by HE Mgr Dr Joe Vella Gauci, Ambassador & Permanent Delegate of Malta to UNESCO
at the Education, Science and Culture Centre at Wied Il-Lunzjata, Victoria - Gozo
under the distinguished patronage of Madame Michelle Muscat, wife of the Prime Minister of Malta
in the presence of Hon Dr Anton Refalo, Minister for Gozo
the Artists and other distinguished guests
In any direction we look today, we are confronted with sensationalist news full of fearful warnings, predicting situations that at times appear to be beyond any remedy. The political and social transformations in the Arab world have caught us by surprise and we are still trying to make sense of them, worried about where they may lead to. Global climate change is confronting us with a number of possible scenarios, worst of which include catastrophic changes to the human living habitat. The grand European experiment in gradual unification seems to be at risk due to various pressures, and the ignorance of the importance of cultural diversity is threatening to set back the process for several decades. Time and again we see the emergence and re-emergence of violent conflict in particular areas like the Mediterranean region, where people already suffer from the effects of lack of access to basic health and educational services. With such dismal headlines forming our perception of the state of the world and of particular regions like the one we live in, it is easy to lose hope in the ability of mankind to solve the problems that are of its own making. UNESCO, the organisation erected on the ashes of the devastating world wars, is often regarded as the beacon of peace – peace based on international solidarity of mankind.
Following the positive outcome of the Art Camp project during the past ten days, Malta together with Andorra, both small states located in cross-cultural regions, aims to continue giving support to promoting dialogue for peace between artists from all over the world. Through my experience with you artists, who accepted our invitation to participate in the 1st edition of Art Camp Malta, I have come to realise another fundamental meaning of UNESCO, which is that to be a source of Hope. UNESCO inspires hope within multitudes of people who are committed to the idea and the practice of culture of peace. It is our fundamental duty to make sure that this hope vested by so many people in this Organisation is transformed into reality. One of the key functions of UNESCO is to set global standards in areas that fall within its unique mandate – i.e. education, science, culture, communication and human rights. UNESCO is a laboratory of global cooperation on issues that concern all human beings and issues that do not recognise national boundaries.
Dear Friends, Art Camp is truly a living exercise of cultural diplomacy which holds great promise to bridging differences and facilitating cooperation through art.
I truly believe that Malta and Gozo’s vocation has always been to facilitate an openness to various cultural influences and they understood that a mingling and cross-fertilization of ideas representing different cultures can only benefit our society. At the crossroads of 3 continents, and multiple cultures, empires and peoples, Malta and Gozo stood the test of time. Through their rich artistic heritage accumulated over the centuries, they can attest in this 3rd millennium, that people have lived together and dialogued through arts in this very small country of ours, since time immemorial. Therefore, it is not only significant that cultures have dialogued for peace through Art Camp in Malta, but this also stands very much in line with what our country has stood for throughout its course of history.
Art Camp Malta is an initiative organised by the Education, Science & Culture Centre, here at Wied il-Lunzjata. Through this Centre, the Office of Malta’s Permanent Delegation, believes and strongly promotes UNESCO’s educational mission. Culturally, UNESCO promotes two main approaches to Arts Education, which can be implemented at the same time and need not be distinct. The “learning through the arts/culture” approach demonstrates how we can utilise artistic expressions and cultural resources and practices, contemporary and traditional, as learning tools. It aims to draw on the rich wealth of culture, knowledge and skills of societies to enhance an inter-disciplinary approach to learning in a range of subject areas.
The “learning in the arts/culture” approach stresses the value of cultural perspectives, multi and inter-cultural, and culturally-sensitive languages through learning processes. This kind of approach fosters an understanding of the importance of cultural diversity and reinforces behaviour patterns underlying social cohesion.
Allow me to end this address, with a word of sincere thanks and appreciation. First of all to you, Mrs Muscat, for accepting our invitation and honouring us with your presence. A big thank you to all fourteen participant artists. Thank you for accepting our invitation to be part of the first Art Camp experience on the islands of Malta & Gozo. Sincere appreciation to Madame Hedva Ser, UNESCO Artist for Peace, for believing in Art Camp and bringing it over to Malta through the cooperation of the President’s Office and the personal interest of HE President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca herself. Thanks to the UNESCO National Commission of Andorra, for its valuable and continuous help and support. Thanks to Mr Faust Campama for sharing his exceptional organisational and coordinative experience with us in setting up the workshop venues. A word of thanks also goes to the Ministry for Gozo a driving force behind this project, together with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry for Education and Employment and the Ministry for Family and Social Solidarity. Thanks to Arts Council Malta for its sterling help as well as to the Tumas Group of Companies and staff of the Verdala Palace and the Gozo ITS Centre for a hospitality that most certainly does our country an honour. Last but not least, thanks to the staff at the Office of the Permanent Delegation of Malta to UNESCO and those at the Centre for Education, Science & Culture, for all the organisational and preparatory work.
I wish that when you return to your respective countries tomorrow, you will all carry back with you the variety of Mediterranean colours which together form the Maltese nation. Use them to inspire you not only in your future paintings but also in your efforts to be agents and beacons of peace.