Don’t let Gozo’s size fool you – there’s lots to see and do in 2018 if you love the arts!
1. Spend a night at the opera
Gozo and opera go together like love and marriage, tea and biscuits, wine and cheese. The capital Victoria boasts two outstanding theatres – the Teatru Astra and the Teatru Aurora, where music, dance, and opera are performed by internationally-renowned artists to full houses. Audiences from Malta usually book their tickets and hotel rooms months in advance, so they can enjoy the fully staged productions the theatres put up at least once a year. And while the Teatru Aurora celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017, the Teatru Astra will be marking its 50th in 2018, with two performances of La Traviata on 25th and 27th October.
2. Travel back in time
The Gozo ferry from Cirkewwa to Mgarr may not be the Tardis, but there’s no doubt Malta’s sister island evokes the spirit of the past in its respect for history. And this is reflected in her museums, such as the Old Prison Museum in the Citadel. Situated adjacent to the Courts of Justice, the old gaol hosts a permanent exhibition and allows visitors to experience the cells which were used from the mid-16th until the beginning of the 20th century. If you’d rather see how non-convicts lived, just walk to the Folklore Museum, which hosts a wide range of details exhibiting the minutiae of the run-of-mill daily lives of those who lived through those times. If that’s still too modern for you, the Gozo Museum of Archaeology displays remnants of thousands of years of Gozitan history, from ancient stone carvings to relics of the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and medieval Christians, who all made this island their home for a while.
3. Take an art workshop
The three hills of Gozo may have been painted by famous artists and transformed into poetic verse, but what if you wanted to create your own work of art to take home with you? Well, Hermine Sammut, an artist from Austria, who made the island her home, allows you to do just that. She organises art workshops, held in English or German, linking the power of the painted image with the magic of the Gozitan landscape. Another outfit, Gozo Adventures, organises classes out on location, taking full advantage of Gozo’s natural riches in the creation of your own. If painting is not your thing, they also organise metal-work sessions, showing you the basic techniques in a half-day session, or, for the more dedicated, delving into sophisticated methods in a three-day course.
4. Practice your photography
There are so many photo opportunities in Gozo, you just won’t know where to point your camera. Photography tours are officially a thing though, and aim to get you snapping the best images of megalithic stone, verdant panoramas, the honeycomb of salt pans, and the sharp blue of bays and tiny coves. Gozo Adventures offer the service, as do Moby Dives who have enlisted the help of award winning photographer Pete Bullen, to guide you on getting the best shots.
5. Dress to spook at the carnival
When you think of Carnival, bright float parades and fluorescent frilled dancers may come to mind. But, the spontaneous carnival in Nadur, Gozo (so called since it is not organised by a committee) is like nothing you’ve experienced before: there no rules, except for one: anything goes! When does it start? When the sun goes down. When does it end? When it ends. The grotesque, the humorous and the satirical throng the tiny village streets, in a frenzied celebration of life and death.
6. Dance to the music
Victoria Arts Festival
Opera is not the only music you can expect to hear in Gozo. The Victoria Arts Festival, which has been organised for the past 20 years, has introduced all sorts of chamber music to audiences (free of charge) in a five-week long event jam-packed with concerts, music masterclasses and workshops. And that’s not all: 2018 will also see jazz soar through Gozitan streets with Ida Kelarova’s Jazz Famileja on the 10th March, when Czech and Slovak musicians come together to collaborate on a music formation linking Romani harmonies and Latin-American rhythms to the sound of a jazz band.
7. Walk in the temple of giants
Ok, so Gozo may not look like the place where anything gigantic can take one step, let alone walk. But, according to local folklore, a giantess slept with a local man (though, it’s difficult to figure out how that may have worked…) and had a child. With the child on her shoulder, she built the megalithic temple complex called Ggantija. While the truth may be less legendary, the site itself evokes a mythological past. Older than the pyramids, this ancient place of worship still attracts thousands seeking answers from the cosmos.
8. Watch some shadow puppetry
Stories of heroes and damsels in distress, fierce animals and friendly giants: bed time stories could always be told using just your hands, a bit of light and shade, and a plain wall. But, the age-old craft of shadow puppetry is about to get an upgrade in Ghajnsielem, Gozo. Años Luz, a performance organised at the beginning of March as part of the events linked to Valletta Capital of Culture 2018, will be merging reality and dream in a performance based on traditional and contemporary shadow techniques to create a world full of music, colour and image.
9. Move your body
Physical movement is on display in Gozo with pop-up activities happening all over the island. ‘Shake it!’ is one of these, and will see street traditional games brought back into the communities. An exhibition with a more architectural bent is ‘Square’, which reflects on the reality of overcrowding and of the way our bodies interact with physical spaces, by means of images of 36 members of the public dressed in black and white and set in six rows and six lines across various locations on the island. While actual participation in the event is not compulsory, the shots will be exhibited as part of the Valletta 2018 programme.
10. Keep an eye out for site-specific exhibitions
Gozo is blessed with museums, prehistoric temples and deep cultural experiences which will bring you closer to a purer pastoral lifestyle. And this year, it’s also the place of various site-specific exhibitions. Artistic curator Rosa Martinez, the first female director of the Venice Biennale in 2005, will be setting up a project called Constellation Malta which utilises the Citadel in Vittoriosa (as well as other locations in Malta) to reflect upon points, routes and itineraries which navigate contemporary contexts. Fragmenta Malta will also be using local spaces to engage with art and ask some of the most pressing questions of our time. And, if you’re a movie buff, be sure to catch the Solar Cinema: a mobile solar-powered cinema offering a curated programme focusing on the themes of the environment and sustainability.