Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to witness an exceptional concert which formed part of the Malta International Art Festival, performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. A truly unique experience which was made more incredible by the fact that a number of young musicians from our own National Youth Orchestra were given the opportunity to practice and play with such a renowned international ensemble.
In many ways this year’s International Arts Festival sums up our aspiration of providing local audiences with the opportunity to experience different forms of art through a varied number of performances (and exhibitions) whilst giving local artists the opportunity to collaborate both on-stage and off-stage with internationally renowned artists.
I firmly believe that as the artistic sector continues to evolve and gain momentum, a general national consensus is emerging on the inherent value of culture and our commitment as a nation to invest more resources in its development, an investment which leads to social, educational and economic benefits for all of our society.
Yearly occurrences like the Malta International Arts Festival are an excellent way for our local communities to garner more knowledge on the creative and cultural sector, especially when it comes to particular specific niches forming part of the arts, which may not be the everyday norm for our country. These initiatives are an ideal opportunity for the public to explore and introduce themselves to different kinds of art forms which they are not usually exposed to, especially when considering the myriad of art forms available.
A strong factor, which has given a vital push to the local culture and arts scene, was the introduction of organisations like Teatru Malta and Żfin Malta which are managing to develop their own audiences, providing essential education for the appreciation of different forms of art. An organisation which contributes greatly to the culture and artistic sector of our country is Festivals Malta, the organisation which is in fact responsible for the Malta International Arts Festival, amongst other festivals which every year contribute to our rich cultural calendar, ranging from traditional festivals like the Għanafest to the Carnival Celebrations and the Three Palaces festival.
Festivals Malta has seen its inception last year with a specific focus of creating an identifiable brand experience for our core festivals. Its main aim is to focus on the development and growth of individual festivals whilst providing festival participants and goers with a holistic experience when attending events. This strategy is helping us to produce more artistic and cultural activities whilst giving local artist the opportunity to work alongside other international artists which bring along their knowledge and experience.
I believe that the involvement of local artists is an important element for the longevity of all the festivals organised by Festivals Malta. If we had to just concentrate on international artists it becomes a spectacle that comes and goes, but if local artists are involved, then we would be developing the core of our creative community, with the possibility of exporting our talent overseas, giving Maltese artists the opportunity to tour other festivals, thus developing the image of our festivals as ‘High Quality Festivals’ and providing local artists with a much deserved wider audience.
As we enter the last few days of the Malta International Arts Festival, I cannot not mention some of the main highlights from this year’s edition like the wonderful amalgamation of music and dance by the NoGravity Dance Company, in their performances of Aria and Divina Commedia. Another highlight was definitely the opening act Kubu+ which consisted of an original score performed by the Big Band Brothers on a very particular stage that consisted of a number of cubes for the musicians to perform in, giving the audience multiple viewing perspectives. Another intrinsic aspect of the festival is definitely the Reza Deghati: Exile Voices exhibition showing at the Grandmaster’s palace. This photographic exhibition aims to raise awareness on the situation of Syrian refugees and offers different views of the lives of a nation which boarders the Mediterranean Sea, a key element of this year’s festival which aimed at celebrating diversity and mankind during a rather special year for Malta as we celebrate Valletta as the European Capital of Culture.
It was also a great pleasure for me to notice the great number of foreigners; expats and tourists who during their stay in Malta opted to attend one of the performances organised, clearing showing that arts and culture are a key element of our touristic product. The Malta International Arts Festival definitely has something to cater for everyone through its numerous events that go on until this weekend with an amazing concert by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Gergely Madaras and with the participation of 13-year-old prodigy pianist Dmitry Ishkhanov.
Festivals like the Malta International Arts Festival remind us that the primary reason we make public investments in the arts is for the inherent value of culture; a life-enhancing, entertaining and defining experience which develops our personal and national identity.