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Title: Covid-19 and empty meeting grounds
Other Titles: Capitals of culture : the art of reimagining
Authors: Buttigieg, Noel
Munro, Dane
Keywords: COVID-19 (Disease)
COVID-19 (Disease) -- Social aspects
Feasts, Religious -- Malta
Fasts and feasts -- Malta
Christian patron saints -- Malta
Folklore -- Malta
Malta -- Social life and customs
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Moore Institute: A special issue for the University Network of European Capitals of Culture
Citation: Buttigieg, N., & Munro, D. (2021). Covid-19 and empty meeting grounds. In Capitals of culture : the art of reimagining. Moore Institute: A special issue for the University Network of European Capitals of Culture.
Abstract: In the towns and villages of the small Mediterranean island group of Malta, the most poignant Roman Catholic ritual – the village festa - is simultaneously an annual space- making event and the centrepiece of high church and folk culture (Boissevain, 1993), with lavish street decorations, colourful processions, fireworks, band marches, High Mass in decorated churches and lots of food, drink and merriment. Malta’s partial lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic achieved positive results by the end of June 2020. The authorities provided solutions for continuing the celebration of such important communal events, until the ‘new normal’ crashed by mid- July 2020, when a cluster of new Covid-19 infections was traced, amongst others, to a particular village festa. All public gatherings were prohibited, giving a total new meaning to MacCannell’s book title Empty Meeting Grounds (1992). This qualitative study endeavours to identify the experience of organizing the festa, an event that has been infested with rivalry since the 1850s (Boissevain, 1993: 75) which brings about contrasting and conflicting issues of ownership among the stakeholders, worries about continuity, preservation of memory and matters of identity/self-image. Short-term effect of Covid-19 measures have seriously disfigured the public celebration of the festa, while the long-term effects of the pandemic may have serious impact on the future of the festa, one of Malta’s iconic identity markers. Restoring the village festa to some semblance of its past will require significant innovation, goodwill and entrepreneurial flare in the pre-vaccine era. An analysis of the impact of the pandemic on the festa season of Malta provides highly contradictory opinions within the community, while bringing about how the individuals engaged in the preparation of the festa celebrations, reaped their rewards and processed their frustrations.
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