Published on Thursday 7 November 2019

Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici announced the publication of a children’s storybook aimed at for 10-12-year olds, based on Trevor Borg’s Cave of Darkness – Port of No Return, which forms part of this year’s Venice Biennale Maltese Pavilion installation.

“This book is an excellent way to propagate the use of different artistic mediums to our young generations as it is stemmed from the Cave of Darkness installation, presented in a manner which will bring the idea of La Biennale di Venezia closer to Maltese children”, said Minister Owen Bonnici. He commended the educational aspect of this project, as thanks to this workshop, these children also learned more about Għar Dalam, and our country’s heritage. “Our strategy is to educate and foster an artistic culture amongst the younger members of our society to cultivate love towards the cultural sector from an early age”, he continued.

The book, named Smajna Isimna taħt l-Art was written by Loranne Vella, who won the National Book Prize with her book Rokit, in 2018.  She has developed the concept with Borg, as she was intrigued by the story, loosely based on Għar Dalam’s history, and the imaginary layers added on top of it intended to question and complicate the space between reality and fiction.

The narrative resulted in this storybook for children, including colour illustrations. The enigmatic story is based on the adventure of two foreign explorers who land in Malta to investigate a newly discovered cave. The find that awaits them underground evokes the pieces included in Borg’s installation – bones, skulls, ancient weapons and tools, shells, votive statuettes, pottery, etc. The story unexpectedly unfolds into a dark abyss, mysteriously swallowing one of the explorers who gets caught up in the midst of a complex cavernous network lurking beneath the ground.

The aim of the storybook is to allow children (and older people) to explore further meanings and interpretations related to the Venice Biennale installation. The story is also an extension of the Għar Dalam clay workshops held earlier this year and the poems written by Elizabeth Grech and Giulia Privitelli.

The book launch took place at Birżebbuġa Primary School, with two readings by the author and artist. Students were also given the opportunity to explore Għar Dalam objects in the classroom together with explanations about caves by the natural history senior curator.

Copies of Smajna Isimna taħt l-Art were given out to all year six students present for the launch and an e-book version will be uploaded on Heritage Malta’s website. This event was coordinated by Trevor Borg, and Heritage Malta as well as Arts Council Malta, which both fall under the remit of the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government.