The Malta Independent 29 May 2024, Wednesday
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Refugee Week Malta Festival

Sunday, 4 June 2023, 08:50 Last update: about 13 months ago

After the successful launch last year, the festival Refugee Week Malta (RWM) will be happening for the second time locally from Sunday 18th June to Sunday 25th June 2023.

The theme for this year's festival is Compassion and we are celebrating our ability to put compassion into action.

As Pope Francis expressed during his latest visit in Malta, it is only "by conducting ourselves with kindness and humanity" can we keep the ship of civilization afloat.


The festival aims to create spaces for us to connect beyond labels and inspire a culture of care amongst people seeking sanctuary who live in Malta and Gozo. Forming part of the global movement Refugee Week, this festival is designed to share the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees through arts, community and cultural activities across the island. The producers, Dance Beyond Borders, are adopting a grass roots approach to develop the festival, collaborating with various organisations, to nourish a more holistic community.

The main collaborators', contributing to this years' Programme of Events are: Spark15, Friends of the Earth, Geġwiġija and the Malta International Arts Festival.

The festival has been endorsed by Counterpoints Arts, the coordinators of Refugee Week UK, and is generously supported by: Association for Justice, Equality and Peace, Medina Asset Management, RiskCap International Ltd, AQA Capital, Melita Foundation, APS Bank, MIB Insurance, P Cutajar, Migrant Commission, Flutter, Quicklets, Team Humanity  Norway, Moviment Graffitti, Veg Box, Regjun Port and Valletta Local Council.


What is the premise of this festival?

Dance Beyond Borders has produced Refugee Week in Malta to curate spaces for important conversations around the human experience of displacement within Maltese communities. The   three action pillars, Create, Connect and Cultivate, are the crux of the artistic vision for this festival, which invites people to better understand the plethora of refugee experiences, challenge people's perceptions about people seeking asylum and encourages empathy through interdisciplinary artistic events. The festival calls for the development of the much-needed spaces for conversations around the human experience of displacement within Maltese communities. In addition to this, the Festival aims to curate experiences that invite people from different backgrounds to interact and nurture connections with each other.


How the project came about

As a foundation led by Julienne Schembri and Deborah Falzon, Dance Beyond Borders believes in the power of the arts for social change; it creates artistic opportunities for people to integrate together by embracing their diverse stories and uniting through dance and the arts.

One of the goals of the Foundation is to be active within this context of 'Migration' and Art.  After discovering the global movement of Refugee Week that began first in Australia, and then in the UK in 1998, Dance Beyond Borders reached out to the UK producers of Refugee Week; Counterpoints UK, to become part of the international partners who produce a local edition of this festival. We are fortunate to be connecting with the international organisers of Refugee Week happening in Berlin, Hong Kong, Greece and Australia together with new Refugee Week festivals starting this year South Africa, Croatia and Slovenia who all support and invite new questions for the local edition of our festival

Following the success of the launch of Refugee Week Malta last year, Dance Beyond Borders has continued to assess ways that can encourage critical thinking surrounding the perceptions and attitudes about Migration, in the hopes of nurturing changes in the attitudes about Integration in Malta.


What is the main message of this festival?

This festival aims to mobilize networks of collaboration to create, to connect and to cultivate.

These three concrete actions and movements bring each organisation, coordinator, artist and person involved to experience these as the stepping stones of this festival.

The create action pillar invites people to engage creatively with each other. Creativity helps us express our feelings about all kinds of things. It also allows us to share our ideas with other people.

Through the festival, we incite people to tap into their creative expression as a tool to solve problems and situations.

To connect, invites us to be open to receive people in their wholeness, acknowledging that the term 'refugee' is just one part of a whole identity of a human being. It is in part listening to people's stories and concerns, but it also means paying attention to who seems uncomfortable or lost with the propositions, and to explore how we may bring them into this conversation.

Lastly, to cultivate, holds the notion that there is a possibility to inspire new perspectives and novel ways of intercultural conversation, exchange and interaction.

Refugee Week Malta is founded on an integrated network of participating bodies with the intention to engage with people from the refugee community being at the forefront. It hopes to continue to nurture integration during this yearly festival that inspires and radiates what is possible when people join forces in collaboration on a yearly basis.

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