Convention for Maltese Living Abroad
1. An Overview of Diaspora Conventions in Malta
The past two centuries have been characterised by waves of hundreds and often thousands of Maltese and Gozitan emigrants to various parts of the world. The largest wave was in the mid-1950s when a number of Diaspora communities were established in major cities primarily in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cardiff, Detriot, London, Mackay, Marseille, Melbourne, New York, Perth, San Francisco, Sydney and Toronto.
Nearly two decades later in 1969 the Malta Migrants Commission (MEC) organised the first Maltese Migrants Convention between 3rd and 16th August 1969 attended by Maltese who came from Australia, Canada, Egypt, Tunisia, the United States and the United Kingdom. The slogan of the Convention was, Maltin imbegħdin, f’Malta magħqudin. The topics discussed at this first convention included: (1) statistics and history of the Maltese migration movement; (2) voluntary and philanthropic work; (3) assimiliation; (4) spitirual assistance to Maltese migrants; and (5) The spirit of union among Maltese migrants.
At the time only a few Mediterranean countries had realised that these communities were an asset and part and parcel to the country of origin. In European terms, Malta was a pioneer in relation to realising the importance of its Diaspora.
The second Convention, entitled, Convention of Leaders of Associations of Maltese Abroad and of Maltese Origin carried the theme, F’Rabta mall-Maltin ta’ Barra. This week-long Convention which was organised between 25th January and 1st February 2000 at the Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC) and MEC in Valletta. The Multilateral Affairs Department, within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the MEC organised the said Convention with the themes: (1) Maltese connections overseas; (2) maintenance of Maltese culture and language; (3) the elderly and services available to them; (4) youths and their achievement; (5) bilateral relations; and (6) the Maltese migrants and religion. Other events held during the Convention included an exhibition of paintings and sculpture, by migrant Maltese artists and artists of Maltese origin entitled, Maltese Talents Abroad; a photographic exhibition of Maltese pioneer migrants in Mackay, Queensland, Australia, entitled, Our Shared Heritage; a Soirée at the Manoel Theatre and a Pontifical Polyphonic Mass at St. John’s Co-Catherdal.
The third Convention, entitled, the Convention for Maltese Living Abroad 2010 carried the theme, Strengthening Our Unity. This week-long Convention which was organised between 14th and 20th March 2010 at the Exchange Buildings in Valletta, served as an occasion for all Maltese to reflect on the situation and future of the Maltese and Gozitan Diaspora communities. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs organised the said Convention with the themes: (1) the challenges of change – education, culture and heritage; (2) the elderly community; (3) youth – towards the future and (4) affairs related to consular and citizenship.
Events alongside the Convention included a visit to the Emigrant’s Commission viewing an audio visual presentation entitled – Sacred Island; a visit to both major political parties headquarters; a tour of the south and another of the north of Malta; a tree planting ceremony at Ta’ Qali National Park; a pontifical polyphonic mass at St. John Co-Catherdral besides receptions and group photos at the offices of the President; the Prime Minister; the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and at the Malta Emigrants Commission.
2. The events leading to the IV Convention for Maltese Living Abroad 2015
Immediately following the second Convening of the Council for the Maltese Living Abroad (CMLA) in October 2013, the Honourable Dr George W Vella, Minister for Foreign Affairs appointed an Organising Committee to plan, oversee, prepare and organise the IV Convention for Maltese Living Abroad chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and assisted by a number of Ministry officials. The CMLA appointed Professor Maurice N. Cauchi as its representative on the Organising Committee and act as a liaison between the Organising Committee and the CMLA.
The IV Convention for the Maltese Living Abroad will be organised between 20 and 23 April 2015 at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta in the backdrop of the Centenary Celebrations commemorating the Gallipoli Conflict and ANZAC. ANZAC Day has been commemorated in Malta since 1916. Malta played a significant role in and during the Gallipoli Campaign with many Australians and New Zealand casualties being evacuated to Malta for medical treatment.
On the first day Her Excellency Marie-Louis Coliero Preca, President of the Republic of Malta will be greeting the Convention delegates at her San Anton Palace awith a Solumn Mass celebrated by H.E. Mgr Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo at the Russian Chapel followed by a reception. Later in the evening, the Hon Dr Own Bonnici, Minister for Home Affairs, Culture and Local Government will inaugurate a Diaspora Art Exhibition composed of works of Maltese artists from Diaspora countries, primarily flown in from Australia to be exhibited at the Palace for the following week.
On Tuesday, 21st April, the Honourable Dr George W. Vella, Minister for Foriegn Affairs will be officially opening the IV Convention for Maltese Living Abroad at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta followed by the presentation of papers and two workshops. The third day will see the presentation of more papers and a further two workshops, whilst the closing day, Thursday will see more of the same and the Convention conclusions presented by the rapporteurs.
The IV Convention for the Maltese Living Abroad will be a historic convention in that it is the first convention after the passing of the Act XX of 2011 – Council for Maltese Living Abroad in the Parlament of Malta and the constitution of the first CMLA composed of 15 members and the Chairperson being ex officio the Honourable Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Over 100 participants from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Italy, Jordan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are expected to attend. Apart from this Convention a number of artists from these countries would be able to participate in a Diaspora Art Exhibition to be held at the Heritage Malta Exhibition venue at Melita Street in Valletta (20-24 April 2015) and a Symposium for Maltese Novalists Living Abroad - Writing Home, at the University of Malta Building in Valletta (22 April 2015 commencing at 1800hrs). Furthermore, with the involvement of primary and secondary school students in a Diaspora Art Competition we will send a strong message to the general public concerning Malta’s bond with it Diaspora. These works will be exhibited at Pardo Hall at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs between Wednesday, 22 to Wednesday, 29 April 2015. This exhibition will also include maquettes designed by students from Malta and Gozo’s Art and Crafts schools following a Diaspora Monument Competition announced late last year. The idea is that one maquette is chosen and is crafted into a permanent monument to the Maltese migrant which will be hosted at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs main building – Palazzo Parisio in Valletta.
