Owen Bonnici – (Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts, and the Local Government.)
What do the renovation projects which transformed the former Old Abattoir (now operating as the Valletta Design Cluster), Fort St Angelo and Fort St Elmo, the Auberge d’Italie (now operating as MUŻA, the Community Art Musuem) and the upcoming MICAS project have in common?
They are all local and brilliant examples of how Baukultur leads to a more beautiful built heritage and a better standard of living for the communities.
Earlier this week, I participated, along with fellow European Culture Ministers and representatives from international organisations as varied as the European Commission, ICOMOS, UNESCO and Europa Nostra and leading international private companies in a Conference – held in Davos, Switzerland - aimed at discussing high-quality Baukultur. The conference, held in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, was very ably presided by Alain Berset who, under the intricate system which the Swiss have, is currently serving as both President of the Swiss Confederation and Interior Minister.
This week’s conference led to the creation of the Davos Alliance which will bring together all these parties, including Malta, to keep putting culture into our future and work together for more High Quality Baukultur in our European continent and elsewhere. I would like to thank Professor Klaus Schwab and his wife Hilde for their genuine interest and support.
This conference was the second one in this format, and follows the first conference held in 2018 which had set the starting point for what we achieved together this week. During the first conference of 2018, the so-called Davos Declaration was drawn up and Malta was a signatory. So in many ways, this week’s creation of the Davos Alliance was the next step forward.
The aim of all this work is to preserve and develop quality buildings and cities that are sustainable and culturally relevant. This way, we achieve a high-quality Baukultur, which leads to a more cohesive society, sustainable economic prosperity and better general living standards. This is, we all agreed, ‘Common Wealth and a Shared Responsibility’. In the end, Baukultur, in its broadest sense, would help strengthen global resilience and cohesiveness in our communities.
The journey which brought so many countries and parties together, to the creation and launching of this alliance, was a natural progression in many ways. At its core lies the need to provide a more salutary environment for our citizens where they can live, work and prosper throughout their life. The integration of cultural and environmental aspects has thus become central, especially in view of the ever-changing needs of our societies.
During the same conference, I also joined the rest of the European ministers in showing support to the people of Ukraine after the senseless military aggression being carried out by Russia.
Four paintings, a niche, an organ and part of a tribune will all be restored thanks through funding from Arts Council Malta and the Restoration Directorate under a specific scheme for the third year running.
In all we will be funding seven restoration projects of objects with a religious theme for a total funding of €90,000.
This scheme provides financial assistance for the restoration and conservation of cultural property that has existed for at least 50 years or more - both internal and external. These must be general things such as altars, apertures, architectural decor, gilding and frescoes of churches that fall under the scope of a parish church.
I praise the initiative and describe it as an important step to continue addressing as much as possible every corner of the cultural sphere. It is important that we continue to conserve the legacies of our past, and through a scheme like this, we can continue to preserve our country’s rich history to serve as a platform for the future. This scheme is also a perfect example of all the work that the Government is doing in order to continue to strengthen the cultural and creative sector in all its fields.
One of the objectives of the 2025 Strategy of the Maltese Council for the Arts Strategy is to increase the various artistic and cultural expressions. Not only are we addressing this goal through this scheme, but we are also safeguarding the promotion and protection of access to historical heritage.
This scheme is another effective tool for the Directorate, with the support of Arts Council Malta, to help the Maltese heritage sector. This initiative, together with the restoration scheme for local councils, ensures the widest range of restoration projects in the communities and also reaches immovable artefacts of various types and materials.
Cultural Region for the year 2023
In the past days, Parliamentary Secretary Alison Zerafa Civelli, Southern Region President Jesmond Aquilina and I presided over the official opening ceremony of the Cultural Region for the year 2023, which will be the Southern Region. This year, the southern regional council, with the collaboration of 12 local councils, will stage a cultural program that celebrates the unique cultural heritage of these twelve localities. We also launched the official logo, designed by Steve Bell, which is a symbol that represents the union between the 12 localities together as a region.
Apart from the initiative of the cultural region, each council and region must be committed to keep strengthening the cultural fabric in the localities and respective region, as defined in the regional cultural strategies already announced and which are based on the principles and objectives of the national culture policy
This program will help to bolster the participation of many practitioners in the cultural and artistic sector and leave an appropriate legacy in our communities. We do this because we are committed to keep investing in culture.
The Southern Region was awarded €250,000 by the Directorate for Local Government, Strategy and Policy Implementation as funding for the implementation of the cultural program of this year's cultural region. For its part, the region will contribute €25,000 for the same purpose. Through this cultural program, the southern localities will have the opportunity to strengthen their identity not only in the cultural field but also in the economic field and in the tourist sector.
Truly, the main aim of the cultural program is to expose the beauty of every town and village within the region. Also it will provide a platform for collective so that we do not only promote our cultural fabric but we also continue to strengthen the whole ecosystem so that it flourishes through artists, craftsmen and everyone who has something to offer to our culture.
The twelve localities that are part of this region include the locality of Gudja, Żejtun, Ħal Qormi, Birżebbuġa, Ħal Għaxaq, Ħamrun, Ħal Luqa, il-Marsa, Marsaskala, Marsaxlokk, Santa Lucija and Santa Venera.
I wish every success in the implementation of this cultural program, and I encourage the public to attend and participate in the activities and initiatives that the region has prepared.