Performing arts association calls for removal of V18 artistic director

The Association of Performing Arts Practitioners calls on the Valletta 2018 Foundation to reconsider the appointment of Mario Philip Azzopardi as Artistic Director after an anti-Islamic rant by Azzopardi was highlighted in the local media.

Mario Philip Azzopardi
Mario Philip Azzopardi

The Association of Performing Arts Practitioners (APAP) has called on the Valletta 2018 Foundation to reconsider the appointment of Mario Philip Azzopardi as Artistic Director, after a vitriolic anti-Islamic rant was brought to the attention of the local media.

In a Facebook status by Azzopardi last August – months before his V18 post was announced – the theatre and film director lashed out against Sharia law, claiming that all Muslims by proxy follow the same law and that it is only those who refuse it that deserve to ‘join our club’. Azzopardi went on to say that he would make sure that any ‘idiot’ who follows Sharia law should not attain any political power, ‘at the risk of using violence against him’.

In a statement, APAP expressed its satisfaction that both the Fondazzjoni Valletta 2018 and the Minister of Culture, Owen Bonnici, have disassociated themselves from Azzopardi’s remarks.

In a statement released yesterday, Azzopardi said he is sorry that any of his comments are taken as slights against cultural diversity and stressed that he has participated in projects in the past that not only involved people from various cultures, but that also sought to celebrate the idea of cultural diversity in all its forms.

“While APAP understands that the remarks expressed by Azzopardi were made in his personal capacity, the association nonetheless feels that these remarks do not fit well with his proposed role as Artistic Director of the Valletta 2018 project. V18 is a major international event which is specifically entrusted with the task of promoting cultural diversity, as well as reflecting the various aspects of the Mediterranean culture, and which aims to bring about change and understanding within society through creativity and dialogue.

The association felt that Azzopardi’s comments as made on a public forum, “repeatedly and with much vigour,” make him inadequate to fulfil the Foundation’s ambition.

Speaking to MaltaToday last June, Valletta 2018 Chairman Jason Micallef stressed that combating racial prejudice is one of the Foundation’s key aims.

“I think bringing people together has been one of the Foundation’s greater successes. Diversity and tolerance are important aspects of what Valletta 2018 is about.”

“APAP is concerned that Malta risks losing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fast track the development and professionalisation of the cultural industry sector if bad choices are made at this crucial stage, and that such choices should be made in continuous consultation with the sector itself. It is therefore calling on the Government, the Minister of Culture and the Foundation to reconsider this appointment,” APAP said in their statement.

As European Capital for Culture of 2018, Valletta – as well as the whole of Malta - will strive to become a year-long hub for culture and the arts.