Sculpting for Peace | Hedva Ser

French sculptor Hedva Ser – a UNESCO ‘Artist for Peace’ – speaks to us about contributing to the permanent Sculpture Garden at Verdala Palace

Hedva Ser with then President of Malta George Abela at Verdala Palace. Also pictured: Ser's 'Tree of Peace'
Hedva Ser with then President of Malta George Abela at Verdala Palace. Also pictured: Ser's 'Tree of Peace'

What does it mean to be a UNESCO ‘Artist for Peace’?

“Well, what happened in my particular case was that, first and foremost, I felt I was at a point where I wanted my sculpture to mean something, to be more than just decorative,” French sculptor Hedva Ser tells me. We chat during her brief visit to Malta last month, as she contributed a ‘Tree of Peace’ sculpture at the newly inaugurated Sculpture Garden at the Verdala Palace.

“I started participating in UNESCO’s Artist for Peace initiative on a voluntary basis some years back, because I really think it’s a healthy, productive concept. It creates great opportunities for increased understanding and tolerance – it even facilitates collaboration between artists in conflict countries, for example,” Ser – whose works have been exhibited in places like Arizona, Philadelphia, Jerusalem and Palestine. 

Ser’s structures are purposefully ‘monumental’, and the Tree of Peace currently standing at the Verdala Palace gardens – accompanied by the work of 11 local artists – is both aesthetically and ideologically in line with Ser’s previous work.

“My aim is for the structures to serve as a reminder that peace is possible. You’re fortunate that Malta, for example, is peaceful at this moment, but you never know how long that’s going to last – just look at the conflict happening on the Russian border, not too far away from here… but the trees will be there to mark this time.”

As a sculptor, she claims to always have been “inspired by nature”, but on a conceptual level, what drives her is the eternal conflict between “balance and unbalance” – with her sculptures being a testament, a sort of documentation of this concept playing out. 

According to Ser, the sculptures also serve an educational purpose.

“When a child hears something it’s one thing… but when they see a sculpture – when they can touch it and feel it – it’s an entirely different thing.”

Nudged to contribute to the Verdala Palace Garden exhibition by the French Ambassador to Malta Prof. Salvino Busuttil, Ser came to Malta half-way through an exhibition in Krakow, Poland, but didn’t regret the decision.

“For someone who doesn’t really like mono-cultures, Malta is something of a miracle,” Ser says, citing our linguistic hodge-podge.

It is very likely that she will revisit our shores in the coming years.