The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

Our heritage acclaimed

Owen Bonnici Friday, 5 July 2019, 07:45 Last update: about 17 days ago

Positive responses received worldwide to Heritage Malta sites and museums led to awards given by TripAdvisor and TripExpert – responses based on the positive comments of 1.5 million professional travellers. I commend Heritage Malta on receiving these awards.

Fort St Elmo and the National War Museum, The National Archaeology Museum, the Grandmasters’ Palace, St Paul’s Catacombs, the Hypogeum at Ħal Saflieni and the prehistoric temples at Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra and Ġgantija have all received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor and the Experts’ Choice Award 2019 from TripExpert and TripExpert’s Best of Malta Award.

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Fort St Angelo and the Mitħna ta’ Kola (Kola’s Windmill) received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor, while the sites at Għar Dalam, the Tarxien Temples and the Inquisitor’s Palace received the Experts’ Choice Award 2019 and TripExpert’s Best of Malta Award.

The Certificate of Excellence awarded by TripAdvisor is in recognition of consistently good service. This award was received by about 10% of all the entities that are featured in TripAdvisor for receiving consistently positive results over a number of years.

The Experts’ Choice, now in its fourth year, recognises the comments of well-known publications as travel guides, reviews and newspapers. Less than 2% of attractions worldwide received this award.

Ħaġar Qim Temple, the St Paul’s Catacombs and the National Archaeology Museum – were also honoured by TripAdvisor with a Certificate of Excellence – Hall of Fame, which certificate is awarded to attractions that have achieved this Certificate for five successive years.

These are rewards for the constant attention we are giving to our Heritage. A great responsibility considering that we are the keepers of the oldest buildings in Europe – and some recognised to be older than the Pyramids of Egypt.

 

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Our National Museum of Archaeology is a treasure trove for all those interested in Malta’s past. It is also housed in the Auberge de Provence, an example of fine Baroque architecture built in 1571 - house to the Knights of the Order of St John originating from Provence, France.

Apart from its architectural features, the Grand Salon stands out with its richly painted walls and wooden beamed ceiling – currently under restoration.

Its archaeological displays date back to Malta’s Neolithic period, with the world famous ‘Sleeping Lady’ from the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum and the ‘Venus of Malta’ from Ħaġar Qim standing proud amongst the exhibits.

Heritage Malta constantly adds to the displayed attractions. The new exhibition ‘Ta’ Ġawhar Tower – Gold, Bread, and Fire’ is a must see for all archaeology enthusiasts.

At least five ancient round towers have survived in various degrees of preservation on the island of Malta, with most of them lying in the area of Żurrieq, Mqabba, and Ħal Safi. The function of these towers is still a matter of debate especially since it is not clear whether they formed part of a defensive system.

The exhibition focuses on one of these towers, known as Ta’ Ġawhar – a tower located on a stretch of land between Ħal Safi and Ħal Far.

Our country has an extensive history and these initiatives give us the chance to learn more about the past, which has shaped our identity as a people. This exhibition is also an ideal opportunity to discover more about lesser-known areas of our history.

It is pertinent to mention renowned archaeologist David Trump in connection with Ta’ Ġawhar Tower. It was Trump who in the 60’s excavated this tower. In his notes he reported that the circular tower was constructed with massive square blocks and its diameter was approximately 16 metres. Many signs of burning indicated that the tower was destroyed by a fire which seems to have taken place around 300 AD, after which it was completely abandoned.

The few artefacts which have been discovered on site included a small earring of gold wire, two small bronze buckets, one within the other, an iron double-bladed axe, a bronze coin, a jar neck with a potter’s mark, shards of a large imitation Samian platter, and a carbonised item which appeared to be a part of a bread roll.

The exhibition shows how the excavations were carried out at this intriguing site, what was discovered, and what is known about the site’s beginning and end. Visitors will also be able to learn about the new studies which are currently underway by Heritage Malta in an attempt to enhance further the knowledge about this site and the archaeological potential within it and its artefacts.

The exhibition at the National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta will remain open to the public till the 28th of September 2019.

I encourage all to find time during the summer months to spare time and visit our sites and museums - also by using the Heritage Passports Schemes for both students and seniors.

 

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Last week I announced the establishment the Festivals Malta Agency, with Norman Hamilton as its first chairperson.

The agency is to implement the objectives and perform all those functions established to create, maintain, organise, administer and oversee the organisation and implementation of a portfolio of national and international cultural and artistic events, festivals and cultural infrastructural projects.

This step fully encapsulates the strategy brought forward by this government when it comes to the culture sector. Through this measure, we are ensuring to provide Festivals Malta with the right tools and enablers, to make it easier for the public to attend festivals and increase participation, audience engagement and outreach. We are also strengthening professionalisation within the sector and furthermore working towards developing the brand and our image internationally as an expanding cultural tourism niche.

Festivals Malta, which up till now operated as a brand, will now have a distinct legal personality and will achieve its objectives by performing functions such as providing the right platform to sustain growth and development of the existing festivals portfolio.

The agency will also deliver levels of excellence in the execution of events and festivals, build on the current festivals and events portfolio by bringing new ideas and innovation, and further dialling up audience engagement and participation, through its functions.

Festivals Malta is also tasked with developing the festivals portfolio into an ongoing creative platform for Maltese and international artists and creative practitioners through the commissioning of new work in partnership with national and international arts organisations and festivals, and whilst also increasing participation locally through outreach activities and develop distinctive strategies for each festival to increase engagement.

The agency will also encourage a national arts and culture calendar, offering a consolidated programme and driving greater synergies, impact and alignment across public and private cultural organisations.

 

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Our sites also make a fantastic background for other cultural events. A truly memorable event was held on Wednesday, part of the Malta International Arts Festival with Hagar Qim Temples as a fitting background to international virtuoso, percussionist BeiBei Wang.

With a prestigious repertoire behind her name, Ms Wang gave a spectacular performance, enjoyed by all present at Hagar Qim. Ms Wang can now also add Malta and Hagar Qim to her hugely successful international tours.

The Malta International Arts Festival ends on 14 July.

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