One of the many challenges that I have experienced as a lecturer at the art college where I work (MCAST Art & Design) was during last year’s Christmas. I was given the task to coordinate a project that was quite different from our usual artistic and academic activities, and instead revolved around our religious traditions. His Excellency the President of Malta, Dr George Abela, had entrusted us with the design and production of a life size crib. The President decided to greet visitors of the Istrina 2011 entering the Verdala premises with the truest symbol of Christmas – a life size crib representing the Holy Family and the birth of Jesus Christ. Personally it was an experience that took me back in time and I could experience some of that Christmas spirit which was always present in my childhood, especially through my grandparents. It reminded me of a time when I used to help my grandpa in his workshop to prepare the plaster moulds to produce the nativity figures.
So the journey started in the beginning of October 2011 when we began to come up with the first ideas. My colleague Sarah and I came up with some initial sketches and developed them by discussing and taking opinions from our workshop lecturers, who excel in various disciplines, including metalwork, ceramics and textiles. Our crib consisted of five pieces, including the St Joseph, the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, the donkey and ox, all of them showing various skills and a combination of rich materials such as silk with more modest materials such as the burlap. In my opinion this combination made our crib more special, and gave a unique aesthetic quality to our nativity scene.
The challenge was even tougher thanks to the awful weather in which the team of staff and students had to work to set up the finished crib at the Verdala gardens entrance, as torrential rain and wind threatened to jeopardise the whole endeavor. This project could not have been possible without the main drivers of the production; my friends and colleagues Ms Anna Ancilleri, Mr Joseph Psaila, Mr Angelo Agius, Ms Sarah Mamo and some of our students. Below I’ve posted some snaps that highlight the ‘behind the scenes’ of the crib, better yet, if you live in Malta, you can see the actual crib that is going to be exhibited again this year for the Istrina 2012 activities at the Verdala Palace, Buskett. May you enjoy the experience and your Christmas holidays.