Malta's Akbar Zib makes the BBC News (no, not Saviour Balzan)

Published: April 13, 2010 at 3:21pm


BBC News, today

‘Phallic’ art sparks row ahead of Pope’s Malta visit

The mayor of a town in Malta has called for a “phallic” sculpture displayed close to the main airport to be removed ahead of the Pope’s visit this weekend.

Mayor John Schembri described the art work as “vulgar” and “embarrassing”, saying it should go “as a sign of respect” for Pope Benedict XVI.

Colonna Mediterranea was created by artist Paul Vella Critien and has been on show in the town of Luqa since 2006.

Mr Critien responded by calling his critics “ignorant” and “uneducated”.

Pope Benedict’s route through Malta will involve passing by the roundabout at the entrance to Luqa, where the monument stands.

“The object… is not the most fitting way in which to greet the Pope, especially by what is considered to be the most Catholic country in the world,” Mr Schembri was quoted by the Times of Malta as saying.

He told the newspaper that the council would again appeal to the government to order the removal of the column.

Mr Critien said his creation was not a phallic symbol but a modern representation of a symbol dating back to ancient Egypt.

He said the Pope “would look at it as a work of art. [He] is not the man in the street”.

The government has said it has no plans to remove the sculpture.

75 Comments Comment

    • Alfred Bugeja says:

      And it’s the second most read story on at the moment.

      Eat your heart out Malta Tourism Authority! We got all this advertising for free. A few words uttered by that ignorant bigot John Schembri and Bob’s your uncle!

  1. Alan says:

    They could always tell the Pope that its a monument in honor of the 60’s Apollo missions. Think he’ll fall for it ?

    • Charlie Bates says:

      Desmond Morris, of “The Naked Ape” fame, who lived in Malta in the 60s and whose books were banned, in one of his books said that church steeples in Malta were phallic symbols!

  2. Yanika says:

    This monument has it all – now worldwide fame, criticism from the mayor, approval of the government, etc… but it lacks one thing – the most basic thing which ultimately defines what it is. It lacks BALLS – I can’t see them anywhere.

    [Daphne – Mela vera statwa ta’ Akbar Zib, ghax bla bajd bhalu. What’s life without a spot of amusing vulgarity?]

    And the fact that it is called “Colonna Mediterranea […] said to be an abstract based on fantasy and the beauty of the Mediterranean colours.” goes to show that the Maltese still don’t have the balls to call a spade a spade.

  3. Aristocrat says:

    That phallic symbol should really be removed. Not (only) because of the pope, but because of the Maltese people and their sense of decency. Even if the Maltese are ignorant, the bill for putting the phallus there was footed by the people. And if the people do not want it, it should go.

    This is not a matter of a “roofless” (!) theatre, which is a matter of taste or common sense or what have you. This is a matter of decency. Even tasteful, but indecent, objets d’art have no place in public spaces.

    This is the reason why nudists are not allowed in the street. Not because there is anything wrong in nudity, but because public decency does not allow public nudity. Even in the more liberal (and non-Catholic) countries, public nudity is not tolerated (except in designated areas). At home or in other private places, nudity is allowed. In public spaces, it is not.

    The sense of public decency – embodied in the Ancient Greek goddess of Themis – is difficult to put a finger on, but we (or at least the vast majority) recognize it when we see it(or when we expect to see it but don’t).

    • jomar says:

      Why don’t we all list anything we don’t like and in a democratic way, we should ask the government to remove them.

      But wait a minute, what if what you don’t like, I do? Will it take 70 years to decide whether to remove it or not? Shall we have our children and grandchildren fight a useless argument which should not have started to begin with?

      The monument, perhaps, should have been placed elsewhere and not greet our tourists with a symbol which could be interpreted as ‘up yours’!

    • Joseph A Borg says:

      Here’s some food for thought for the pontificating aristocrat above.ōnen_Matsuri

      Maybe Luqa local council should start organising an annual festival celebrating the fertility of spring. It would be great if the parish priest allowed a phallic statue to be lead in procession and maybe blessed with holy water.

