Moira Zahra




Last week I officially started on my practice research project. I started reading, doing interviews, and drawing. Yes it was pretty much everything all at one go, and the reason being that I have an upcoming collective mid-term exhibition at Edinburgh College of Art, where I’m presently an artist in residence. My initial idea was just to show experiments during this exhibition, but now that I’ve started doing interviews, I think my work can be informed. Although I had created sketches before doing interviews, the information that I have collected so far has influenced the final pieces mainly in colour, texture and perspective changes. 

So far I’ve done a Skype interview with Daniela Debono, an expert on the immigration-human-rights nexus, as well as carried out several email interviews (which will be followed by Skype interviews next week) with Maltese creatives who are living/working abroad or who had lived/worked abroad in the past. My questions are to do with identity, its fluid layers, and how this has/had changed / adapted when they moved from their home country to an adoptive one. Certain opinions and answers will influence further drawings and work, while other will make it to the final research paper, depending on relevance.

From my initial 10 interviews I can already see a pattern, and that is in the word ‘outsider’ which features in about 50% of responses at the moment. This is in answer to ‘Do you feel Maltese?’. I have to say it’s quite interesting, especially when one of the interviewees mentioned that she feels more at home when she’s abroad on holiday rather than when she’s in Malta. Even more interesting is that those who are of a mixed nationality tend to say they feel more Maltese. How and why does one feel like an outsider in their own home country? Is this only limited to creatives, because they tend to search for the unknown? Is this only relevant to Maltese locals, or is age a big factor here? I’m still in the early phases of my research to generate any conclusions of course, but I felt it’s important to note this very early pattern.

I looked at my sketches after doing these initial interviews and I noticed that the theme I was working on (which reflects my own experience of multilayered identity) is that of people being on the edge of the picture, near a window, or looking away from the viewer. This was quite an interesting observation because it seemed to reflect the feeling of being an ‘outsider’. 

I am presently reading ‘Immigration and identity’ Turmoil, Treatment and Transformation by Salman Akhtar and awaiting more interview answers. I will note my findings on this blog once I have more information. I will also be setting up project-specific social media accounts in the coming weeks.

This project is supported by Arts Council Malta.