Editorial: A nod to yesteryear

Last Updated on Friday, 12 February, 2021 at 9:16 am by Andre Camilleri

If it’s one thing we have seen throughout the last year of the pandemic, is the level of creativity emanating across the islands. Covid-19 has allowed many the time to develop collections, pursue artistic ventures or launch entirely. Right left and centre “heritage” brands are appearing, tapping into the artisans of yesteryear, offering up facets of Maltese culture to the digital age.

A few years ago, skips were full of discarded Maltese tiles; now you’d be lucky to find one. Bright and colourful tile-inspired prints, adorning kitchen items, homeware and ornate and intricate patterns are given a new life in keeping with our modern lives. Even the tiles themselves form works of art, no longer on floors but as wall pieces within interesting projects. If it’s not around our homes, many brands have revived them in the form of intricate jewellery or fashion pieces. At last, we are slowly starting to appreciate the importance of restoring and protecting what we have left of our ancestors.

Within the last few months, the beloved Maltese ftira has officially been recognised. The United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) has recognised the culinary art and culture of il-ftira Maltija, the first element inscribed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. With this inscription, this symbol of Malta’s cultural heritage is being recognised as the culinary art and culture of flattened sourdough bread in Malta.

We have seen a new Maltese vintage bus route launched between Valletta and St Julian’s last month. A fleet of colourful, beautifully-restored old Maltese buses can be seen on Maltese roads again. They are operating as part of scheduled vintage tours from Valletta to St Julian’s and back, yet the fond sight will rekindle memories to many. “The old buses were replaced almost 10 years ago now [July 2011], so anyone under the age of around 14 will not remember the delights of our old buses,” Manuel Cutajar, director of the Vintage Bus City Tour, said.

With these sentiments, it comes as welcome news this week – a fresh training and mentorship programme is being developed through a partnership between two of Malta’s top cultural organisations to boost artists and creatives’ entrepreneurial skills on the island. The initiative is a collaboration between the Foundation for the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Initiatives (FPEI) and Arts Council Malta (ACM), as part of the Investment in Cultural Organisations (ICO) funding programme.

What’s more, on Monday, the Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government Dr José Herrera announced that Arts Council Malta has launched an additional special support scheme as part of a €6m direct investment in the local cultural and creative sectors.

It was explained that the Programme Support Scheme, which forms part of the Restart schemes by Arts Council Malta, is aimed at supporting the local culture sector following the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also aimed at addressing the recovery and resilience of the cultural and creative sectors. Some may say it’s a little late, but finally creative ventures are being recognised.

So, as much as we embrace the new and the influx of AI-led technologies, it’s also time to celebrate the old and support both the original artisans and these nostalgic endeavours.

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