Cabinet papers from the 1960s released to the National Archives reveal letter from the Archbishop Michael Gonzi to Prime Minister George Borg Olivier asking him to create special police branch to guard ‘morality’. (Maltatoday, 10 February 2014)
Muslim woman told she can’t swim fully covered. (The Times of Malta, 16 August 2014)
Woman fined for running, dancing in bikini near religious procession. (The Times of Malta, 24 August 2014)
1 March 2016 – 28 February 2017.
This project is funded through the Arts Council Malta, Creative Communities.
Burning Bikinis takes its cue from the introduction of the bikini into Maltese seaside culture in the early to mid-60’s, and the social and religious furore that surrounded it.
The project will reflect on this period in the light of female emancipation in Malta and the various actors that had and still may have a role today. The project starts from the bikini, a seemingly frivolous piece of clothing, in order to explore the social and cultural impact it had on Maltese society from a gender perspective.
Although we work extensively with anti-discrimination topics, we have only briefly touched on women’s rights and gender roles. The Burning Bikinis project will allow us to explore feminism in Malta from a historical perspective by looking at events that happened in Malta, through talking to those who lived it and adopting an introspective voice by inviting Malta to reflect on today’s role of women in the community.
We feel this is also relevant in the light of recent debates in Malta on the veil, and other cultural influences that impact the way Maltese women see themselves and are seen by society.
“I was in Malta in 1969 when a shapely British tourist was arrested for wearing a bikini on the beach. A friend of mine knew the girl and sent a photograph of her wearing her bikini to the Daily Mirror. This was published on the front page with the whole ridiculous story. After this dose of publicity there were no further arrests and bikinis became common.”
The first phase will consist of extensive research on the period in question, whilst consulting with key actors to comment on the historical events and their meaning from a gender perspective. This research will be complemented by filmed interviews on memories of that period and commentaries on Malta’s brand of feminism.
During the second phase the interviews and information gathered during the first phase will be edited into a short film that will be shown to the public. Further dissemination will include newspaper articles, podcasts and a public discussion.
The aim of Burning Bikinis is ultimately for the community to reflect on recent history which remains largely unexplored, to take stock of it and to make it their own.
Collective memory will be tapped into to elicit popular perceptions of gender stereotypes, their evolution and their impact on contemporary Maltese society.
The next step would be for the public to use those events in order to analyse the effect this had on gender roles and on female emancipation in Malta. Finally, the participants, readers, spectators will be made to consider the status quo 55 years later, to ask: what is the shape of Maltese feminism?
Do you have any particular memories of bikinis being burnt? Do you have any particular thoughts on Malta’s feminist movement? Want more information on the project? Contact Carla (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Antonella (email@example.com)
With the support of