordinator is Dr Norbert Bugeja. The Mediterranean Fractures symposium is organised with the support of the Ministry for Education and Employment.
Adrian Grima | A Franco-Maltese Mediterranean Synthesis in Colonial North Africa
In the late 1930s, the bimonthly paper Melita published in Sousse by Maltese émigrés in French North Africa, some self-proclaimed “Franco-Maltese” in Algeria and Tunisia carried a string of articles both exploring and promoting ideas about shared a Mediterranean culture or “Mediterranean synthesis.” They were directly inspired by writers like Gabriel Audisio who started publishing his trilogy of books about the Mediterranean in 1935 with Jeunesse de la Méditerranée, and perhaps by Albert Camus, who made his speech on “The New Mediterranean Culture” at the opening of the Maison de la culture in Algiers in 1937. This sort of Mediterraneanist narrative would not have been digestible in Malta, where it would have been associated, like Luigi Ugolini’s book on Malta: Origini della civilità mediterranea (1934) and the articles appearing in Archivio Storico, with Mussolini’s expansionist project.
The pivotal figure in the construction of this Mediterranean imaginary among the North African diaspora Maltese was the writer Laurent Ropa, who kept in close touch, like other contributors to Melita, with influential writers in Malta and attempted to connect this discourse with what was being said about Maltese cultural identity in Malta.
A postcolonial reading of this Mediterraneanist discourse in Melita allows us to investigate the implications of such a narrative at a time when the Mediterranean’s main colonial powers, Italy and especially France, were using “Mediterranean culture” to legitimate their colonial project. It allows us to reassess the lofty ideals of these contested European narratives and how they have undermined the construction of an alternative Mediterranean.
Two Booker-shortlisted novelists, foremost Mediterranean scholar to address the Mediterranean Fractures symposium
Writers Hisham Matar (US) and Abdulrazak Gurnah (UK), both shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and recipients of numerous international literary accolades, will be delivering the keynote speeches at the forthcoming Mediterranean Fractures international symposium, hosted by the Mediterranean Institute of the University of Malta. They will be joined by foremost writer, cultural critic, ethnographer and documentary film-maker Stephanos Stephanides (Cyprus), widely recognised as one of the leading poets and scholars of the Mediterranean region, as keynote speaker. Mr Matar will also be giving an open public lecture during his stay in Malta. Earlier this year, he will be participating in the 2015 edition of the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival organised by Inizjamed.
A message from Dr Norbert Bugeja, Convenor:
It’s been a uniquely exciting and productive past week in Valletta. The Mediterranean Fractures International Symposium brought us together in a new momentum of debate and replenished avenues for intellectual, activist and writerly engagement around both our respective and shared Mediterranean(s). There has been substantial and sincere debate, cross-disciplinary range and formidable content across panels as well as (Abdulrazak Gurnah’s,Stephanos Stephanides‘, Hisham Matar‘s and Iain Chambers’) keynote addresses. It has, by now, become tradition for the Fractures to conclude with a poetry and narrative recital: the ‘Wor(l)ding the Mediterranean: Writers in Session’ creative gig at symposium’s end captured hearts and minds — the many of you who were there, know 🙂
This project will, I believe, travel far. It’s heartening to see so many excellent people climbing aboard and getting involved in this. We’re of course very happy to have hosted this edition at the Mediterranean Institute in Malta and are now looking forward to taking ahead, through the various initiatives announced at the Symposium and beyond these, this travelling collaboration between the Institute, Kent, AISCLI and other future stakeholders, and to seeing the Symposium itself happening soon in other places. We have taken upon ourselves new expectations to live up to, and renewed efforts to contribute a lasting value to the places, spaces, people, histories, literatures, conditions we feel for and are concerned about: let’s take this forward.
The Symposium was kindly supported by the MInistry for Education and Employment and the Culture Directorate, Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government, and the opening address was delivered by the Hon. Evarist Bartolo, Minister for Education and Employment. I wish to thank the many people who have made this possible through their constant support, advice, mentorship, activity, wisdom, presence at the symposium and generous spirit: Evarist Bartolo, John Chircop, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Stephanos Stephanides, Hisham Matar, Iain Chambers, Annalisa Oboe, Joseph A Borg, Adrian Grima,Desiree Cassar, Lucienne Bugeja, Veronica Barbara, Bashir Abu Manneh, Lindsey Moore, Alev Adil, Marilena Zackheos, Aydin Mehmet Ali, Bahriye Kemal, Nicoletta Demetriou, Amanda Skamagka, Zbigniew Białas, Luigi Cazzato, Ellada Eva, Julia Szoltysek, Ronald Borg,Sebastian Saliba, Stella Borg Barthet, Jacqueline Jondot, Denise deCaires Narain, Yasemin Sahin, Jean Paul Baldacchino, Elena Cardona, Lou Drofenik, Isabelle Abela and so many others who were of support in one way or another. Below, meanwhile, are some images. More very soon.