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Meet the Maltese – Salvu Mallia

Salvu Mallia is the ultimate man of many parts. He’s done and seen it all – or near enough. Salvu is the hugely popular face of the Television Malta programme Madwarna – a weekly cultural programme with a difference. The difference is simple. Salvu shuns the highbrow road and takes his subject to street level, thus making his programmes by far the most accessible of cultural offerings.

Salvu Mallia

Salvu Mallia

I meet Salvu in what I reckon is a quiet café –except that every other person seems to know him and stops to talk. A couple stops to thank him for his programmes. Salvu takes it all in stride.

Salvu is 63 years old – an age where one normally starts thinking of riding quietly into the sunset. But Salvu hasn’t any such plans yet. He talks enthusiastically about his programmes and other TV ventures in the pipeline.

Salvu is actually a first cousin – though we rarely meet at family events nowadays….never mind that family events are more often than not funerals. We invariably reminisce a bit over our shared past. I can still remember him taking his vows as a novice with the Augustinian Order when he was just 15 – and I was just six. That particular vocation didn’t last very long – all of six months in fact. Discovering the opposite sex apparently had something to do with that… He eventually got married too.

Salvu drifted for a while after that, although he continued experimenting with painting – an activity that had interested him since childhood. But his talents couldn’t be kept hidden for long and soon he was snapped up by one of Malta’s most reputable advertising agencies. Later he went on to set up his own agency and ran that for seven years before getting the itch to move on.

Salvu Mallia - Painting

Salvu Mallia – Painting

Theatre was a love that ran parallel with his art. He acted and directed in a number of plays –and also found time to put up four exhibitions of his art. After closing his advertising agency Salvu went on to do something rather uncharacteristic – he opened up a haberdashery shop in Valletta’s Merchants Street! “I fancied myself as a businessman at the time” Salvu bemusedly says. When that ran its time too he sold the business. But some of his ex-clients still miss his wares. “I chose merchandise with quality you know” he adds with some pride.

Salvu went on to direct a Great Siege Spectacular involving full blown horseback battles for a private entrepreneur. That show ran for five successful years but internal company bickering resulted in Salvu being made redundant – not the best of scenarios when you are 59.

Salvu Mallia - Dressing up for TV

Salvu Mallia – Dressing up for TV

But Salvu is the eternal self-inventor. When, after eight months on the dole, his daughter suggested that he should try presenting a TV culture programme he was sceptic. He had acted before but TV was new to him. Nothing ventured nothing gained…Salvu gave it a go and the rest is history. Tons of history actually, as Salvu researches his subjects in depth and the deceptively light approach is only there to make his programmes as accessible as possible. Non-Maltese friends and acquaintances love his programmes too and quite a few have been petitioning him to make his programmes subtitled in English – something the TV station has been reluctant to do so far. Maybe they will relent yet – and your next visit to Malta could be enriched with some (suitably subtitled) home grown culture and history…

Author: Steve Bonello

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