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Valetta 2018 – European Capital of Culture
January 27, 2018, 3:40 pm

The strategic geography of the Maltese Islands, which places them right between Europe and Africa, puts Valetta, the capital of Malta, in a unique position to host such a diverse cultural celebration as the European Capital of Culture.

Valletta 2018 is an exciting year-long celebration — a cultural program that starts in the capital city and reaches out to towns and villages all over the country. The European Capital of Culture year began with a unique celebration that was worthy of the traditional Maltese Festa. The opening week, from the 14 to 21 January, drew huge crowds to the heart of Valletta to participate in the many events lined up.

Music and entertainment, street artists and performers spreading word of the opening around the capital’s streets, exhibitions set in diverse venues around the city, open days that helped re-discover Valletta’s fascinating historical spaces, and community storytelling events centered around the city’s residents and the spaces they use, were just some of the offerings highlighting Maltese culture during the first week.

Malta can be likened to tiny but vibrant stage packed with drama, excess and exuberance constantly playing out in close quarters, amid tight-knit communities. The small-island scenario has co-existed with the comings and goings afforded by the country’s harbors, and today they walk alongside ever-growing international connections.

One side of the story goes that Malta is a small, loud, emotional group of islands where you can never escape your neighbor’s gaze and where your family’s always just around the corner bearing either good news, bad news, enough food for a week, or all three. So living on the Islands is often seen as a domestic drama, with a dose of tragicomedy that is hard to resist. The up-side to that view is that Malta, the largest island in the archipelago, also happens to be one of the most densely populated countries in the world — a fact that brings to the fore issues of over-crowding and a growing concern over space and what to do with it.

Certainly, community spaces and the image of the open sea play a big role in the country’s journey towards imagining better solutions. When private spaces are not easy to come by, islanders often turn to community spaces for company, and to the sea for air to breathe. It is this quest for space and community camaraderie that narratives of the island seek to portray through vivid, timely pictures of life on its shores. Stories about its realities, its communities and the spaces they use, of how old spaces are, or could be, used for new things, and of how to create new spaces inside which one may appreciate tradition.

Valetta, the capital city, is Baroque at heart, and layered with a succession of diverse stylistic interventions across time. The city provides the perfect backdrop for the stories that narrate the history and culture of the tiny country. Contemporary Valletta speaks the language of the Baroque as loudly as its architecture. Today, communities engage with the fabric of the city as it is developed and rethought across time, making it a stage where life and ideas are constantly evolving, settling and re-shaping themselves.

The backdrop of Valletta is enriched by the necessity of ritual; the colorful ornaments and banners that line the streets to celebrate our famous karnival and the capital’s own festi, or feasts, may boast of material riches, but they also create spontaneous soundscapes of revelry and joy. Behind the clinking of jewelry and the honking of new cars, and in the blasting of loud speakers and the chanting of prayers through the streets, might reside a plain and simple tendency to make noise. But beyond this is a newer, ever- growing need that is married to the Maltese sense of spectacle — a need to make our voices heard over and above the noise of the city.

Thanks to its harbors, valletta has always been a melting pot of different cultures. Malta’s ancient heritage, combined with a strategic geographic location makes it a unique capital city. It is a space that is able to host meaningful encounters with and between its close neighbors, both in and beyond the Mediterranean.

Valletta 2018 is an opportunity to celebrate life and creativity while nurturing vital dialogue; it provides a space in which to challenge dominant perspectives, and extends a hand of friendship to all artists and other creative people. Openness to different cultures is vital for a healthy community, and as the world strives to recreate a sense of belonging in an age of cultural diversity, Valetta 2018 provides diverse communities a perfect platform for expression and the necessary networks to support meaningful exchange.


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