I want To Be A Prophet 2011
Raphael Vella, Malta
|The artists’ book. ‘I
want To Be A Prophet’ links my current work in other
media with the name of the street, Al-Mutanabbi. The street name
refers to the great medieval Iraqi poet, Al-Mutanabbi (915-965),
whose name actually means, ”the one who wanted
to become a prophet”. Al Mutanabbi’s nickname
is also related to the poet’s rather arrogant sense of pride
and tendency to boast, even in his verses, as well as his personal
political ambitions. His poetry in fact, often deals with acts of
courage, panegyrics, and battles, and his own death (he was killed
in conflict) is possibly linked to his sense of superiority.
Throughout 2011, I have been working on a series of drawings of
well-known male figures in international political arenas. All these
drawings represent these individuals when they were children and
hence still “unrecognisable” and unknown to the general
public, and they invariably look “cute” and innocent.
Indeed, at that age, the faces do not tell us much about the differences
that separate an Adolf Hitler from a Pope John Paul II. These drawings
have been shown at the Nakagawa gallery in Tokyo in August 2011,
and at St James Cavalier in Malta in December 2011.
In “I Want To Become A Prophet,’
photographs of different ‘famous’ children are transferred
onto both sides of thin Japanese paper, which is then varnished
to amplify its transparency. The faces on both sides merge into
each other and become difficult to recognise. Do these little boys
all want to grow into “prophets”? Will their visions
contribute to humanity’s growth or to further destruction
and death, like that experienced by the bookshop owners of al-Mutanabbi
Street? Verses from the poetry of Al-Mutanabbi (translated into
English) are also included in the book, adding to the complex and
multi-layered reading of the faces and identities.
Raphael Vella is an artist based in Malta.
He studied Art and Art Education at the University Of Malta, and
successfully completed a PHD in Fine Art at The University Of the
Arts, London. He has shown his work internationally, including Modern
Art Oxford in the UK, Dan Haag Sculptuur
in Holland, Domaine Pommery in Reims, France,
and Nakagawa Gallery in Tokyo, Japan. In
2011, he also curated an international exhibition called “I
Fought the X and the X won” at the National
Museum of Fine Arts in Cluj-Napoca in Romania and the National
Museum of Fine Arts Valetta, Malta.