The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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Multi-venue exhibition portraying the face of homelessness

Sunday, 8 October 2023, 08:30 Last update: about 10 months ago

Maltese homelessness is a hidden reality; a taboo, the causes of which, cannot be discussed candidly. Stereotypes in popular culture perpetuate the severely mentally ill, substance abusers and lazy parasites mooching state aid as the homeless around us. A choice is often implicit in this narrative - people don't become homeless, they choose to live that way. The reality of our homeless population today is far more diverse, and much closer to home.

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Entire families with young children; individuals who have lost their jobs due to the economic downturn; those working full-time and still unable to compete in a landlord-first rental market and soaring living costs; those with a university degree or in full-time education - the so-called middle and upper classes are also increasingly experiencing homelessness and rooflessness.

To raise awareness about our new social reality and to debunk stereotypes around homelessness and rooflessness, YMCA Malta has embarked on a multi-venue exhibition, partly funded by Art Council Malta, entitled Ego Sum. Ego Sum means I Am in Latin and refers to how someone perceives themselves. To identify with I Am is to have formed one's own concept of self; an I Am that is brought into awareness using categories and definitions; I Am formed by my interior world, existing in and with the world around me.

Ego Sum elevates 36 individual definitions of self - physical descriptions, personal stories and personality traits - into a collective experience that transcends the sum of its parts. This exhibition aims to show that being homeless/roofless is but a mere chapter in somebody's life; that homelessness/rooflessness does not define who that person is or may become. That homeless person on the street is in fact a doctor, a parent, an artist, a chef, a footballer, a dreamer or a student.

These contrasting realities have been showcased via an artistic exploration delving into these selves to produce a campaign of portraits, culminating in a final collage called The Face of Homelessness. The walk-through exhibition depicts the artistic sketches of Rachel Bowman and the photography of Tyler Calleja Jackson. These Maltese artists were inspired by the interviews conducted with 50 homeless individuals and, together with Sofiya Chuzhda and Gwennaelle Viard, created the final collage.

We must continue to root out the causes of this social ailment and continue showing compassion and solidarity with those struggling from it.

 

We encourage you all to support our work by visiting the exhibition at the Società Dante Alighieri, 134 Old Bakery Street, Valletta throughout this month. The exhibition is open Monday to Friday from 5 to 8pm and Saturday from 10am to 12noon and from 5 to 8pm


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