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Free nations

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



“The wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men.”


“[But then] without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.”


These are two quotes, one by JFK and the other one by Albert Camus, which when taken together provide a fantastic pathway for an idea of better future through culture and freedom. These quotes are all the more relevant today given the war which is raging at Europe’s doorstep and the uncertaintly it brings to everyone.


It is crucial to keep pushing forward a stronger cultural agenda, not merely for the sake of the art forms and the creative practitioners themselves, but for a better future for us all as a country.


I would like to walk you through four events which have taken place in the last days relating to this beautiful world of the arts:


Initial phase of Maritime Museum restoration works nearing completion


One of the most exciting projects currently undertaken by Heritage Malta is the complete revamp of the Malta Maritime Museum. This is a big project and its first phase is being sustained by EEA and Norwegian Grants. This initial phase of restoration works at the Malta Maritime Museum is nearing completion. This phase saw the restoration, demolition, reconstruction and rehabilitation of dilapidated areas at the back of the museum.


The subsequent phase will entail general modernization, with a Masterplan being drawn up for all the spaces within the museum. A renowned international museum designer has been hired to assist Heritage Malta during the second phase of the project.


Together with my friend Dr Chris Bonett, who is currently very ably in charge of European Funds in his role as Parliamentary Secretary, we were given a run-through of the works involved in both phases during a visit to the museum. We were shown around by Heritage Malta’s top management, led by Chairperson Mario Cutajar, and by the museum’s Senior Curator, Liam Gauci.


The funds allotted by the EEA Norway Grants totalled €1,713,200. The grant not only financed restoration works but also the setting up of a Digitization Unit within Heritage Malta and the purchase of all necessary equipment for the digitization of the Maltese Islands’ maritime heritage.


During the past two years, thousands of artefacts from the Maritime Museum collection have already been digitized. A Collection Management System (CMS) has also been established, providing for the cataloguing of whole collections with the aid of specialized software.


Now that restoration works have been completed in various areas of the building, such as the silos, the warehouses and the main staircase, and delapidated roofs have been rebuilt, we are looking towards the restoration, modernization and design of the remaining spaces within the museum, including the permanent display and interpretation. The second phase will also comprise the restoration of the up till now neglected spaces on the ground floor, where the old naval bakery is located, and the recreation of the ditch at the back of the museum.


10th edition of The Three Palaces, Early Opera and Music Festival


From heritage to the arts. I am absolutely thrilled about this year’s The Three Palaces Festival 2022, and that after a two year hiatus we will be returning to our glorious buildings - from the exquisiteness that is the Gran Salon, Auberge de Provence (Museum of Archaeology) to the magnificence and splendour of St John's Co-Cathedral.


The 10th edition of The Three Palaces, Early Opera and Music Festival will take place between the 1st and the 12th of November.

This time, the programme has been curated by a joint artistic team consisting of Michelle Castelletti and Kenneth Zammit Tabona. Michelle is Michelle and you do not need to say anything else to describe her wonderful creative attributes, while Kenneth (I’ve never met a person as young in his heart as Kenneth) brings an element of baroque opera to the festival.


This event shall provide a platform for various forms of art and historical buildings of our country.


One other thing: we have also successfully merged together three genres of chamber music, baroque opera, as well as the works of Joseph Vella in order to create a dynamic programme to appeal to a wider audience.


I believe that The Three Palaces Early Opera & Music Festival gives access to all those who visit our country to our majestic buildings and offers them a unique experience that they cannot find anywhere else around the world.


EFFEA, the European Festivals Fund for Emerging Artists


I absolutely support private efforts to tap EU funding for the benefit of our artistic community. To this end, we proudly launched EFFEA, the European Festivals Fund for Emerging Artists. This is an initiative of the European Festivals Association (EFA) and the private firm ARC Research & Consultancy is the lead partner in Malta.


It is a three-year project that offers emerging artists a platform to develop their career on an international level through arts festivals. The first call for festivals to support artists opened last Friday 14 October 2022 and will remain open for one month, closing on 15 November 2022.


This fund will foster and enable European increased visibility for emerging artists. It will address the needs of artists at different levels and it carries the potential of new opportunities for local festivals to continue giving artistic careers.


EFFEA is truly a great opportunity for festivals in Malta and Gozo to network and collaborate internationally with other European festivals. For our artists, it will be a critical experience as part of a developing international career.


A well-deserved well done goes to Davinia Galea and her excellent team.

Launch of the 4th edition of the MICAS International Art Weekend with the unveiling of ‘The Palm Goddess for Malta’


I also was privilleged to launch MICAS International Art Weekend with the unveiling of ‘The Palm Goddess for Malta’ a work of art by internationally acclaimed artist Michele Oka Doner.


The installation of ‘The Palm Goddess for Malta’ against the backdrop of Renzo Piano’s contemporary interpretations of Valletta’s open-air theatre, city gate and Parliament building, is a celebration of artists’ ability to innovate, be creative, and think anew. I enjoyed meeting Michele: she is indeed an amazing artist.


International Art Weekend as a testament to Malta’s international aspirations and commitment to looking towards the future. As a government we are committed to invest in the creation of a high-profile artistic programme of events that strengthens the Maltese cultural calendar and products for the cultural tourist. The government is equally committed to investing in new cultural infrastructures such as the Malta International Contemporary Art Space (MICAS), its Sculpture Garden and terraces.


MICAS is a significant investment for the country that is being realised through European Regional Development Funds and state funding.




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