      After all our ancestors celebrated Adonis, Tammuz or Dumuzid, whatever you’d like to call him.

      Dear mayor, if you have lemons…

      • Overestimated Shakespeare aka Nostradamus formerly Avatar says:

        This is funny! Both of you are agreeing with the Front Against Censorship made up of Alternattiva Demokratika Żgħażagħ, Forum Żgħażagħ Laburisti, Kollettiv Ir-Realtà, General Workers Union Youths, Unifaun Theatre Productions, Moviment Graffitti Żminijietna, MOVE, Pulse, Kunsill Studenti Junior College, Il-Kunsill Nazzjonali taż-Żgħażagħ and the Writers Club of University of Malta. “Removing Luqa monument would be an act of censorship – Front
        The Front Against Censorship said today that it believes that the phallic-like sculpture at Luqa should not be removed, not even temporarily for the Pope’s visit.”

      • Rover says:

        When are we going to develop a sense of humour worthy of its name? There are huge men etched along the English hill sides with massive dicks, accompanied by balls, and everybody just nods at them with a smile. Surely a bit of vulgarity never did anybody any harm. I say keep Colonna Mediterranea exactly where it is. Those who don’t like it can always look away.

    • Trevor says:

      Int bis serjeta? With your reasoning most of the monuments in and around Rome should be removed!

    • Sorry Aristocrat, you are wrong. There are several European country where going nude is a right. Indeed in Spain a couple of years ago a police officer was prosecuted for telling a man cycling through a city centre nude to get dressed. I was at a meeting this afternoon with one of the UK police forces and they agreed with us, there is no offence of nudity in UK law. Using nudity to shock, offend or frighten somebody is illegal but not nudity.

      Malta is one of the most body phobic societies in Europe which is why a lot of tourists do not even consider it as a possible destination.

      [Daphne – It’s always a surprise to me what sorts of people read this blog. Yesterday we got a comment from a missionary in Brazil and now here’s the spokesman for British Naturism. I love it.]

  4. KVZTABONA says:

    We may like to think we are the most Catholic country in the world but that is because we all are so used to our sinuous manouvering and circumventing that while we holler that ‘No! No EU functionary will remove crucifixes from our classrooms.’

    We condone all sorts of irregularities and deny fundamental beliefs that go against the precepts of the church with a equanimity that is simply amazing.

    The recent survey of Catholicism a la carte was an eyeopener.

    This Vella Critien Colonna Mediterannea is a case in point and illustrates our small-minded lunacy. The civilized and educated world must be holding their sides and hooting with laughter.

    This papal visit has certainly not brought peace and unity to our island – in fact quite the opposite.

    I would, were I the government, having just learned that Paul Vella Critien’s sculpture cost the nation 25,000 smackers in real money (liri) make sure that it is properly insured against malicious damage.

    • Antoine Vella says:


      I am not in the least shocked or put off by the phallic symbolism of the so-called column but I do not appreciate the style and for me, it is just an ugly lump of unartistic, crudely daubed, shiny clay that, as you say, has cost the taxpayer a horrifying 57 thousand euros. And some people are scandalised by the cost of the Valletta Gate project.

      Allow me to ask you something, Kenneth. Is this the kind of stuff you will want to have in your Museum of Modern Art ? When you insist we should have such a museum, have you worked out how much it will cost to maintain and to buy the artefacts (for want of a better word) on display? Who will decide what is junk, what is art and how much it is worth? Shall we be holding a referendum and consulting The People every time time the curator wants to spend “our” money to buy a new item?

      I think you will agree that, on such matters, it is not a question of democracy, banners and placards. Everybody can have an opinion but some opinions carry more weight because they belong to people who are more refined and have better taste (and are better informed) than others.

  5. ciccio2010 says:

    And there we were laughing out loud at Net News’ April’s fool.

