Carmen Zarb - Malta Playing Arts

Carmen Zarb

As the fifth entry, this card completes the five senses with a floral smell, and the card’s bottom half (reverse) includes our sixth sense: extrasensory perception. The preceding cards each individually explored a sense in order of taste, touch, sight and hearing, the last presently absent.

With a population of 425,384 (31 Dec. 2014), family and ties are intrinsic to Maltese society. Here, two young families – Maltese hosts (top) and the visiting Maltese Diaspora (reverse) – are exchanging cards with each other. Collectable trading cards have been around since the 1880s, first produced by tobacco manufacturers, later by confectionery and gum makers, with many of the early cards featuring sports stars. Artists trading cards (ATCs) are miniature artworks exactly the same size as playing cards, that is, 8.9×6.4cm or 3½x2½inches. The modern ATC movement re-surged in 1997 and is credited to Swiss artist M. Vänçi Stirnemann. Worldwide, artists create and trade, not sell, their ATCs at organised swap events or online. As is the case with the images in this set, ATCs can be of any medium, material or technique.

The invitation cards (→4♠) have arrived which were posted by the Maltese hosts (father, mother, child), represented by Isla’s iconic guard tower (gardjola), endemic ‘national’ flower (widnet il-baħar [literally: the sea’s ear; Maltese rock-centaury]) and ‘national’ bird (merill [blue rock thrush]), the last two are still not gazetted (May 2015). On the reverse, the Diaspora family is dialling Malta’s international country code with a spade calling a spade, and with their new outfits ready, they are good to go and visit the islands.

(text by Margit Waas)