black JKR As the last strokes of the bells ring and fashionably late Mediterranean-style, the harlequin joker (watercolour, 19.5×15.5cm) strides down the plank and instantly seems to jest “Mela, only in Malta!”. Mela is a much overused filler and, with inflections, minutes-long conversations can be sustained solely on the strength of this disyllable. “Only in Malta!” – often answered with a sigh by “Malta Diżastru TOTALI [total disaster]” – is a common expression, a so-named Facebook page has existed for years. This recurring catch-cry refers to local state of affairs which should not be so, are bungled up and which Maltese perceive would not occur elsewhere. Grinning nearly from ear-to-ear, this joker is holding his belly [LOL] and dressed as a colourful jester clad in a vest with the Maltese cross (→Back below). He is Maltese-style laidback, a relaxed ferryman (barklor) with outstretched thumb and index awaiting a contribution – a silver coin, the dead’s payment to cross the river to be allowed to enter paradise – dues have to be paid, mela, before taking anyone onboard. He stands in front of a water taxi (dgħajsa), the Maltese equivalent of a Venetian gondola, usually multicoloured (→2♥), here sinisterly monochrome [feeling blue, ‘Anyone’ (→Box flap), that the Maltese arts are ending their play?], with a last glance of heavenly Mdina (→6♦).
(text by Margit Waas)