3. The Symposium for Maltese Novelists Living Abroad
The Symposium for Maltese Novelists Living Abroad will be held on Wednesday 22nd April 2015 in the Auditorium of the Valletta Campus of the University of Malta in St Paul’s Street, between 6.00pm and 9.00pm. It is being hosted by the Department of English and the Department of Maltese in the Faculty of Arts of the University of Malta and is an integral part of the programme of the IV Convention for Maltese Living Abroad. This event is open to the general public and entrance is free.
The Symposium will bring together, for the first time, Maltese writers or writers of Maltese origin, to discuss their literary work. The subject of this symposium is, Writing Home. The session featuring novelists writing in Maltese will be held in Maltese and the sessions featuring novelists writing in English will be in English. The writers were approached by the Organising Committee of the Convention which then entrusted the organisation of the symposium to the departments of Maltese and English at the University of Malta. The coordinators are Prof. Stella Borg-Barthet and Dr Adrian Grima. The idea is to have three short sessions, to include: (1) kitba trażlokata (translocated writing), (2) diasporic writing, dislocated Maltese writing and (3) a roundtable session.
4. Diaspora Art Competition by Primary and Secondary Students in Malta and Gozo
The Maltese Government is celebrating this Convention by means of a nationwide Primary and Secondary Student’s Diaspora Art Competition in the margins of the IV Convention for Maltese Living Abroad and it is the intention of the organising committee of this convention to involve to the fullest our younger generations in this big event. With this purpose in mind, the organising committee within the Ministry for Foreign Affairs together with the Ministry for Education and Employment launched, A Diaspora Art Competition open to all primary and secondary school students in Malta and Gozo. The theme of this art competition is to celebrate the Maltese and Gozitans living around the world, their connection with Malta and Gozo and our connection to them. Art pieces will be on papter, carton, canvas, wood, stone, metal, etc not larger than A4 size.
These works will be exhibited at Avrid Pardo Hall at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs between Wednesday, 22 to Wednesday, 29 April 2015. This exhibition will be inaugarated by the Hon. Dr George W. Vella, Minister for Foreign Affairs on Wednesday at 6.30pm at the said hall where certificates will be given to all participating schools and to students who had their art works chosen.
5. Diaspora Monument Competition by students from Arts and Craft Schools in Malta and Gozo
It is the intention of the Organising Committee of the IV Convention for Maltese Living Abroad to involve to the fullest not only the thousands of Maltese living around the world but also our local talented students at MCAST (Malta and Gozo campuses), the Malta Society of Arts, the Malta School of Arts and the Gozo School of Performing Arts. With this purpose in mind, the organising committee within the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had launched an international Maltese Diapsora Monument Competition open for all students attending the above-mentioned schools. Free-standing monument design(s) will be producing original work(s), artists would be able to apply individually or as a group, each applicant or group may submit up to three maquettes and the monument should epitomise the spirit of Malta’s Diaspora and the Greater Malta concept. The maximum dimensions of the proposed monument would be 50cm long, 30cm inward and 70cm high.
The maquettes designed by students will be exhibited in Pardo Hall. The idea is that one maquette chosen would be crafted into a permanent monument to the Maltese migrant which will be hosted at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs main building – Palazzo Parisio in Valletta.
6. Diaspora Drama Piece
The Drama Unit of the Ministry for Education and Employment will be performing a Diaspora Drama piece during the Wednesday afternoon session of the Convention at the Mediterranean Conference Centre. The drama, entitled, Maltin with a capital M was written by Giovann Attard and Augusto Cardinali and a number of well-known local actors and a good number of students from a number of primary and secondary schools. The drama pieces journeys through the twenty-first century and tells the story of the Maltese and Gozitan migrant who left their homeland to seek a better future elsewhere around the globe.
7. Lejla Maltija / A Maltese Night
The Convention would not be complete without a typical Maltese occasion. The Lelja Maltija will be a showcase of Maltese gastronomy, art, crafts, musical heritage and typical festa atmosphere sinonimous with the Maltese Islands. This occasion will take place at Hastings Gardens in Valletta in the evening to late night hours.
From the Spring of 1915, hospitals and convalescent camps were established on the islands of Malta and Gozo, to deal with many thousands of sick and wounded from the Gallipoli and Salonika campaigns. Despite the courageous efforts of the doctors and medical staff, some of the casualties could not be saved and they were buried in Malta. Of those buried on Malta there were 202 Australians and 72 New Zealanders. The Commonwealth war burials in Malta are unlike those found anywhere else in the world. Many joint and collective burials were made as graves had to be cut into the rock underlying the island’s shallow earth crust. These graves are usually marked by flat tablets that could take several inscriptions and, for the sake of uniformity; the same type of marker was usued for single graves. The main Cemetary is located in Triq id-Duluri, il-Pieta’. Since 1979 the services has been held at il-Pieta’ Military Cemetery as it contains the highest number of ANZAC war graves in Malta.