Now that the reintroduction of carnival satire is in its 5th year and that criminal sanctions on the vilification of religion have just been struck off the criminal code, 2017 is definitely the year in which to turn all our attention on the Gozitan carnival. The Gozitans are well known for two kinds of carnival celebrations; the well-organised one, very similar to how celebrations are carried out in Malta, and the more casual and spontaneous one, with no organisational committee or rules whatsoever to regulate how the behaviour of the hundreds of locals and Maltese thronging the streets of Nadur should be like. The following is a collection of recommendations and tips for you to keep in mind in case you’re still planning out how to spend the carnival weekend in Gozo.
Step Away from the Luxury
If you’re worried about the costume you’re taking up with you because you didn’t have enough time to complete the final touches, you really should not. The spontaneity of the celebrations there calls for a wide array of colourful pieces, fabrics, carboard and any other material you can imagine. Carnival in Nadur is still genuinely traditional, and the ultimate purpose of many participants is not to steal all the attention with flamboyant costumes, but to maintain anonymity as much as possible.
Set up a Comical Situation
If you are a real carnival devotee who’s planning to impress at this year’s Nadur celebrations, you must definitely go for a satirical situation. The costume is a central element here, but if you manage to zero in on a current controversial personality or theme, you would be really grasping what the point behind the carnival in Nadur is all about. Do not go alone, or just in pairs, because it simply won’t work. On the other hand, a conglomeration of people dressed up in a manner that depicts a particular situation that is well known and easily recognisable will probably cause quite a stir. A bunch of guys set up as a green grocer selling the very same vegetables as spiced up by popular TV presenter Emmy Bezzina, or a troupe of lifeguards conducting the rescue procedure, are not just some static individuals dressed up satirically going round the streets, but a collection of characters that when grouped together produce a comical circumstance that engages and entertains everyone around.
Satire Again. Really?
Although satire seems to be back in full force, in actual fact it was never banned. In 2012, the then Culture Minister Mario De Marco hoped to have the 1930s law, known to ban satire, reviewed. After an inquiry into the matter, it became known that such a ban was never actually in place. It was just a myth and a general misconception among the Maltese, following an unofficial police notice that dates back to 1935. The long-standing belief that satire was somewhat illegal probably derives from a time when the general public was still an innocuous sort, with those in authority preying on such carefulness to maintain their influence.
Beg to Differ
This year we expect many to profit from the hype that certain events generated, namely the arrival of the LNG tanker; the power station saga; the Panama scandal; the legalisation of the morning-after pill; Ira Losco’s second participation in the Eurovision; the extensive interest in Pokemon Go; Brexit and the US’s presidential campaign. It would definitely be a good idea to focus on how you are to catch the attention of those around, rather than just on how you are to resemble Trump or a Minister for instance. Although securing a resemblance does help, as that prospect is a humourous one in itself, you should team up with others and come up with a whole situation to recite. This is what is probably going to distinguish you from the legion of identical characters carrying similar apparel and props.
The Law still Applies
Spending carnival in Nadur, the number one spontaneous carnival on these islands, does not mean taking advantage of what seems to be a lack of an organised event. The casual atmosphere that symbolises carnival in Nadur is not disorganisation, and despite the spontaneity, it’s still a public celebration governed by law. The possibility of mocking what seems to you the narrow mindedness of the church, or the corruption that curbs the reputation of many of our politicians, does not give you the right to incite hatred and spread infamous lies. In their very essence, satire and religious vilification, only give the possibility to make fun of what may seem absurd to you in a limited and controlled manner, whatever that may mean. You do not need to worry anymore about getting noticed for a costume that could be interpreted as too sacred, but you must indeed worry if you mean to make use of that costume as a medium to harm individuals personally.
Have a good time!
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Clifford Jo Żahra