The Malta Independent 18 February 2020, Tuesday

Exporting culture and local talent

Owen Bonnici Friday, 23 August 2019, 07:58 Last update: about 7 months ago

As a nation we pride ourselves with the richness of our culture and our talented artists. Our history and Cultural Patrimony are renowned worldwide, as are our artists. The Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government supports and believes that our culture and artistry should be “exported” not only to highlight our heritage but also to give a good platform to local artists on the international scene.


This is done in various ways. Exhibiting our patrimony abroad is maybe the most common, however in this day and age, we also delve into all possible means to do this by using modern technology.

We also support our artists to enable them to participate in festivals and other cultural spheres abroad, thus also bringing to the forefront our very talented locals who are at par with their international counterparts.

We also have a long list of artists who made a name for themselves in the cultural field, literally exported their talent and in doing so, put Malta firmly on the map, not only as a nation rich in talent, but also as a country which is a must-visit for the culture-oriented tourist.


Late last week I hailed Ganni Bonnici - sculptor, ceramist and medallist who passed away on Saturday. Bonnici was a leading figure among Maltese artists and made a name for himself not only in the field of sculpture but was also a pioneer in the field of modern ceramics in Malta. 

Bonnici was responsible for a large number of public monuments in Malta and abroad. His talent is strewn all over the island and appreciated by all art aficionados. More than that, Bonnici’s works can also be found in various European countries, Canada, Australia and USA.

Recalling another artist, who is also known worldwide, last May we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Emvin Cremona’s birth with a lecture organised by Heritage Malta. Cremona is regarded as one of the best local artists of the 20th century who left a significant mark on the story of art in Malta. His works are found in several churches. The World Health Organisation headquarters in Geneva and the UN headquarters in New York also house paintings by Cremona.


Malta exports culture in various ways and reviews are impressive. Festivals Malta was launched in 2017 with, amongst other remits, the strategic task of exporting local talent. Apart from Teatru Malta and Kor Malta, back in 2015 we also launched Zfin Malta, Malta’s first National Dance Company that has made a name for itself both locally and abroad.

In fact ŻfinMalta has featured on the Entertainment front page of The Wallstreet International, complete with front-page image, in a review penned by noted dance essayist and critic Marinella Guatterini.

Picking up ŻfinMalta’s rendering of its performance Voyager at the 2019 edition of the Civitanova Danza festival, Guatterini praised Malta’s ‘nine bravi interpreters’ who ‘immerse themselves in a very refined habitat’ of ‘continuous dynamic movement’.

Guatterini, who is also the coordinator of the theatre programme at Teatro alla Scala Ballet and director of the course for dancers at the Civica Scuola di Teatro ‘Paolo Grassi’ in Milan, was writing about ŻfinMalta’s recently-created performance, directed by ŻfinMalta’s young artistic director Paolo Mangiola.

The Washington Post critic also had words of praise for Mangiola, who has himself created works for the Royal Ballet, Tanztheater Nürnberg, Aterballetto and Balletto di Roma and, as a performer, collaborated and danced for artists and choreographers such as Wayne McGregor, Deborah Hay, Martin Creed, Mauro Bigonzetti and Jacopo Godani.

Behind the creation of Voyager is also a full Maltese team that has included visual artist Austin Camilleri, composer Veronique Vella and designer Luke Azzopardi. Camilleri, Vella and Azzopardi collaborated with Mangiola to create an experience that propels its audience into a world of introspection, self-discovery and reflection on the way human beings are treating the planet.

Following a successful world premiere of Voyager last November, ŻfinMalta has taken its full-length creation to different theatres around the Maltese islands earlier on in the year.

I also have to mention the impeccable work being done by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra – always proud to represent Maltese art and culture on the world musical stage.


We are always on the lookout to explore platforms to introduce local talent to opportunities abroad and also to participate directly in this sphere. Just to mention two recent opportunities, Arts Council Malta had two open calls one for Performing Artists to attend the IETM plenary in Rijeka, Croatia this October and another for the Young Culture Innovators Forum, which offered an opportunity for two participants from Malta to be part of an intensive program taking place at Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, Austria, also for the coming October.


It is also a pleasure to note the success of the Malta Pavilion at the 58th Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. Malta’s Pavillion was ranked among the top 16 pavilions as singled out by the prestigious Christie’s international art magazine for its Pick of the Pavilions at the 2019 edition of the Biennale.

Titled Maleth/Haven/Port - Heterotopias of Evocation, the Malta Pavilion is also among the 25 national exhibits named by leading arts magazine Frieze as ‘the best on view in Venice’ this year - out of more than 95 pavilions present at the event.

This prestigious review came well ahead of the opening back in May of the Venice Biennale which is considered to be the oldest, largest and possibly the most competitive event in the world of arts.

Maleth/Haven/Port - Heterotopias of Evocation. The Malta Pavilion, commissioned by the Arts Council Malta and curated by Hesperia Iliadou, is inspired by the Odyssey. The exhibit provides an immersive reinterpretation of our timeless need to seek a Haven (Maleth). Cave of Darkness – Port of No Return. Trevor Borg proposes a reimagined multi-layered narrative of ancient creatures and long lost civilisations by exploring an entrapment concealed within a Haven. Outland. Vince Briffa focuses on the indecisiveness of man as he longs to retrace his way to the ultimate Haven, caught between an island’s safety and the peril of sea-crossing. Atlantropa X. Klitsa Antoniou hovers between the past and contemporary conditions of surviving displacement and discontinuity amid conflict, within fluid Mediterranean topographies.

The 58th Venice Biennale Art Exhibition runs until November 24, 2019 and is proving to be a success not only for the art exhibited, but also for highlighting our great talents abroad.

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