Written by Juan Dingli • Photos by Szidonia Lorincz
As promised, the Live and Work in Malta team made sure to capture the carnival festivities around Malta and Gozo as best as possible. Here we present to you the first instalment of the Carnival Special straight out of Nadur, and yes we were in the thick of it all. The Nadur spontaneous carnival is always something that is highly anticipated year after year. Many start preparing their next costume weeks if not months in advance. Testament to this are the high quality costumes and the interesting floats that pop up during these hectic five days of fun, chaos and revelry. Starting from the first Friday of the carnival week, this time being the 9th of February till the following Tuesday when the celebrations came to an end, Nadur’s main square and the surrounding streets are transformed into a free for all party. Apart from this, all the bars are full to the brim with patrons opting to spend the night bar hopping.
Having had our accommodation sorted for the evening well beforehand, we were half way to ensuring an amazing carnival weekend in Nadur. When the actual weekend came, we set off for Gozo along with the thousands of Maltese and foreigners that followed suit. This process is part of the fun as the ferry would normally be filled with enthusiastic people of all ages waiting to start their carnival weekend. Upon arrival at their chosen accommodation, carnival goers would then start donning their costumes hours before to ensure that all flaws are ironed out. I decided to take along my trusty steam punk gas mask, opting for a dystopian marauder type of look. Upon our arrival to the outskirts of Nadur, we immediately noticed that we would be expecting to see thousands of revellers throughout the village. Dozens of packed mini vans full of costumed humans whizzed by us as we made our way to the village square on foot from our parking spot on the periphery of the village. What’s interesting is the fact that the party doesn’t really start until late after 11pm.
The music drew us closer to the village square as if all this was a ritual and we were merely worshipers of chaos. One of the first things that caught our attention were the themed group costumes, this is quite a common sight. From the squad of multi-coloured nuns to the band of human size milk cartoons, we were in for a great time. Groups of friends dressing up with the same theme in mind always makes the festivities more interesting in my opinion. The imposing crowd grew closer and from that point onwards, communication was restricted to shouting in each other’s ears. What a sight that was, the music, the different smells, we were awestruck with what stood before us. Ironically all of this was set up around the village church but it seemed that everybody respected this fact. Massive home-made floats where lined up in the square waiting to make their way down the main road. The whole square itself was fully packed with people dressed in a multitude of costumes depicting real characters or made up ones. Grotesque, macabre and bizarre where all on the menu. What was also interesting is the fact that some would make their own costume by combining a couple of random props to create something unique with a generally good result. There were no limitations except that of the imagination and creativity. Someone that really stuck out was a man dressed up as a hospital patient lugging around his IV stand complete with an IV drip full of none other than alcohol. Of course, he was more than happy to pose for a quick photo as are most of the other creatures who for this weekend become camera-happy. Who wouldn’t want their costume photographed after having invested so much time in the creation of these personas?
From a psychological point of view, the revellers where more than happy to break the norms of society, self-imposed barriers and limitations disappear once one’s identity is under wraps, literally. Everyone was quite outgoing and their inner party-animal shone bright in the streets of Nadur. Alcohol also helps. Nonetheless, this was all fun and everyone was enjoying it and interacting with each other. It was great seeing everyone dancing and having good time despite the cold weather and possibility of rain. After our senses got accustomed to all of this, we started making our way down alongside the carnival floats. My favourite float had to be the AirMalta plane complete with a security terminal and check in booth. Of course, these were manned by pretend staff members and crew. The dedication was highly visible. Another float of sorts that caught people’s attention was a mock mental health van. This even ended up being on the news due to having offended some people. Moments like these are where one asks whether people have actually gone beyond the limit of what is funny and what is downright offensive.
Continuing to walk down the road we ended up behind the church of Nadur where we were regaled with a live performance by Gozo’s own home-grown rock band called ‘Upper Lip’. This band gave their own renditions of various well known rock classics throughout the night and the crowd was surely pumped. People jumping and head banging as they listened to Upper Lip giving their hundred percent on stage. These are the real deal. Time for a drink. Walking further down the road, past the DJ stand we had reached the other end of the carnival celebrations and settled for a quick drink to help us blend in with the chaos. The rainbow nuns made another appearance here as they danced up and down to the street music to our amusement. Walking back up the road, I had my face shoved in a drag queen’s bust after having touched “her” fake nipples. All fun and games. Time for a second drink. Here we encountered a group dressed up in construction wear who had started placing actual tiles on the ground and pretending to be working. Again, the effort and dedication is surreal. More props started showing up. We ended up seeing a sofa being carried around the streets, a wooden stretcher and whole mattresses.
Back at the village square, the music was still going and it was well past 1am. Everyone was still having fun and raving the night away. We joined in for a while jumping along with the crowds to well-known music without a care in the world. It was carnival weekend anyways. The floor was littered with parts of costumes, alcohol containers, props and…bananas?
Apparently some bananas were thrown around as part of a sketch. Shame I missed this one. Throughout the night we also had managed to spot some of our friends, in disguise of course. Always interesting to see what our friends manged to conjure and come up with.
This was quite the party but sadly we had to get back to our car and retreat to our accommodation for the night. On the way out we saw various groups and individuals shuffling away from the square of Nadur. Most were clearly in a drunken stupor missing various parts of their costumes. I called it the walk of shame. We got back with our wallets, phones and keys still on us. This is always a sign of a successful night also by the fact that we managed to stay beneath blood alcohol limit. Throughout all of this we tried to stay sharp and our experience was more from an observational perspective since we wanted to maintain our sobriety all throughout the night. This was just one night, some people came up for the whole week, repeating the same scenes night after night even changing costumes to keep things interesting. A final word goes out to the hundreds of men and women who were part of this successful event and made sure everything went as it should. Last but not least, a big well done to the police, ambulance crew, emergency response teams and the public transportation team who showed everyone what a well-organized event should look like.
Till next year Nadur.