The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

Nurturing our traditions

Owen Bonnici Friday, 16 August 2019, 11:30 Last update: about 2 months ago

Cultural memorabilia, artefacts and traditions have an important role in society. We keep them to remember the stories, knowledge, skills and methods of our ancestors but also to learn invaluable lessons from the past.

They are what unites us as a nation - and the basis of what we are today.

On the other hand, cultural sustainability is also increasingly being perceived as another dimension of sustainable development leading to economic and social benefits.

That is the ministry's mission, to restore, revive, and rekindle our ancestors' heritage and traditions, and preserving them for posterity.

In my articles I have frequently dealt with our work to preserve tangible heritage. The entities within the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government are working persistently and doing their utmost so that our cultural heritage is brought to the forefront with widespread restoration and innovations to present this heritage in the best possible way in this modern world.

However we are also preserving traditions, which make up a significant part of what we inherited from our forefathers. Our intangible culture is as rich as our tangible culture with oral traditions, performing arts, rituals and festive events, folklore and traditions. Whatever shape they take, these all form part of our heritage, and this heritage requires an active effort on our part in order to safeguard it.

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Yesterday I enjoyed visiting the traditional Santa Maria feasts, probably Malta's most celebrated Festa, also due to its connection with our history. Operation Pedestal, known in Malta as the Santa Marija Convoy was the British operation to carry supplies to the island of Malta in August 1942, during the Second World War. History books and also our ancestors recall this fateful day, and the importance it had for our battered islands. We read and hear our grandfathers recall the day.

Seventy-seven years ago Malta was on the verge of starvation and days away from a possible surrender to the Axis forces led by Nazi Germany. But a last-ditch, high-risk effort to supply the island with direly needed fuel and food paid off, despite heavy losses, when the American tanker, the SS Ohio, was towed into Grand Harbour at 9.30am on 15 August, to cheering crowds.

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Visiting some of the communities celebrating this feast, I could not help myself noticing the fervour of the locals celebrating their Patron.

Locals all engaged in an activity or other to make the day one to remember. Not only are they locals but the majority are also volunteers.

It is thanks to these that our traditions are also kept alive.

As minister responsible for culture, I understand the hard work and unlimited voluntary hours these groups of people give to keep local traditions going - and that is why through schemes and other initiatives, we do our utmost to help and support them.

Take the local band clubs and fireworks factories.

Periodically we launch a fund focusing on strengthening the work carried out by band clubs which, as I wrote above, often serve as vital cultural centres of activity and also play an important role in the lives of their local communities.

Band clubs often serve as buzzing hubs of cultural activity and form an integral part of the country's cultural and social fabric. Not only do they offer music lessons at no cost, but they also organise cultural activities all year round which help to safeguard our cultural traditions. Our strategy is to ensure an inclusive and accessible culture and through this fund we are aiding the community to safeguard traditions and objects of historical value and the professionalisation within the sector as well.

 

Band clubs often play an important role in the community, creating a sense of belonging and serving as a point of entry and engagement with the arts. Their activities are ongoing and while they focus on teaching music to children and young people, they also organise cultural and traditional activities, which reach a peak during their main activity-village feasts. Furthermore, the buildings in which they are housed often contain objects of historical value and are of historical significance themselves.

 

The fund builds previous successes and aims to strengthen this work by supporting various initiatives proposed by the band clubs themselves, ranging from the restoration of historical objects housed in the band clubs' premises, to supporting the training of musical conductors and teachers at tertiary level. The fund also aims to support collaborations between band clubs and the implementation of innovative projects to expand the band clubs' activities both in Malta and abroad.

 

Local band clubs work tirelessly to strengthen the country's music culture while safeguarding our cultural traditions. All of this work is done on a voluntary basis-we feel that it should be supported.

 

We also support fireworks factories to improve their safety practices thanks to a fund which offers financial support to Maltese fireworks factories working on a voluntary basis and supports the growth of this popular industry that plays such a central role in Maltese culture and celebrations, including feasts. Behind the spectacular and artistic displays that light up our skies, a lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes. We want to better recognise and safeguard this work.

The fund, managed by Arts Council Malta within the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government,allocates grants to fireworks factories in Malta to improve their infrastructure so that the volunteers can work in a safer environment. The aim is to improve safety both during the manufacturing process as well as during the letting off of the fireworks. The grant is also intended for volunteers to invest in resources to improve the safety of the Maltese pyrotechnic product.

This fund has already resulted in the better regulation of the sector; almost all the fireworks factories are now registered voluntary organisations, allowing the sector to professionalise and regulate itself.

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The above are just two examples of how we sustain traditions. Our work in this field is vast and also covers other sectors. We sustain the traditional għana by keeping it alive during our Għanafest, we keep our traditions alive by submitting the ftira (flattened sourdough bread) and its culinary art as the first local element to be part of the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list.

Our final aim is that of strengthening all that makes us proud of being Maltese. Not only our heritage sites, not only our tangible, but also our intangible heritage.

We are preserving all that is ours, not only for our generation, our foreign visitors, but also for our future generations.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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