Speech delivered by Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici at the UNeECC’s
Good morning to all and thank you for your invitation to the Culture: Invented or Inherited? conference.
Culture is an intrinsic and inherent part of our lives. It nurtures our identity as a people, and its influence can be found in other sectors and areas, which we come across in our daily lives.
Although our country is small in size, it boasts a rich history, providing us with traditions which have shaped our culture and country. Many localities have their own specific customs inherited through time, some of which are still upheld today thanks to festivals and initiatives dedicated to these traditions.
Many characteristics of our culture and customs have been present throughout our lives. While some have remained constant, other elements have evolved and moulded themselves to keep up with nowadays’ changes. Which brings me to the role of technology in culture. We live in a world where exploring and researching is just a tap away – leading to more ‘cultural tourists’ visiting our country.
The European Capital of Culture has proved to be a major game-changer for our islands. In the run-up to this most-awaited year, it has helped to revamp and flourish our culture and arts scene, transforming Valletta into a culture hub, translating into a city, which is alive and colourful, a sharp contrast to its dilapidated look and empty streets of a couple of years ago.
Through direct investment, we have restored numerous palaces and façades in this beautiful gem to honour their past, and to be enjoyed by present and future generations.
Valletta 2018 has also been a catalyst of an increase of cultural related events and initiatives around the islands, as we continue to advocate our strategy to have a more inclusive and accessible culture sector, with events for everyone’s fancy.
This celebration has helped to stimulate the local culture sector, turning it into a booming one, and providing us with a legacy that will definitely live on.
It is thanks to our ‘inherited’ culture, that we have been given the opportunity to have the ‘invention’ of new traditions.
The Capital of Culture has seen to the creation of ‘Il-Festa l-Kbira’, a clear example of the overlap of invention and inheritance. Instead of having the traditional aspect of the festa, which is only celebrated in the locality or parish, we had the first-ever amalgamation of the four religious feasts celebrated in Valletta brought together. Whilst this celebration had all the typical elements of local feasts, it was the symbols of unity and collaboration that really shone through.
Another example of tradition meets innovation was the introduction of the Summer Carnival.
The Maltese Carnival has a prominent place in our culture calendar and has been present for countless years, with its colourful floats and costumes held in the four days prior to Ash Wednesday in Valletta.
The need was felt to provide more opportunities in relation to carnival celebrations both for enthusiasts and for locals and tourists to enjoy, and thus the Summer Carnival was introduced. Now in its sixth consecutive year, the Summer Carnival is celebrated in various localities around the island and also includes floats and costume with activities for all the family.
In a couple of days, we will witness the inauguration of MUŻA, the Malta National Community Art Museum, the first of its kind to grace our islands. MUŻA is housed in Auberge d’Italie an old building steeped in our country’s history, built by the Knights of St John, the perfect marriage of the old and the new.
With MUŻA, we are ushering in a new era in the eventful history of local museums and it is also a contribution to our Capital of Culture legacy.
This year, we also celebrating the European Year of Cultural Heritage. Heritage plays an important vital role in our culture sector, and in fact we are on the way to create a national intangible cultural heritage inventory. Through this inventory, we will be able to highlight intangible cultural heritage elements, so that we may proceed to eventually presenting them to UNESCO for their consideration for these to be included in the world’s intangible heritage list. Through this aspect, especially during this important year for culture, we’re working on giving our intangible heritage the importance it deserves.
Through the Capital of Culture, we have been given the opportunity to generate considerable cultural, social and economic changes, which have led to a substantial increase in the engagement of people in the creative sector, both in terms of audience development and career opportunities.
We are committed to continue investing in the culture and creative sector, as clearly shown in our budget for 2019 – through an investment of 82.8 million Euro, an 18% increase from last year.
It is through all this and more, that we are provided with the drive to keep on working towards a booming, more accessible culture sector, to keep on raising the profile and visibility of our cultural scene on an international scale.