Linja Ħamra: Gozo’s 1st Literature Festival

You’ve probably noticed from my socials that I was a participating author in Gozo’s first literature festival called Linja Ħamra.

The festival was aimed at celebrating Gozitan writers and their work, through various activities and events. I am proud to have been one of the celebrated authors.

I feel the need to write about the festival here, on my blog, because I reflect a lot on life’s occurrences.

Meeting New People

I didn’t know most of the people participating. I’ve become a reserved person – I like being on the sidelines, observing other people. I don’t interact a lot with people I don’t know.

I suspected that the people at the festival were nice and respectable people (I was right).

The funny thing is that although I don’t interact much with new people, I then don’t get anxious at reading my work in front of strangers. I actually prefer that because they can judge me and I don’t care. But I do care about what the people closest to me think of my work.

The public received my work positively – they resonated to it. They asked me the right questions and they were coming from a good, curious, place. I felt supported. I felt seen. That’s what I love about the spoken word – it speaks volumes.

Gozitan Literature

Before the festival started, I was anxious because I’m a young, emerging writer in the local scene. I’m not established enough yet and I’m most certainly not one of the veterans. I do feel at times that I have a lot of work to do to get myself (I’m working on it, slowly getting there).

No one made me feel like I was any less. On the contrary, everyone respected me and my work and that made me feel amazing. Made me feel like a writer.

The turnout for all of the events was great – especially since it was the very first Gozitan literature festival. I noticed that there were a lot of Maltese people present for the open mic, bus rides and literary walks. Few Gozitans attended but I’m sure that those who did attend, understand how important the festival is for Gozo.

It’s very obvious that Gozitan society doesn’t give literature enough importance – whether it’s in English or Maltese. There’s a lack of activism and participation. Kids don’t read. They don’t write. They go to school to pass exams and someday, turn into adults and get a job.

So, of course, there are barely any opportunities in Gozo for writers like me.

Which is why I’m very grateful for being given the opportunity to participate in Linja Ħamra – a massive thank you goes to the organizers: Inizjamed and the Kunsill Reġjonali Għawdex!

Linja Ħamra Events

The festival also made me feel nostalgic. Made me feel rooted in Gozitan culture.

The festival consisted of two literary walks in which volunteers read out works written by Gozitan writers like Ġużè Aquilina, Ġorġ Pisani and Laurent Ropa. We shouldn’t forget the ones who had to work hard to start what we now freely have.

We then headed to Tal-Massar Winery in Għarb which I highly recommend. The owner explained to us how they produce wine & how we should taste and smell it too. I loved the organic kunserva & Gozitan cheese, complementary to a glass of locally-made wine. Gives me the beez neez.

On Sunday, we gathered in the Santa Cecilia Chapel for an open mic session. So many writers joined us and read their work! It made me feel so good, knowing that the Maltese language is so dominant in local literature. I might only write my work in English, but I still appreciate Maltese written works.

In the evenings, we hopped onto the old Maltese buses and listened to the authors read their work. We got to read at the Ġgantija Temples too. They were so beautifully lit up in the dark. Again, the general public were great listeners.

Finally, I got to speak my Gozitan dialect freely and no one looked at me weirdly. At one point, when I finished reading, I overheard a lady say: “Wow, she really kept her American accent” and that made me feel so warm. I was code-switching non-stop and people were fascinated by it, but not in a bad way.

So, the festival made me feel like I belonged. Made me feel good about myself. Made me feel that I’m on the right track.

I can’t thank Leanne Ellul enough for approaching me about the event. She’s one of the coordinators in Inizjamed and they organize events for local writers – they do so much!

I really hope that Linja Ħamra becomes an annual festival that makes Gozitans more conscience on how important literature really is. Gozo deserves it.

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