Take a trip to one of Malta’s fishing villages and you’re sure to see loads of traditional Maltese luzzu boats gently gracing the water. With bright colours and open eyes, you truly get that real Malta feel.
Luzzu boats are traditional Maltese fishing boats, and have become one of Malta’s most iconic symbols – with good reason. They remind locals of simpler times, when technology was a thing of the future and
where entertainment would be a walk by the seaside. The luzzu has become a national treasure and are typically painted in yellow, blue, red and green to correlate the colours of the sea, land and sky.
Traditional Maltese Luzzu
Luzzijet (plural of luzzu) are usually passed down from grandfathers to fathers and eventually to their kids. This is the case with Lewis, the man behind our ‘Malta’s Horizon’ short film. He’s been a traditional fisherman ever since,
and St. Paul’s Bay (San Pawl il-Baħar) is his home. One of his boats had been passed down from his father, which was built for him. He tells some nostalgic stories and fond memories that he keeps close to his heart.
The moustache (the band separating the top and bottom halves of the boat) on the front of the boat can be found to have different colours, like red, white or yellow. This was used to distinguish the location of where the boat is from.
An interesting one that is actually still used today is the black moustache. It’s painted black when a family member passes and is remembered by painting the front stripe black, and is usually left that way for a year.
The design of the luzzu has been the same as it used to be in ancient times, as it is believed to be brought in by the Phoenicians. Nowadays, they are motorized with a diesel engine and are slightly larger in size. The most iconic part of the luzzu however are the eyes on the front of the boat. It is believed that the eyes would protect the fishermen from any harm on their daily trips,
through good or bad weather. It is also believed to fend off the evil eye from a good catch. It is also known as the eye of Osiris, which is the Phoenicians’ god of protection from evil. The colours of a luzzu are always kept exactly the same, even when repainted every couple of years, being another superstitious belief. ‘If it was made that way, leave it that way.’
Malta’s Horizon Limited
Our ‘Malta’s Horizon’ art pieces are the combination of the well-known luzzu boat and luzzu eye. In this illustration, we’ve framed a traditional luzzu sailing on the horizon by the protective and watchful eye of Osiris or luzzu eye. This symbolic feature,
found on many traditional Maltese boats, acts as a good luck charm to watch over fishermen on their journey. The sunset, created thanks to the pupil of the eye, encapsulates the end of a long day for the fisherman and that it’s time to go home.