With the city’s art scene expected to experience a fervent resurgence, what can we expect?
1. Energy through Valletta’s streets
The highly anticipated showcase of Valletta’s, and indeed Malta’s, art and culture scene is nigh upon us, with the capital expected to show the world just what the island’s artists and cultural practitioners have to offer. It is hoped that Valletta 2018 will do Malta proud. The theme is that of an island-wide festa, a Maltese traditional feast, through which a strong sense of identity, a vibrant atmosphere and a buoyant artistic confidence will shine.
2. The main exhibition: Dal-Baħar Madwarha
The programme includes both large and smaller events designed to involve locals and visitors alike. One of the main exhibitions is ‘The Island which the Sea Surrounds’ (Dal-Baħar Madwarha), taking place between 30th March and 1st July. Curator Maren Richter has worked with more than 25 artists from 15 countries in the production of large installations, performances and public interventions due to take place across the Maltese islands. Revolving around the relationship Malta has with the sea and the idea of ‘islandness’, this promises to be one of the event’s standout projects.
Dal-Bahar Madwarha - Ali Tollervey
3. Activities for young creatives
Younger generations are encouraged to participate in the hope that love for culture and the arts will be instilled in tomorrow’s leaders, artists and educators. ‘Oħloq Kultura’ is one such project. Encouraging children to come up with their own made up cultures, the aim is to teach children how cultures develop, as well as what drives their creation and development. In the process, the students are taught essential critical and creative thinking skills – as well as the importance of collaboration. The project culminates in October with ‘Capital of Invented Cultures’, in which partner schools in Malta and in Leeuwarden (also celebrating its capital of culture this year) organise an assembly for children, where they will showcase the vibrant cultures created through the project.
Ohloq Kultura - Chris Mangion
4. Visual arts exhibitions
A multitude of projects are planned connecting Malta to countries beyond her shores, such as ‘European Eyes on Japan’ at Spazju Kreattiv, where two European photographers will exhibit their work on Japan. Another exhibition, ‘The Tale of Two Cities’, will link Malta to another Mediterranean island – Cyprus – with a photographic essay featuring the city of Nicosia and reflecting on the partition conflict in Cyprus. The official Valletta 2018 programme notes that this is a cross-cultural photography exhibition by artist and photographer David Pisani.
European Eyes on Japan - J. Wypych
5. Film and spectacle for summer in the city
Malta’s blessed with long summer days, and the programme for Valletta 2018 really takes advantage of the sunny weather and pleasant evenings. Following a successful first run, the ‘Valletta Pageant of the Seas’, is back this year on 7th June, a public holiday on the island. Daytime activities include competitive races, visual demonstrations and water acts, all taking place in the Grand Harbour. Once the sun goes down, fireworks and light effects will illuminate the bastions.
Valletta Pageant of the Seas - Victor Vella
Moreover, the Valletta Film Festival launches on 8th June, with a grand opening night taking place at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, the capital’s open-air theatre. Film screenings will take place under the stars and inside cinemas dotted around the city, with directors, actors and stars introducing their films to audiences.
Valletta Film Festival
6. Festivals celebrating art
Summer in Malta would not be the same without the festivals which take place during the warmer months. The Malta Arts Festival will kick off on 29th June until 14th July, and will feature site-specific curation, music, visual arts, theatre, dance, opera, installations, films, community projects, as well as interactive and participatory events.
The Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival, taking place at Fort St Elmo between the 23rd and 25th August, is another unmissable event. This annual festival organized by Inizjamed celebrates language, translation and international literature with a diverse programme of activities and events, including a week-long Literary Translation Workshop.
Malta International Arts Festival
7. It’s an event where the community can come together
The year-long programme aims to bring together the residents of Valletta, as well as Maltese and visitors in an appreciation of the art and culture of the islands. Participation is key and, to that end, a series of projects are directed towards celebrating the links which bind us. ‘Subjective Maps’, for example, taking place in March and April will consist of a series of workshops encouraging people from all over the archipelago to create visual representations of the towns and cities they live in. ‘Rulina’, taking place on the 12th May at Vilhena Palace, will tie today with the traditions of the past by inviting audiences to take an interactive journey around the Maltese games of the islands’ forefathers. ‘Latitude 36’, a project featuring an integration of various art forms including documentary film, a visual arts exhibition and a performance, will also explore the Maltese diasporic experience.
8. It’s not only about Valletta
The themes of the year-long event centre on the nature of island life, taking a close look at the stories, images and spaces of the whole archipelago. Events in other parts of the islands will also tie into the themes of the entire Valletta 2018 programme, such as the project ‘Bodies in Urban Spaces’, taking place in Mellieha, and in which performers will force audiences to examine the ways in which they interact with their townscapes. Laika theatre group will be creating a sensory adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s modern classic, ‘Saint Joan of the Stockyards’ in Ta Qali, while, not far from the gates of Valletta, a new operatic work by Maltese composer, Mario Sammut, ‘Aħna Refugjati’, will be performed on the Granaries in Floriana.
Bodies in Urban Spaces
9. A lasting legacy
But, for the four infrastructural projects planned in conjunction with Valletta 2018, the year of culture marks the beginning of a journey. These include the cultural regeneration of Strait Street, the opening of MUŻA at Auberge d’Italie, the opening of the Old Market in Merchant’s Street, which will cater for the needs of the resident community while also having a space dedicated to cultural activities, and finally, the opening of the Valletta Design Cluster at the Old Abattoir in Valletta, which will act as a design hub for students, architects, businesses and residents.
10. Collaboration and critical thinking
The strength of Valletta 2018 will rest on the experiences it will create in the minds and hearts of all who attend. These experiences, it is hoped, will encourage greater critical thinking, collaborative attitudes and an understanding of the integral function of art in the community and the country. It remains to be seen whether, in the future, we will be looking back at Valletta 2018 as the place and time where it all started.
Valletta Breakwater Bridge