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Carnival in February back with a bang!

Owen Bonnici – (Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts, and the Local Government.)

What a spectacular carnival it was this year! The joyous sounds of people laughing, cheering, dancing and having fun echoed throughout Valletta. The 2023 edition of the Carnival was received with great enthusiasm by the Maltese, Gozitans, and tourists who eagerly participated in the festivities. This year's carnival surpassed all expectations in terms of its production and the high level of artistic creations showcased.

Il-Karnival ta’ Malta was an incredible success, bringing together people from all walks of life to celebrate and enjoy each other's company. The atmosphere was electric with excitement and joy as guests mingled, danced, and savoured delicious food and drinks. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the participants and all those who, in various capacities, contributed to this year's carnival. I would also like to express my appreciation to the Festivals Malta team, particularly Aaron Zahra Annabelle Stivala and Jason Busuttil, for their exceptional efforts in organizing and executing a festival of such a grand scale.

Truly, Festivals Malta has put in a lot of effort and attention to detail, ensuring that every aspect of the event was seamless and enjoyable. The entertainment was fantastic, with live music and performances that had the crowd cheering and applauding. As Il-Karnival ta’ Malta drew to a close, everyone was left with a feeling of warmth and contentment, grateful for the wonderful memories created during this unforgettable event.

The carnival is a celebration that has been observed for centuries in many nations all over the world, although not everywhere. The Carnival in Malta this year saw a sharp increase in attendance as thousands of people descended to Valletta and elsewhere to take part in the exciting activities.

This carnival provided participants with a wide variety of events to enjoy, with a more extensive program of events than in years past. The vibrant and ornate clothes, upbeat music, and joyful dancing define the carnival. The celebration has medieval origins and is influenced by British, Spanish, and Italian customs. From the purely traditional point of view, the Maltese Carnival is a celebration of joy and community, where people come together to have fun and let loose before the solemn season of Lent.

It fills me with pride to witness the enthusiastic attendance of individuals at the carnival activities in Valletta. It brings me immense satisfaction to observe people of all ages revelling in the jubilant events that constitute such an integral part of Maltese culture.

In light of the tremendous success of this year's carnival, I am looking forward to the Summer Carnival, which will be making a triumphant return from the 18th to the 20th of August 2023. Further information regarding the Summer Carnival will be disclosed in due course.

Heritage Malta’s Digitisation Unit

Together with my colleague and friend Chris Bonnet, we visited The Digitisation Unit, which was established 3 years ago thanks to funding from the Norway Grants (formerly EEA funds). Its main office is located in Bighi, while a scanning lab is located at the Malta Maritime Museum. The grant allowed for the purchase of state-of-the-art digitisation hardware capable of creating digital twins in both 2D and 3D. Additionally, a collections management system was acquired and set up to catalogue the Malta Maritime Collection using documents, artefacts, photos, and models. META data is added to all digitised artefacts, and an e-Museums platform is being developed to provide online access to the digitised national collection.

The main aim is to digitise the broadest and most intangible cultural heritage assets entrusted to Heritage Malta for the most comprehensive possible use.

The funds from the EEA Norway Grants amount to 2 million. These were used to conduct the restoration work in the Maritime Museum and to kick off the Digitization Section at Heritage Malta with the purchase of modern equipment that allowed the digitisation. A Collection Management System (CMS) was also set up, where these collections are catalogued through software.

Digitisation ensures widespread use by present and future generations.

Our goal was to digitise 3,600 artefacts by the end of the third year. This has now significantly exceeded, and we currently have around 7,500 artefacts, which is double the target we had we will continue to keep history as an integral part of our country's life. We will continue to give it the importance it deserves.

Five specialised unit personnel and a project manager were hired thanks to the grant.

To ensure the longevity of the Digitisation Unit, the agency has supplemented the Norway Grant with additional funding. This has allowed for the acquisition of more digitisation and processing hardware and software, as well as the hiring of additional full-time staff. The unit is responsible for implementing the agency's digital strategy and has been appointed as the national data aggregator for cultural heritage data. The unit also represents Malta on the Commission Expert Group on the common European Data Space for Cultural Heritage (CEDCHE).

Finally, last year, the Digitisation Unit became the first unit within the agency to obtain the ISP 9001:2015 certification. The certification was conducted by Lloyds, and it further solidified the unit's commitment to excellence in digitisation and preservation.

Il-Malti: Il-Mixja sal-Għarfien Uffiċjali’

The National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta is currently hosting Il-Malti: Il-Mixja sal-Għarfien Uffiċjali’ an exhibition that has been organized in collaboration between Heritage Malta and L-Akkademja tal-Malti. The exhibition, which is divided into ten themes, covers the history of the Maltese language from its Semitic roots to when it was declared the national language of Malta in 1964 and one of the official languages of the European Union in 2004.

Through a range of documents, books, and information panels, the exhibition introduces visitors to important works such as the Kantilena of Pietru Caxaro, the sermons in Maltese by Ignazio Saverio Mifsud, and the writings of Agius de Soldanis and Vassalli. It also includes the only issue of the ‘L’Arlecchin’ newspaper in Maltese from December 1838, explores the language question, and covers the establishment of L-Għaqda tal-Kittieba tal-Malti. Monumental works such as the Bible translation by Pietru Pawl Saydon and the dictionary of Ġużè Aquilina are also featured.

Our language is unique: not only because it is spoken exclusively by us Maltese, but also because it brings together the Semitic element and the Romance element, while is written in the Latin alphabet. As a passionate lover of the Arab language and world, I can appreciate more the beauty of it all.

Back to the exhibition. It commemorates 100 years of perseverance for the Maltese language. Every language has its unique characteristics, and it's essential to preserve them in the best possible way to maintain a country's identity. Maltese exhibitions like this one are critical elements of Maltese identity. Thanks to the Maltese language, the Maltese people have been able to express their ambition towards their identity in the best way possible...

I thank Mario Cutajar and Noel Zammit and the good team at Heritage Malta for this work, as well as the Digitisation project.


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