    • Mandy Mallia says:

      Maybe their news item is what inspired that protest. Why would they want to remove it now, after all? Using the pope as a reason for its removal is a pretty flimsy excuse.

  6. Cannot Resist Anymore! says:

    Alas we in Malta have grown so used to abstract art, like Astrid Vella’s proposals for the Valletta opera house, that the Colonna Mediterranea is too shockingly real to be appreciated fully especially by the Luqa Local Council, clergy and people.

    On the other hand, if those who hold sway over Mr. Vella Critien’s erection decide to move it to another location, we have already given ample suggestions on this blog on 1st April.

    One such proposal was to move it to another Mayor’s location, who “may be busy digging up l-Gholja tas-Salib for all I care”.

    • Dem-ON says:

      CRA, If I understand well, you are suggesting that Mr. Vella Critien should have his erection in a private, not in a public place.

  7. ciccio2010 says:

    Amazing. It is the second most read item on the BBC News website today.
    It has moved to number one “most read” on

  8. TROY says:

    Li belghu tal-Labour akbar minn dan.

    • sam says:

      Malta kollha belghatu b’dan il gvern li twikkejna bieh ghax helibna u qaxxarna hajjin.Ma nifilhux inhallsu izjed taxxi u kontijiet biex ikollhm biex jiffungaw huma u ta madwarom

  9. Marie Louise says:

    This was an April Fool’s joke on NET Tv. Obviously the Luqa mayor took it literally and now we are an international joke. Nicely done…

    • MarioP says:

      Please stop being too sensitive at being ‘an international joke’. You reveal your own inferiority complex. It’s there to stay – hopefully we won’t get the other part of the equation stuck on another roundabout somewhere.

      • Antoine Vella says:

        “……hopefully we won’t get the other part of the equation stuck on another roundabout somewhere.”

        I think it will be some time before they put up a statue of Joseph Muscat so, don’t worry.

  10. Leonard says:

    Play safe; wrap it in plastic.

  11. H.P. Baxxter says:

    Oh my god, I’m booking an appointment at the GU clinic right now! My penis doesn’t have that colour at all.

  12. H.P. Baxxter says:

    This papal visit is turning into a galactic joke:

  13. VR says:

    I have the answer. Cover it with a large condom. Simple.

  14. Tom says:

    At the moment, the article ranks first in clicks from Europe

  15. Leonard says:

    Just google “Pope phallic”. Probably beats Boiler 7 and Joseph Muscat combined.

  16. H.P. Baxxter says:

    That link doesn’t work. This one should

  17. John O'Dea says:

    Omigawd! They’ll want to pull the menhirs down next!

  18. Pajjiz ta L` ghala zo...... says:

    I think that this monument truly explains our southern Mediterranean mentality, where might is right and it pays to have a network of shady characters as your friends.

    Malta is a country where certain people jibilghu l-ostji u jahraw ix-xjaten u aktar ma tkun ghala bieb il-monument aktar timxi.

    L-aqwa li on Sunday kulhadd ghal fuq il-fosos nxejjru lil Benedittu, kemm ha naraw kummiedji u mutetti, ja pajjiz ta l-ipokriti.

  19. P Shaw says:

    Typical insular MLP mayor. Starting in 2013, Malta will feature regularly in the international press for similar gaffes made by the future country’s authorities.

  20. Ganni says:

    Come to think of it. A few years ago, one of the Labour candidates for the Luqa Local Council projected himself proudly with his nickname beside his name.

    And guess what his nickname was! Nothing less than “iz-Zejza”.

    And I’m not sure whether he was elected and currently serving in the council or not. So what’s wrong with having another sexual connotation in their village?

    That monument is there as a work of art and it should stay there. It doesn’t make Malta more Catholic if it is removed.

  21. Joe Fenech says:

    The government needs to change the legislation on who can run for elections for both local councils and the national parliament.

    We can’t keep having illiterate (or almost illiterate), uneducated mini-bus drivers, parish-involved housewives, mechanics, farmers – gone are the days of “Figaro, Figaro…sono il factotum della citta”!

