The Malta Independent 13 November 2019, Wednesday

The daughter muse of memory

Owen Bonnici Friday, 8 November 2019, 08:34 Last update: about 5 days ago

The National Museum of Art - MUŻA - an acronym and the Maltese word for inspiration, and a clear reference to the muses, the mythological creatures from classic antiquity inspiring creativity - celebrates its first anniversary on Sunday.

I recall back in my school days my interest in ancient Greece the ancient home of the Muses, the Greek goddesses of poetic inspiration, the adored deities of song, dance, and memory. They were the inspiration of all artists and thinkers and some, especially Hesiod, depicted them as the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. They were deities that gave artists, philosophers and individuals the necessary inspiration for creation. Incidentally, the word museum also comes from the Greek Muses, Mouseion - “Seat of the Muses”.

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Touring the museum is inspiring, and also an extraordinary cultural meander through the artist’s memory, his talented dance embracing the colour palette, the brush and the canvas, giving us all the famed collection we have at MUŻA.

With MUŻA we ushered in a new era in the eventful history of museums in Malta. This national-community art museum places the public at the very centre of the museum experience. The visitor is welcome to enjoy the memory of the artist through his art, enjoy history through the depictions, and be fascinated by the great collection and the great artists’ names behind it.

One can move through the four chapters, Mediterranean, Europe, Empire and The Artist. But most important is the museum’s simple understanding that “art must not merely be displayed but shall reach out to touch even the most casual observer”. Obviously the building in itself is a wonder of restoration, bringing back to life and good purpose a 500 year-old Auberge of the Knights of St John.

 

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This week I launched the eighth edition of the Valletta Baroque Festival an initiative of Teatru Manoel, an entity within the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government. I must say that this edition is promising to be yet another spectacular celebration of baroque music in magnificent churches, theatres and palaces. The forthcoming festival edition is predominantly secular, with various concertos from all over Europe, also infused with a dose of local talent.

The Valletta Baroque Festival has consistently gone from strength to strength, establishing itself in the baroque scene, whilst also enhancing our local cultural experience.

Thanks to an indicative first survey which was done in collaboration with the Malta Tourism Authority, the 2020 edition will focus more on paying further attention to the experience of concert-goers. And this is in line with our strategy to make culture more accessible, in fact, this survey also highlights the economic benefits brought by the festival which gives tourism a boost during January.

I also announced an extra baroque opera, which has not been performed in living memory. The opera Pelopida, by Maltese composer Girolamo Abos, was composed in 1747 for Teatro Argentina in Rome and will open the 2020-2021 Teatru Manoel season in September.

Last year’s formula – with the festival branching out of Valletta – is being kept this year, exploring beautiful baroque settings amongst which, the Verdala Palace in Buskett and the St Philip of Agira Church in Ħaż-Żebbug, bringing baroque music to the places it was composed for.

Some highlights for this year include the music of Pedro Riumonte in St John’s Co-Cathedral, Music From the Missions by Florilegium which will bring music spanning from eight decades to the Jesuits’ Church in Valletta, the Sacred Vivaldi Concert by La Serenissima at the Collegiate Church of St Paul in Rabat and the Bel Canto from Naples by Simone Kermes & Amici Veneziani at the Teatru Manoel, which will be closing off the festival in style.

A novelty in this year’s edition will be the sale of Valletta Baroque Festival merchandise. The Festival is teaming up with local artists Glen Calleja, Glenn Ellul and Ritienne Zammit to create a special and unique merchandising line, including Valletta Baroque Festival blankets made by the Teatru Manoel costume department. A mobile app has been developed specifically for the VBF 2020 edition. Visitors may use the app to discover concerts, maps to the venues, bus numbers, and generally useful information.

The 8th edition of the Valletta Baroque Festival will be held between the 10th and 25th January 2020.

 

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After announcing the opening of another edition of the Art in Public Spaces competition nine months ago, this week my colleague Ian Borg and I gave details about the exhibition of the six winning projects for this year.

This competition has the goal of placing artistic installations in specific communities, with the aim of strengthening the sense of identity of these communities while promoting the interaction of the community with art.

This year, the six winners were Olive Twist by artist Rune Bo Jakobsen to be installed in Żejtun, Passage of Time by artist Stephen Saliba to be installed in Pembroke, Flimkien/Integrazzjoni by artist Mario Sammut to be installed in Marsascala, Pin by Forward Architects to be installed in Qormi, Humanity in Glory by Sonny Gatt to be installed in Naxxar and The Wave of Life by Charles Zammit to be installed in Dingli.

The last edition of the competition led to six different projects, four in Malta in the localities of Marsascala, Dingli, Siġġiewi and Cospicua, with the last two still being implemented and two in Gozo in the localities of Xagħra and Għajnsielem.

The Art in Public Spaces scheme is providing local artists with a platform to showcase their artworks in a way that they can cultivate their vision and share it with the rest of society by placing these public artworks in strategic locations for everyone to enjoy appreciate.

As a Government, we want to further enhance our country’s cultural ecology, and through these numerous initiatives we are ensuring that we bring arts and culture closer to our communities. Thanks to such projects we are also strengthening our country’s cultural legacy and footprint for future generations.

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