Naħla is a site-specific art installation based on the idea that the honeybee is an essential ancient dweller of the Maltese islands. Even the name Melitos or Melita, associated so closely with the country, is often believed to be derived from words relating to the islands as the land of honey. Aspects of bee culture permeate human culture, not only in the Maltese islands, but also throughout the world. Indeed, it is a widely held belief that the bee is the key to the human ecosystem and life on Earth, as we know it.

The installation consists of a giant bee sculpted in transparent plexiglass. The main aim of this work is to raise awareness about the central role of bee culture in human culture. For example, parts of the patterns on surviving stonework across the street on the former Royal Opera House resemble honeycomb structures on closer inspection. Such designs are common in other places too. The same goes, to a lesser extent, for the patters on bee wings, which are also echoed in patters in the stonework and elsewhere.

Parallels between swarms of working bees greeted by a solitary guard bee in the hive to deposit nectar into the honeycombs and the swarms of workers entering the city (through City Gate) each morning are also to be entertained. This is how the bee viewed from between the parliament buildings (the closest thing to a guard tower in the “new” City Gate area) will be presented each morning to the hundreds of workers entering the city.*

The bee is prevalent in Maltese culture and this is evidenced by the fact that it is the honeybee that was selected to adorn the 3 mils coin between 1972 and 2006. The honey bee is an underrated Maltese icon. The ultimate aim of this art installation is to bring some of this awareness back to public discourse.

Naħla was commissioned for the 3rd edition of VIVA – Valletta International Visual Arts festival in 2017.

The associated piece X’Fadal minn Naħla (trans – What Remains from Naħla) forms part of Fondazzjoni Kreattività’s permanent collection, which is a substantial part of the modern and contemporary section of the National Art Collection of Malta.

* Naħla was not exhibited on either of the two sites for which it was conceived (theatre remains at Pjazza Teatru Rjal) and designed (top window on the western wall of St James Cavalier); it was ultimately installed on the north wall at St James Cavalier. Furthermore, the work was accidentally damaged irreparably while it was being transported from St James Cavalier to the Palazzo de La Salle in Valletta.