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Beltin – Zvezdan Reljic

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Production photos of Beltin
Image credit to Jacob Sammut

Photographer Zvezdan Reljic portrays different characters from the city of Valletta, documented by Elise Billiard, in an exhibition of black and white photographs called ‘Beltin’, curated by Raphael Vella.

Who are the people living in Valletta? What does it mean to be a Belti? How do Beltin see their city? While Zvezdan Reljic photographed the twenty volunteers, these were the questions I asked. There are many different ways to define what makes someone a Belti, there is no single legitimate definition. Artists come to live in the old capital for its unique feel, its modernity deeply embedded in nostalgia. Some people fell in love in the city and then fell in love with the city. Others, “born and bred in the streets of the city” claim that they have no home but Valletta. The street life is in every one’s mouth. It’s “grandness”, its “five star buildings”, or the playfulness of everyday encounters, the urban feel without the anonymity and loneliness.

It would be a mistake to think that every inhabitant of Valletta shares this pride like a decoration pinned on their chest. As some confess they refrain from stating that they live in Valletta; but even those who keep their roots discreet still go out of their house to spend hours looking at the sea. When in a melancholic mood they sit on St. Barbara’s bastions and when in love they meet at the breakwater. Whether emphatically proclaimed like a poem to life, or hidden like a shameful family secret, the city always penetrates the body and memory of its citizens. The church bells mark the tempo of their lives. Valletta is often described as a powerful and wise woman, dressed in black, whose life experiences enable her to care and watch over her “children”, the Beltin. Soon this vanishing Valletta will be all shiny and clean, and no one knows where the old widow will go.

Dr Elise Billiard


Artist’s Bio

Zvezdan Reljic is a publishing industry specialist with 30 years of hands-on experience in photography, pre-press, printing and graphic design. He graduated from the Graphic Arts School in Belgrade in 1983 with a specialisation in Photography Reproduction. During his career he worked for several pre-press, newspaper and magazine design departments. He currently holds workshops on black and white film photography and darkroom printing and is working on several of his own photography projects.

Researcher’s Bio

Dr.Elise Billiard holds a Ph.D in Anthropology from the University of Aix-Marseille. She has also exhibited her photographs and installations in Germany, France, Roumania and Malta. In 2012, she published, with photographer David Pisani, a collaborative research project on Valletta’s City Gate entitled “Transit”. Last year they published another photographic project on Paceville and its public spaces, entitled “Night&Day”. Dr.Elise Billiard lectures at University of Malta.

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