Catching up with Raffaella Zammit on Forma Mentis by Gabriel Caruana Foundation

ARTZ ID goes into conversation with Raffaella Zammit, Founding Member and Executive Director of the Gabriel Caruana Foundation also known as The Mill. Raffaella is also the Co-Creative Director and Programme Manager of the Foundation, known for its dynamic and inclusive program of artistic and cultural events. Raffaella speaks with us about a new exciting project launched by the Foundation, ‘Forma Mentis’. 

Can you tell us what Forma Mentis is?

I’m really excited to share with you our project ‘Forma Mentis’! It’s one of those projects with a lot of behind the scenes work where we crossed paths with some very creative, talented and patient people. In a nutshell ‘Forma Mentis’ is an art project for our mental health well being. It’s a series of videos and a zine containing exercises led by three talented contemporary artists who have a background in psychology and psychotherapy. The exercises touch upon different aspects such as our relationship with ourselves and others, support systems and methods to overcome situations that block us. The exercises are different in terms of processes, and can be done at home, alone or in company, and each giving us space to reflect on the process and the final creative work. I must underline that these exercises may result in strong feelings in vulnerable people hence carrying these exercises in a therapeutic setting is recommended. 

Denise Scicluna filmed by videographer Eve Hartley, during Forma Mentis workshop

Who is involved in the project?

The project itself involved a team of ten people, from artists to designers, editors and videographers. Gabriel Buttigieg, Denise Scicluna and Pietru Farugia are the contemporary artists leading the video workshops and who each shared three exercises in the zine. Umberto Buttigieg, one of our Founding Members, has penned an introduction as part of the zine.

Gabriel Buttigieg is a prolific visual artist based in Malta, whose creative range spans from drawing and printmaking, to large-scale paintings. His artworks refer to primordial themes, often conceptualised within a Mediterranean or tribal context, he also has read a Bachelor of Psychology at the University of Malta. Denise Scicluna is an art psychotherapist, clinical supervisor and abstract painter based in London. She qualified as an art psychotherapist after reading her MA in Art Psychotherapy at the University of Roehampton in London. Her work is based on the understanding that an artwork embodies the current state of being, imprinting a story on paper or canvas. Through her paintings, Denise shares stories, visions and playfulness with the viewer. Similarly in her profession as an art therapist, she allows her clients to access art materials, inviting them to express their own world creatively and playfully, within a safe therapeutic setting.

Pietru Farrugia is a multidisciplinary artist currently completing his training as a Gestalt psychotherapist in Malta. He is a researcher in the Faculty for Social Wellbeing (University of Malta) and a visiting lecturer in the Department of Youth and Community. His work focuses on human relationships, spiritualities, and modalities of healing. These topics inform the workshops and therapeutic sessions Pietru facilitates with diverse participants and clients. ‘Forma Mentis’ is funded by the Small Initiatives Support Scheme (SIS) managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector (MCVS), and they have been very helpful throughout this tumultuous year.

How has the pandemic changed your plans?

‘Forma Mentis’ started life quite differently. Back in 2019 I was thinking of a way to bring art and mental health well being together. Elyse Tonna and myself started discussing this idea of having a series of workshops involving contemporary artists with a background in psychology and psychotherapy. We approached the Richmond Foundation to discuss potential workshops in summer 2020. We developed the idea further and started looking for funding to get this going and having had a positive experience with the Small Initiatives Support Scheme of the MCVS we applied for funding. We were extremely happy that ‘Forma Mentis’ was granted funding and started working on it.

However things changed course when the pandemic hit us. For a while the project went on hold. Here the officers at the Malta Council for the Voluntary were extremely helpful, we discussed some ideas with them and made sure that the aims were not compromised. In a way ‘Forma Mentis’ has now a wider reach, we have a series of 9 exercises in video and written format that are available on the project page on our website. We also have printed a limited number of the zine, some of which are available from our website and the rest have been disseminated with the Richmond Foundation, the Malta School of Art.

Gabriel Buttigieg druing Forma Mentis Workshop
Videographer Karl Andrew Micallef filming Forma Mentis workshops

How is the public involved in this project?

We really want to see this project go further, and are calling people to participate in ‘Forma Mentis’ by viewing the video, downloading the zine or requesting one from our website and of course taking the time to work on the exercises. You are all encourage to upload your work to Facebook and Instagram using #formamentisart and the Gabriel Caruana Foundation. In May we’ll be sharing all the artworks submitted.

Pietru Farrugia filmed but Karl Andrew Micallef during Forma Mentis workshop

Forma Mentis videos and zine were launched today, Sunday 28th March, and the #FormaMentisArt campaign will run until the 29th of May when the Gabriel Caruana Foundation will share the images uploaded by the public. To keep updated check the Gabriel Caruana Foundation website

The videos and zine do not replace actual therapy. If you would like to seek psychological help for your mental health wellbeing, please seek a professional or call the Richmond Foundation Helpline on 1770. 

This project has been funded by the Small Initiatives Support Scheme (SIS) managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector (MCVS). This project/publication reflects the views only of the author, and the MCVS cannot be held responsible for the content or any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Raffaella Zammit, behind the scenes during Forma Mentis workshops

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