Let’s talk about ‘crossroads’

Ahead of the 7th World Summit on Arts and Culture – which will be held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta between October 18 and 21 – the Summit’s Programme Director Nina Obuljen Korzinek and the Executive Chair of Arts Council Malta Albert Marshall speak to Teodor Reljic about why the event – whose theme this year is ‘At the crossroads? Cultural Leadership in the 21st Century’ – is so important for Malta

Albert Marshall
Albert Marshall

Why do you think it’s important for Malta to be hosting the World Summit? 

The 7th World Summit on Arts and Culture, co-hosted by IFACCA – the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies – and Arts Council Malta, is expected to attract around 400-500 participants from all over the world. These participants will be representing different parts of the cultural sector – from ministers and high government representatives, heads of funding agencies, academics and researchers, to artists and cultural professionals. 

Apart from the panels, workshops and the plenary discussion sessions, the organisers will be hosting a cultural programme which will present a unique opportunity for all the delegates to experience a taste of a rich and vibrant Maltese culture. The Summit is expected to lead to new collaborations, engagements and visibility for Maltese artists and cultural organisations, thus providing opportunities for strong networking and creative interfacing. 

Malta being ‘at the crossroads’ geographically and culturally has been touted as one of the reasons for hosting the summit on our shores. But what is the value of this claim beyond what has essentially become a facile cliché?

It is by no means a cliché. Malta indeed represents a unique culture that emerged from many different influences, which is relevant today more than ever in history. Today, the Mediterranean is again perceived as a space with many conflicts where diversities clash and do not interact. 

In this context, Maltese culture which embraces Arabic, European, Christian and Muslim influences and has developed over centuries through dynamic exchanges, proves how possible it is to communicate peacefully, to interact without tensions and to benefit from exchanges rather than insist on closing borders and building walls around us. In a fast-changing, inter-connected world, cultural relations offer a unique opportunity for improving interethnic communication, understanding and tolerance. 

Culture is a valuable resource to tackle many of the challenges Europe and the world are currently facing. 

Cultural practitioners and creatives gathered together from around the world at a geographic and cultural junction like Malta to debate these challenges is not just metaphorical rhetoric but a serious attempt at leaving a rich legacy in this Summit’s wake: creating synergies, pooling resources, facilitating cooperation and providing more visibility to cultural exchanges and actions are among the real values that go far beyond the ‘crossroads’ cliché.

Nina Obuljen Korzinek
Nina Obuljen Korzinek

Where would you say Malta stands when it comes to some of the core themes set to be discussed during the summit?

As you know, the central topic of the Summit is cultural leadership. Malta has a very vibrant cultural scene. Also, with the recent reforms both at the level of the government and the Ministry but especially through reforms undertaken by its Arts Council, Malta is significantly reforming cultural governance and cultural leadership. Maltese operators, artists and administrators can therefore share with the Summit participants many innovative examples and initiatives that are challenging traditional perceptions of cultural leadership.

Would you say that publicly-funded art in Malta has favoured works which somehow explore and/or reinforce notions of ‘national identity’ over the last couple of years? How does this tally with the Summit’s exploration of the dichotomy between the local and the global? 

The reinforcement and exploration of notions of ‘national identity’ are not necessarily among the foremost driving forces behind our strategy in the administration of artistic public funding. Arts Council Malta seeks to promote cultural hybridity rather than hyperbolical eccentric eulogies about ‘the nation’. The global cultural landscape has changed rapidly over the last years and the demand for exchanges and intercultural cooperation has increased in pace with the digital revolution. 

Although there isn’t any fixed or closed agendas for the debates and deliberations that are envisaged to evolve during the Summit, it is hoped that, against a background of a world faced with many challenges and conflicts, culture is conceived as a phenomenon of great potential to overcome divisions, strengthen fragile societies and improve international relations in a context of multiculturalism where intercultural dialogue and peace-building are stimulated, cultural production and tourism are supported as drivers of development and economic growth, and education, research and science are used as agents for dialogue and exchanges. 

Representatives of the Maltese cultural sector who will be engaging is these conversations during the Summit are bound to embark on an exciting journey of discovery – conceptually, pragmatically, culturally and artistically. 

For more information about the World Summit, log on to http://www.artsummit.org/