The Malta Independent 29 May 2024, Wednesday
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Saving Malta's historic chapel of the Annunciation (Salib tal-Għolja)

Owen Bonnici Friday, 27 October 2023, 11:21 Last update: about 8 months ago

The historic and famous Chapel of the Annunciation, situated in the charming area of tal-Għolja in Siġġiewi, is undergoing much-needed restoration and consolidation work, thanks to a substantial investment of €1.4 million.  This is not only a piece of good news for the community of Siġġiewi but to Malta and Gozo as a whole as this Chapel takes an extraordinarily important meaning in the period of Lent with thousands of people visiting the place for religious purposes.

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I do not want to beat around the bush: the chapel is currently at grave risk of collapse due to the challenging terrain beneath it. The local community, led by the hardworking Mayor Dominic Grech in Siġġiewi requested help, and after conducting technical studies with the Church authorities – whom I thank wholeheartedly -  the restoration project is now underway.

This project is a crucial step in preserving this important part of Malta's cultural and historical heritage, showing the dedication of both the Maltese government and the Archdiocese of Malta to safeguard this cherished chapel for future generations.

Preserving our local heritage is vital because it not only keeps our country's identity intact but also benefits our economy and tourism industry. As we work on preserving our cultural heritage, we also stress the importance of sustainability to boost tourism.

The Chapel of the Annunciation is a vital part of Siġġiewi's history, and it has seen many changes over the years dating back to the late 15th century. Before beginning the restoration, our experts carefully studied the geology of the area and reviewed technical reports, especially those related to the Miġra Ilma fault. With this groundwork done, we are now ready to reinforce the chapel to ensure it remains functional for years to come.

The restoration will start with building an underground support system for the chapel. This system will include strong beams, piles, and anchors to bypass the unstable ground underneath. Once this is completed, we will focus on fixing the visible part of the church.

This ambitious undertaking has come to fruition through a collaborative partnership that has been fostered between the dedicated team at the Restoration and Preservation Division and the esteemed Archdiocese of Malta. This project serves as a compelling testament to our collective dedication to safeguarding the rich tapestry of our cultural and historical heritage, a heritage that we cherish deeply and wish to pass down to generations yet to come.

As we embark on this journey of restoration and preservation, we are guided by a shared vision of preserving not just bricks and mortar but the very essence of our cultural identity and spiritual history. The Chapel of the Annunciation, with its profound historical significance and architectural splendor, is a living embodiment of our past, and we are committed to ensuring its resilience and continuity into the future.

With meticulous planning and unwavering determination, we have set a target to complete this monumental project by the close of the year 2024. This commitment to the timeline underscores our dedication to leaving a lasting legacy for our descendants, a testament to the importance of our heritage. Through this endeavor, we aim to ensure that the Chapel of the Annunciation continues to stand as a beacon of history, spirituality, and architectural excellence for countless generations to come.

The Chapel of the Annunciation’s architectural evolution reflects the history of Siġġiewi and the determination of the community to preserve their heritage.

The restoration of the Chapel of the Annunciation is a profound undertaking that transcends mere construction; it is a heartfelt tribute to Malta's rich history, its vibrant present, and the aspirations of generations yet to come. This venerable chapel, with its storied past, stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of the Maltese people—marked by their resilience and unwavering faith.

As the meticulous work advances, Siġġiewi's very heart will undergo a renaissance, pulsating with newfound vitality and pride. The chapel, a living monument to the island's heritage, will persist as a symbol of hope and inspiration, touching the lives of countless generations. Its weathered walls will echo with the voices of history, offering solace and strength to those who seek it.

I will follow the ship – Malta at the Biennale di Venezia

It was with great pride that I announced another important moment for Malta's artistic community.  We unveiled the selection of Maltese artist Matthew Attard as the representative of Malta at the prestigious 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. This marks the very first time that the Maltese national pavilion will be entrusted to a Maltese artist and I am sure that he will carry the Maltese flag with that level enthusiasm and passion which are synonymous with our local arts scene.

Matthew Attard's solo exhibition, aptly titled "I Will Follow the Ship," will serve as a testament to the artistic talent that our nation fosters. This unique exhibition, which brings together our cultural heritage and cutting-edge AI-driven technology, has been meticulously co-curated by Italian American curator Sara Dolfi Agostini and Maltese curator Elyse Tonna. Both of these curators are well-versed in the Maltese art landscape, having been actively involved in numerous institutional collaborations, and their contributions to this project are invaluable.

Arts Council Malta's role as the commissioner of this momentous event signifies our commitment to advancing the creative and cultural sector in Malta. Our participation at the Biennale is not just a matter of national pride; it is a vital step towards strengthening our presence on the international stage, promoting Maltese arts and culture, and solidifying our place in the global artistic community. Matthew Attard's work, which masterfully combines our cultural heritage with the forefront of technological innovation, is a testament to the potential of Maltese art to captivate and inspire audiences worldwide.

Established in 1895, La Biennale di Venezia has earned a distinguished reputation as a premier platform for the exhibition of works by international artists. It is regarded as one of the most prestigious global cultural institutions dedicated to the presentation and promotion of contemporary art. The forthcoming 60th edition of this biennial event, scheduled to commence on April 20, 2024, and run until November 24, 2024, is highly anticipated.

Matthew Attard's project, "I Will Follow the Ship," is an exploration of humanity's existence and survival at the juncture of history and the future, the tangible and the digital. It draws inspiration from his recent forays into AI and drawing technology, interwoven with a deep fascination for historical images of ex-voto ship graffiti. These graffiti, etched onto the facades of our way-side chapels, were likely created by seafarers seeking both religious protection and political immunity. They harken to ancient tales of faith and salvation that crisscross the Mediterranean. In today's context, where technology and the internet have empowered artistic expression and altered traditional centers of artistic influence, these symbols of hope remain relevant.

The exhibition's message is universal, transcending national borders and speaking to our shared human experience. In a world grappling with climate change, rising sea levels, and the challenges of a hyper-technological society, these humble marks of hope reverberate in the hearts of all who encounter them.

"I Will Follow the Ship" also opens the door to a reevaluation of authorship and image-making in art, raising essential questions about agency and cohabitation in the digital age. It prompts critical conversations about our place in an ever-evolving society and the impact of technology on our creative expressions.

I extend my heartfelt thanks to co-curators Sara Dolfi Agostini and Elyse Tonna, whose expertise and dedication have been instrumental in shaping this project. Their involvement ensures that the exhibition resonates deeply with local and international audiences. Furthermore, I acknowledge the contributions of Maria Galea and Galleria Michela Rizzo, who will oversee the project management, guaranteeing the seamless execution of this momentous endeavor.

As we move forward, I am immensely proud to see the fruits of our commitment to the arts and culture in Malta. "I Will Follow the Ship" promises to be a transformative experience, one that will bridge the historical connections between Malta and Venice, celebrating our shared destinies and the enduring spirit of human creativity. This exhibition is not just an artistic display; it is a testament to the power of culture and the unifying force of art that transcends boundaries and resonates across the globe. Malta's journey at the 60th Biennale di Venezia is a milestone that we, as a nation, can collectively celebrate and look forward to with great anticipation.

 

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