The Malta Independent 16 April 2024, Tuesday
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Reinvention

Owen Bonnici Friday, 15 September 2023, 08:15 Last update: about 8 months ago

Malta is currently experiencing a crossroad moment in the cultural scene.

Following the Covid pandemic, the sector is fully in the process of consolidating and in some ways, reinventing itself. The Government’s efforts in sustaining the sector throughout the pandemic through various measures helped immensely to keep the creative practitioners in the sector.

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Indeed, over the last few years, the number of persons engaged in a meaningful way in the sector remained stable despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic and is nearly double the amount obtaining in 2013. This bodes well for the future as the sector and is not only a testament to the government’s initiatives but also to the inherent resilience of the sector. 

According to a recent study by Eurostant, at end 2022, the sector catered  for the employment of 7,600 males and 4,900 females, which is very close to the situation obtaining in 2019 (7,800 males and 5,500 females).  Compare this to where we were ten years ago: in 2013 there were 5,000 males and 2,700 females in employment in this exciting sector.  The increase in the number of gainfully employed creative practitioners which we experienced in a generation speaks for itself.

One of the most interesting changes is the increase in the number of women gainfully participating in the cultural sector. While at this point in time, Malta still registers a significant difference between the numbers of men and women engaged in the cultural scene, the number of women working in the creative economy increased in such a way that almost reached pre-pandemic levels and in fact the overall proportion of women in the sector has actually increased. This is the reverse of the usual trend. In previous years, men tended to enter the sector at a faster rate than women but in 2022 the influx of women in the sector actually outstripped that of men. It remains to be seen if this is the beginning of a new trend or simply a one-off, but as in every other sector, it is encouraging to see an increasing number of women participating in the labour market, especially in areas that were usually dominated by men.

While these numbers are promising, it must be borne in mind that these results did not come out of thin air. The Government has steadily increased its investment in the sector over the years. This investment was spread to cover not only new initiatives and projects but also to maintain those cultural activities or niches that define Malta both as a people and as a nation. I will cite just one example of the often overlooked activities carried out by this Ministry.

The Maltese traditional crib is one of the hallmarks of Christmas activities. The often exquisite nature of the craftsmanship involved has been greatly appreciated by the Maltese for generations. However, over the past years the workmanship of such cribs has also attracted the attention of visiting foreigners. Indeed, over the past few years, contacts were established with a renowned institution in Washington with a first group of traditional Maltese cribs being exhibited in the USA in 2020. Due to the onset of the pandemic, their return was delayed for some time.

The reception they received ensured that these contacts were furthered with the same prestigious institution. This year round, a different approach was adopted whereby the cribs that would be dispatched to the USA would be bought and retained there in perpetuity. To showcase the best talent that Malta can offer, a competition was launched at the beginning of this year for interested creators. This competition has acted as a catalyst for a number of creators with the adjudication currently underway. The logistical aspect is being handled through the strong and constant collaboration between the local authorities and entities and US stakeholders.

Through this and other similar measures Malta strives to create and sustain a viable and vibrant cultural sector. Maltese creators can produce innovative products highlighting the ingenuity of our country. They are also in the forefront of Maltese cultural development while at the same time the guardians of our tradition. The role of the Government remains that of a promoter of culture through financial investments and administrative support can be utilised in such a way to support our native creativity, bringing about increased contacts of our creators with new ideas while ensuring greater exposure overseas. In this way, the cultural aspirations of our creators and the citizens at large can be fulfilled while engaging our foreign counterparts. In turn, the exposure of our talents to the world at large could only enhance our international standing upon which so much depends.

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Maltease

When my friend Toni Attard invited me to a Queerlesque edition of Maltease at Spazju Kreattiv as part of Europride I knew I was in for a show that I would never forget for a long time.

And indeed it was an extraordinary event where the performers exhumed confidence, spontaneity and what was an essentially tintillatingly brutal no-nonsense approach to the colourful figure of the human body.

It was a celebration of passion, life, energy, sensuality and identity from the point of view of diversity and inclusion.  Act after act, I was thinking to myself how far we have managed to progress as a country as we keep striving for more tolerance, freedom of expression and liberty.

The show featured both local and foreign talent.  Malta’s own Undine LaVerve was the star of the event and now, after watching her perform live for the first time, I can understand better why she is deemed to be the pioneer here in Malta of burlesque and cabaret stages

Well done Toni- once again you were proven right in promoting this fantastic event as part of Europride.

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Speaking of Europride, there is an amazing exhibition you definately do not want to miss: “[Be] Loved Malta – stories of sexual and gender identity”

Hosted by Heritage Malta at the Main Guard in Valletta, this is one exhibition you certainly need to see.  It brings together the past, present and future in an extroardinary manner and provides the visitor with a very direct but enriching experience.

Heritage Malta has always delivered high quality exhibitions.  This time, the people at HM have undoubtedly surpassed their already high standards.  Well done everyone!

 

 

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