Song of a Bird (S.O.A.B.) is an ongoing research and a collaboration with my father and the micro-community of Maltese bird-trappers. Every spring and autumn, during the birds’ migratory seasons, the ‘namra’ ignites around 4000 Maltese trappers who ache in their longing to sit in nature at dawn waiting for the songbirds. ‘Namra’ is a Maltese word that is best described as “a lifelong passion”; “a folly that appears all but incomprehensible to the casual observer”. Namra is believed to be inherited.
My father together with his father-in-law on the trapping site. Photographed by my mother, il-Qrendi, Malta (ca 1977) © rubboerbodies
SOAB - No.3 The Goldfinch - My father Michael Grima, Louis Camilleri and Vincent Sant singing the song of the goldfinch one of the seven species of the migratory finches which were trapped on the island of Malta and Gozo until the ECJ ban in 2018.
personal note In the case of the ‘ birds ’ I started off by documenting my father’s ability of reproducing bird songs who happens to be part of the controversial community of bird-trappers in Malta and Gozo. Here I am creating an archive of this community and looking for occasions where in disguise of an artist and for the sake of art I motivate them to come together. It was also very important to involve international collaborators, far away from the Malta context as external eyes to such a personal and controversial subject for myself and the Maltese. summer.
Nassaba: Song of a Bird
live performance, 90 minutes, Maltese (with English Subtitles)
“From spending his early years with the birds, the trapper learns to call – constantly improving, learning with time. As you age, you figure out how to hone your whistle, ending up almost speaking the birds’ language. You don’t know what they’re saying, but you’re calling with them.” — Matthew Attard Nassaba: Song of a Bird - An Account, October 29, 2018
In Nassaba: Song of A Bird, Jimmy Grima follows his father with a camera to the fields on the Maltese rocky coasts, where until recently he went to catch migratory birds. In a one-hour performance Jimmy uses the video material, and documents the emotional world and the art of the Maltese bird catchers, some of whom have learned to imitate the melodies of the migratory birds.
Song of a Bird is a portrait of a disappearing practice that often gets negative light in the news because of its impact on the bird population, but of which we also get to see another dimension here. Bird-catching is also a way of being in nature and a game in which parent and child forge a generational bond.
by Jimmy Grima Advisor Joachim Robbrecht Writers Jimmy Grima, Michael Grima, Joachim Robbrecht Choir Michael Grima, Louis Camilleri Set Michael Grima, Jimmy Grima Conversation Partner Mark Anthony Falzon Production Manager Stephanie Bonnici Stage Manager & Set Construction Matthew Micallef Production Design tiny island studio Props and Set Dressing Aidan Corlett Translations/Transcriptions/Surtitles Julia Camilleri Choir Rehearsal Director Martina Buhagiar Rehearsal Director (Netherlands) Ruth Borg, Ira Melkonyan Filming and Editing Jimmy Grima Post and Additional Editing Chris Goa Farrugia Sound Design and Mastering Mario Sammut Producers Teatru Malta, rubberbodies collective With Special Thanks to Prof. Mark Anthony Falzon, Dr Toni Sant, Vincent Sant, FKNK, Nicole Blackman, Franklin Grima, Eduard Said, Arts Council Malta - Research and Support Grant, Transient Light & Sound, Callus Garden Centre, Birkirkara Homing Union, La Vittoria Band Club Mellieħa, iċ-Ċirklu taż-Żgħażagħ Xagħra, is-Soċjetà Santa Marija u l-Banda Re Ġorġ V Mqabba, Senglea Homing Club, Verdala Palace and the Office of the President
12 Oct 2018 - Floriana MT, Scouts Headquarters
13 Oct 2018 - Mellieħa MT, La Vittoria Band Club
14 Oct 2018 - Xagħra Gozo MT, Cirklu taż-Żgħażagħ
16 Oct 2018 - Mqabba MT, Soċjetà Santa Marija
17 Oct 2018 - Senglea MT, Senglea Homing Club
18 Oct 2018 - Buskett MT, Palazzo Verdala
personal note from the start we decided to organise a mini tour around the island rather then sticking to the theatre house in order to make sure that the audience meet us and the subject in a non-theatrical space, as aI did not want to portray the trappers as a spectacle on stage but rather faciliate a space for encountering their practise. We found social clubs to provide a much safer envorionment and the theatre crowd got exciting non conventional spaces to explore.
Stereo Audio-visual-Installation, 10 minutes
The Choir: My father Michael Grima and Louis Camilleri, 9min50 stereo.
“From spending his early years with the birds, the trapper learns to call – constantly improving, learning with time. As you age, you figure out how to hone your whistle, ending up almost speaking the birds’ language. You don’t know what they’re saying, but you’re calling with them.” — Michael Grima, Interview Feb, 2018
The choir is composed of men who, like my father, studied their parts for twenty-thirty years. This is my attempt to collect, preserve and give access to this micro-community of Maltese bird trappers, now on the other side of European law.
I ask Michael Grima and Louis Camilleri, to perform the whistling of the seven migratory singing birds which has become illegal to trap since a ruling by the EUropean Court in June 2018. The seven species are the Linnet, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Serin, Greenfinch, Hawfinch
by Jimmy Grima with Michael Grima, Louis Camilleri Choir Michael Grima Louis Camilleri Sound Recording Yasmin Kuymizakis Camera Cris Goa Farrugia
January 2019, COMETOGETHER 4. Frascati Theatre, NL Amsterdam
personal note this audio piece was a direct response to the ban on trapping in Malta. Michael and Louis self-organised the recording, I facilitated the crew. I wanted to bring ther sounds and voices to Europe without them travelling. They came up with the idea of the field recordings. For this they chose one of the few woodlands in Malta. Buskett Gardens were planted by the Knights Hospitaller as a hunting reserve.
Stereo Audio-visual-Installation , 10 minutes
‘SOAB.The Archives’ is an online repository on the subject of the calls and songs of visiting migratory birds on the island of Malta and bird-trappers; Jimmy Grima initiated this because as an attempt to safegaurd the knowledge about Nature of the Maltese bird-trappers. In 2018 the European Court of Justice declared that by adopting a derogation regime allowing the live-capturing of seven species of wild finches (għasafar ta’ l-għana), Malta has failed to fulfill its obligations under the European Wild Birds Directive.
One of the bird-trappers happens to be Jimmy's and possesses knowledge about the trapping and hunting the quail, the turtle dove and the wild rabbit, the cultivation of crops, the pruning of fruit trees and various fishing techniques which he acquired at a very young age in mostly rural Malta (1950s). Like him there are a couple of other thousands who possess and share this knowledge. Such old-time practices; emotional and personal, of a specific temperament in relating to life and in a way to nature; of idleness and stillness.
An activity with no capital value, it has never been documented or protected but rather controversially and badly represented. Here, Jimmy attempts to conserve the knowledge, the language, the technology, the virtuosity and the stories which his father and his peers urge him to preserve during his artistic research.
Jimmy Grima - Selected Works 2020 - © 2007-2020 JONATHAN GRIMA ALL RIGHTS RESERVED