When a diverse group of multi-national artists successfully collaborated in 2017, they inspired the creation of the Barumbara Collective. We speak with the collective’s co-founders and SEPHORA GAUCI to find out more about this unique artist collaboration,
When Maltese artists and performers Loranne Vella and Sephora Gauci were approached by the Association de Rue de Flandre to create performances for the famous two-day annual flea market in Brussels, they contacted all the artists they knew to take part.
A short while later, in 2017, a diverse collection of artists including musicians, performers, poets, singers, dancers, photographers and video artists took to the street and the shops on Rue de Flandre in ‘Barumbara’s Brocante Performative’, with huge success. It was a story that would go on to inspire a much more permanent – and groundbreaking – artists’ collective.
“After that first performance event, it soon became evident that many of the artists were interested in further artistic collaboration,” explains Loranne. “So Barumbara Collective was born; a collective that promotes the collaboration of artists from all spheres to create performance events that explore innovative use of space and challenge the concept of genre.”
Having quickly settled upon the collective’s name, which is a nod towards their Maltese roots despite the collective being based in Brussels, Loranne and Sephora began the process of devising their next project. As an interdisciplinary promenade performance event, Verbi: millbieb ’il ġewwa will converge the diverse genres of eight multi-national artists in Valletta’s recently-opened cutting-edge contemporary gallery, Valletta Contemporary.
“Verbi was the natural sequel to Brocante Performative, or rather, a reaction to it,” contin- ues Loranne. “After the success of this first project we realised that we wanted to try the same experiment, where we brought together artists from different art forms, but in a totally different context – a more elaboratelystructured performance in an art gallery instead of the street.”
The team also agreed that the collection of short stories called ‘mill-bieb ’il ġewwa/take a look inside (me)’ penned by Loranne (herself an award-winning Maltese author) would provide the narrative, and was an ideal point of departure for each of the collaborating artists in Verbi. Referring to existing material in their artistic repertoire that was linked in some way to the themes, characters or moments from the stories, each of the artists then created new material for the piece.
“For some time I had been working on the short stories from my collection – stories where daily repetitive actions hide yet reveal a more profound reality – to see if they could be used as the basis for performative sequences. It took me a while to realise that these two projects could actually be merged into one,” observes Loranne.
“Having read the stories even before Barumbara was born, I knew that they were the perfect fit for Verbi,” Sephora agrees. “Loranne gave us the liberty to use her stories as we pleased, which meant that we did not need to adapt anything for the piece. Instead, Verbi was moulded around the ideas we worked on.”
The collective began work on Verbi last January, with a series of meetings to discuss the project with the individual artists, followed by two residencies in Brussels during which the group worked intensively together, and one photography workshop in Malta. Beyond several further meetings in which the artists met in smaller groups, the collective plan to finalise the installation and performance on location in the final few days before the event.
“As the artistic director and coordinator of Verbi, my role became that of identifying, together with each artist, the work that could be brought into Verbi and the way in which to do this; creating new material for each artist to add to the existing one; and finally directing the group as a whole to bring all these parts together to create one coherent and seamless work,” adds Loranne.
Other than Loranne, who is writer, performer, artistic director and coordinator for Verbi, and Sephora who is a performer, the other six artists within the Barumbara Collective are video artist, photographer and musician Kamini Daems, sound designer Danjeli Schembri, performer Francesca Saraullo, video artist, photographer and performer Aurore Morillon, photographer Zvezdan Reljić and light designer Eleanor Bryce.
Joining these artists in Verbi will also be creative input from students from the Digital Arts Programme and the Theatre Studies Programme at the University of Malta, following workshops held by the Barumbara Collective to share the creative and collaborative processes involved. “As a former Theatre Studies student and lecturer, it was very important for me to share this work experience with the present students, and involve them in the creative phase,” says Loranne.
With such a diverse mix of art forms converging in Verbi, Loranne hopes the piece will help explore some universally-relevant themes. “Verbi is for the curious – both contextually and structurally. The narrative asks the existential question, ‘Who are you? And who am I really, on the inside?’ It invites the audience to step inside and see for themselves. The structure of the event poses the same question. ‘What is this? Is it theatre? Installation? Exhibition? Is it a dance, a song, a Skype chat?’ By seeking to define the experience, the spectators consequently redefine themselves and their role within the artistic expression itself.” Verbi: mill-bieb ’il ġewwa by Barumbara Collective will take place on 7, 8, 9 December 2018 at Valletta Contemporary, East Street, Valletta. Verbi is produced by Culture Venture, and supported by Malta Arts Fund - Project Support Grant by Arts Council Malta. Entrance tickets at €15 will be available at the door or from https://shop.trackagescheme.com/e vent/mill-bieb-il-gewwa. For more info visit instagram.com/barumbaracollective and facebook.com/barumbara