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Government doing more and more

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

Six months plus down the line since the last general election, we are doing more and doing more, more efficiently.

The cultural sector is way past rebooting stage and week in week out we are delivering or incentivising the holding of events or initiatives which make a difference.

Let me mention a projection which was received very positively: the near-completion of the restoration works at the Auberge d’Anglaterre in Birgu.

These works, which started in May, are being carried out by the Restoration Directorate in collaboration with the Kottonera Foundation and Birgu Local Council.

These restoration projects are crucial so that we continue to preserve our national history, a heritage that determines our identity as a people. Our mission is to make our heritage more accessible and strengthen our local communities; restorations are such an important aspect of this cultural plan of ours. We will continue our work and increase our commitment towards restoration projects which help preserve our national heritage in Cottonera and elsewhere in Malta.

The works on the Auberge included the restoring of the masonry fabric and timber apertures of the façade of the building. The restoration works also included cleaning, replacing the existing stonework, replacing any defective mortars and applying damp proofing at the roof level in place of deteriorated cement coatings.

The layout of Auberge d'Angleterre is identical to that of Auberge de France, and it is constructed in the Melitan style, which is based on conventional Maltese architecture. It is a two-story structure with rooms arranged in an internal courtyard. The first floor is where one can find the piano Nobile.

It has a simple front façade with a doorway, a round window above it, and windows on either side. An open balcony that hangs over the entrance first floor is again bordered by windows. Melitan mouldings are used to embellish the door and windows.

Upon their arrival in Malta in the 16th century, the Knights of St John had settled in Birgu and built seven auberges, including the Auberge D’Angalterre. This building was included in the Antiquities List of 1925 and is scheduled as a Grade 1 building.

Nowadays, the auberge houses, amongst other services, the Birgu Health Centre.

More cultural collaborations

Together with my colleague Minister Clifton Grima, we presided over an agreement between Heritage Malta and MCAST.

Heritage Malta and the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that envisages, among other things, the setting up of a Bachelors and Masters degree in Conservation on a full-time courses basis delivered by the institution. The MOU also provides for the granting of free access to MCAST students to practically all of Heritage Malta’s museums and sites, except for Hypogeum and Underground Valletta.

Through the MOU, both parties have agreed to set up a working group to collaborate on the Conservation courses, including academic content, as a traineeship scheme. Heritage Malta, in collaboration with the Institute for Public Services, has pledged to issue scholarships related to two degrees and two others according to the needs that arise from time to time. The agency will guarantee full-time employment to a limited number of sponsored students after completing their respective courses.

Besides free access to museums and sites to more than 8,000 MCAST students, Heritage Malta will give special discounts on its publications to MCAST students and lecturers and provide complimentary publications to MCAST’s libraries. The agency will also make available locations within its remit to be used as classroom extensions by MCAST lecturers. It will support MCAST students in their research studies, mainly by ensuring access to research data and encouraging them to carry out original research on museums and galleries’ heritage studies related to Heritage Malta.

Practical and fieldwork sessions will be carried out whenever possible at Heritage Malta sites, including its Conservation and Scientific Laboratories.

On its part, MCAST will consult with Heritage Malta on any requirements of particular expertise, professions, and skills deemed absent in the local labour market n receive courses to mitigate such conditions. Whenever possible, MCAST will invite members of Heritage Malta’s staff to participate in lecturing and fieldwork run by visiting scholars to complement their continuous professional development.

MCAST has also pledged to encourage several of its departments and students to focus their research, dissertations and projects on subjects and topics pertinent to Heritage Malta and its requirements.

Additionally, the college will assist the agency in the publishing and presentation of research papers if and when requested.

This is a win-win. I thank Minister Grima and MCAST’s Prof James Calleja for the excellent collaboration.

Malta project for the London Design Biennale Launched.

The project in which Malta will be taking part for the first time in the London Design Biennale with the theme Urban Fabric - fusing art, architecture, and innovative design has just been launched.

This is a brilliant idea conceived through a fusion of art, architecture and innovative design; Urban Fabric is a large-scale installation informed by contextual research and a deep-rooted appreciation of the need for sustainable design.

Through such efforts, we continue to fulfil our mission to further expose our local cultural and creative industries on an international platform. Participation at the London Design Biennale is a first for our country, and such a significant large-scale event will serve as a showcase for our artistic and creative sectors whilst also strengthening our designers’ profile on an international level.

Commissioned by Arts Council Malta, Urban Fabric re-contextualises the traditional Maltese village core. It merges two elements - traditional city planning and the Phoenician-Maltese fabric production and dyeing tradition. The installation is by the artists’ ethos of recyclability and eco-consciousness.

Arts Council Malta is also the commissioner for Malta’s entry for the Venice Biennale, which we have once again taken up in 2017 and are now in its 3rd consecutive edition of our participation; the London Design Biennale was the next natural step for us to tap into, for the benefit of our local artists and creative practitioners.

Open Square, the team behind the project, is an art and design collective of four members: Luke Azzopardi, Trevor Borg, Matthew Joseph Casha and Alessia Deguara. These four professional artists are known and respected names on the local and international artistic circuit, having already collaborated on high-profile projects.

The team includes two support members - veteran journalist Ramona Depares on communications and Gilbert Micallef as an external advisor on all financial matters.

The Fourth London Design Biennale will be held between the 1st and 25th of June, 2023. The installation will enjoy a prominent showcase during the Biennale at Somerset in London. Audiences in Malta will also be able to engage with the installation via an online portal. This project is commissioned by Arts Council Malta, within the Ministry for National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government.


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