    Get serious for heaven’s sake. Our miserable local councils are outright closer to Potato-Growers Cooperatives than to political groups.

    We need graduate professionals with a track record not dogooders who are more than useless. The latter can join their local football or band club committee if they want to get involved!

    Bring in some REAL quality, Gonz!

  22. KVZTABONA says:

    Just was informed that the water with which the surrounding plants are irrigated is laced liberally with viagra

  23. Joe Fenech says:

    To carry on in the same dingle dangle anatomical vein…

    The Luqa councillors have undoubtedly made ar..s of themselves!

  24. interested bystander says:

    I’d like to see a priest try and fellate that.

    [Daphne – Why a priest, necessarily? The latest boy-rape story to hit the news involves a non-celibate and possibly married man in his 50s.]

  25. Antoine Vella says:

    The Luqa mayor couldn’t have found a better way to draw attention to the

    Couldn’t we just stick some leaves on it and ask the PL elves to climb to the top, just for the papal visit? Then we could pretend it’s a coconut palm.

  26. John Schembri says:

    Dirty minds, dirty thoughts. If Vella Critien wanted it to be a phallic symbol he would have installed it at an angle. Incidentally, even though I was born and bred in Luqa and share the same name, I’m not the mayor.

  27. Dem-ON says:

    U iva, jien ma nara xejn hazin fil-monument.
    Is-Siggiewi ghandhom il-Pilar, u Hal-Luqa ghandom il-Kolonna.

  28. Gahan says:

    The Front Against Censorship is composed of Alternattiva Demokratika Żgħażagħ, Forum Żgħażagħ Laburisti, Kollettiv Ir-Realtà, General Workers Union Youths, Unifaun Theatre Productions, Moviment Graffitti Żminijietna, MOVE, Pulse, Kunsill Studenti Junior College, Il-Kunsill Nazzjonali taż-Żgħażagħ and the Writers Club of University of Malta.

    John Schembri, the Labour mayor of Luqa, is the father of young Labour Party candidate Silvio, and the brother-in-law of Dr Charles Mangion. How dare FZL, Pulse and the rest of the satellite groups criticise the PL Council of Luqa?

    [Daphne – Ironic, isn’t it, that Forum Zghazagh Laburisti is part of the Front Against Censorship when its secretary-general has decided that the prime minister should stop me writing, and is helping to promote a blackmail website of lies in an attempt at stopping me himself.]

    • ciccio2010 says:

      U le. I think those of the Front are being jealous. They would like to make it to the BBC news, like the Mayor of Luqa. And what better opportunity than a “cazzata” like this for those dick-heads.

      May I suggest that next time someone interviews Joseph Muscat, a question should be put to him as to whether he would take the advice of Alex Saliba to gag the freedom of expression of blogs the opposition doesn’t like, if he were to be prime minister.

  29. Harry Purdie says:

    Made it to the ‘Huffington Post’ in the USA also. Now we’re in the Big Leagues!

  30. me says:

    Why should the phallic symbol be removed? The first phallic symbols to be placed in prominent places were in ancient Egypt in the form of the obelisk.

    It is a reminder and a symbol of Osiris, who was killed and butchered by Set and his body was picked up (less his phallus which was eaten by a fish) by his sister Isis. She buried his butchered body and sent symbols of his phallus to all parts of the country where they became objects of worship.

    And where is one of the largest symbols of phallus worship located? Yes, in the center of the Bernini colonnade, opposite the main door of the Vatican. A worthier place cannot be imagined.

  31. K Vella says:

    Who are we to judge art?

    The Pope is surely intelligent enough to recognise this as a piece of art and not an insult, such as some imply.

    We are created by God, to carry certain features/ organs which are nothing to be ashamed of.

  32. C Vella (but no relation to Daphne) says:

    I really cannot understand what’s all the fuss.

    Has anyone ever been to the Museum of Archeology or at least been interested in some prehistoric knowledge?

