Like many other Mediterranean countries,
village festas are a staple of Malta’s culture and
traditions. Each locality in Malta has its own patron saint, and every summer, the whole town comes together to celebrate for one entire week. Every village feast involves a lot of work from dedicated people who voluntarily offer a helping hand to make sure every street is well decorated. Vida recently met Conrad Attard who works in the street decorations sector. Although Conrad does various works, he specialises in faux marble which is better known as “irħamar”.
Conrad lives in Għaxaq, a place where the feast of St. Joseph forms an integral part of the village identity. From a very young age, he showed a keen interest in his family’s longstanding involvement in street decoration. He quickly points out that street decorations bring together his interest in arts and his passion for the village feast. He starts working on street decorations around October and keeps on going up to the end of August. Summer is usually his busiest time of the year since he is involved in many works for various feasts. He also points out that Easter is a time when he is quite busy.
Conrad explains that feasts are an important part of Maltese social and religious life. It gives us an identity as a nation. He goes on saying that feast decorations are a big part of this tradition as they are the main image of the feast. Street decorations involve a large number of crafts and unfortunately some are on the dying side of the story. This is due to a number of factors, most trades involved in the making of street decorations are not taught anywhere, for example Conrad had to learn marbling on his own, and most of the tradespersons that practice the trade are not very keen to give a tip and a helping hand. So protection of this tradition is of upmost importance both for the keeping of trades, and for the Maltese social, traditional and religious life.
Conrad’s major project to date goes back to 2014 when he finished a pedestal for his own village. Visibly emotional he notes that he formed part of the committee that came up with the idea of a new pedestal. “It is amazing how from a drawing the pedestal developed into
a wooden structure which I had the honour to decorate.” This process took eight years to finish. He also proudly notes that the project made it to the finals of the “Premju ġieħ l-artiġjanat Malti 2014”
A recurrent “complaint” about street decorations is that they create an inconvenience on pavements or other places. Conrad believes that most of the complaints are quite fair as in most of the village core streets it is almost impossible to use pavements during the feast .
However, Conrad points out that most irrespective of such complaints, the pavements in the village core are not fit for wheelchair users, prams and pushchairs all year round. He notes that feast enthusiasts are today more aware of such problems and often try to avoid any unnecessary inconveniences. He admits that addressing such problems can turn out to be quite a challenge as poles and pedestals can also cause problems for car users
as usually these might obstruct off-street parking. Conrad believes that a healthy balance needs to be found between the requirements of a village feast and the villagers’ needs.
Conrad points out that some of his works which date back to fifteen years ago are still in very good shape. However, street decorations require constant maintenance in view of the sun they are exposed to which negatively impinges on the paint and wood itself. Moreover, they require good storage during the year so as to avoid any possible damage.
It is time to conclude and without further ado, we asked Conrad what projects he is currently working on.With a smile, he notes that any project takes more than a year to finish. Right now he is working on the first part of a new project and he is looking forward to finish in the coming years. In terms of ambitions, although marbling of feasts decorations gives him great satisfaction, lately he is studying water gliding and would like to further his studies in that sector.
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