    So for anyone not aware, phallic symbols and figurines have been in existence from prehistoric times. Some phallic stones were found in some of the temples such as at Tarxien temple. And what about a figurine which is called as “The Venus of Malta” – it is considered as one of the masterpieces of Neolithic art.

    I can understand such religious moral boundaries or the indecency of walking down the street naked, but nobody can deny what nature has provided us with. Anyone who does not like it, just look the other way.

    It takes just one twisted mind to turn a piece of artwork into something vulgar – and yes even though the monument has not got any “balls”, not so many people have the courage to produce a monument like that.

  33. Steve Grech says:

    That penis is not art. It’s an immovable duda, and that’s all it is. Someone should really drive car right through it.

  34. La Redoute says:

    Well, it’s taken the heat off the Valletta project for a bit. Cue crazy elfin accusations.

  35. jomar says:

    Lighten up folks!

    Florence has David, Luqa has his pole.

    MIA should run a wind sock up the monument and make it useful.

  36. john says:

    Not quite. I hear KVZTabona plans to erect it in his Museum of Modern Art on the opera house site.

  37. Iz-Zuzu says:

    Is this a polite way to say I’m not allowed here?

    [Daphne – You can stay. I’ve removed two of your interrogation marks.]

  38. red-nose says:

    Has Astrid got any ideas about this monument?

  39. Joseph Micallef says:

    If creative work is supposed to generate discussion and in general challenge norms than this is a masterpiece.

    Whether it should be removed or not is an interesting part of the provocation and has nothing to do with the Pope’s visit – save for the narrow minded Luqa councillors.

    Above all it has also generated interesting and creative posts to this blog and others, some of which are hilarious.

    Well done! My subjective penny’s worth – I don’t like this expression of art and to add to the provocation I would name it just Colonna or Colonna Avatar.

  40. Joe Fenech says:

    After making real k…. of themselves, why hasn’t the Luqa council issued a statement. They’ve ridiculised the nation.

    Step down you bunch of illiterates!

  41. Orion says:

    Min jaf x’ ras ghandu is-sindku John Schembri issa li semmewh fuq il BBC.

  42. Joe Fenech says:

    This is a pity. I remember knowing some smart people in Luqa over 30 years ago. They were highly educated engineers, architects, teachers… I am sure that today there are more of these people. Or can it be that cultured people don’t give a woo-woo about councils? Is it a sort of silent protest in the form of ‘je m’en foutisme’?

    I don’t want to see mini-bus drivers, parish-involved housewives, factory machine operators, ex-tarzna workers, mechanics…in POLITICS. It’s serious!

  43. lino says:

    Illiterates who ‘ridiculise’??

  44. Jon Shaw says:

    …… let’s say that this monument represents that portion of local males that have their penis always erect and ready to welcome tourists to Malta!

    On a serious note, it can now also become a revenue generator for the local council with prime rates for advertising on this roundabout and a tourist attraction in itself.

  45. Joe Fenech says:

    Malta is a country of extremes. Either we litter it with horrendous, old-fashioned monuments to local nobodies (folk singers [aaaarrrrgghh], poets, writers, footballers, priests…) or else we go for some ‘modern’ nonsense.

  46. H.P. Baxxter says:

    It had to happen sooner or later. Has anyone seen this?

  47. Stefy says:

    I don’t think that is art, sorry – for me it is a waste of money, not that I think it is vulgar. It’s just a column so if you see it in another shape maybe it is your mind which is vulgar, and so what if it is seen as a phallic – boys were born with it. It’s nature.

    What I think is that with 57 000 euros we could have done something more to help ease the life of poor people or started a programme to save our environment.

    Think about the world. All that it is will be no more if we don’t take care of our environmental issues, and if everything is lost even the phallic monument will be. Hela ta’ flus.

  48. Caz Crutchley says:

    Remove it and place it on top of the new parliment building once finished. It would be a fitting topping out ceremony.

    It would symbolise much of what PMs think of the PEOPLE

Leave a Comment