ŻiguŻajg: Placing the arts at the centre of children’s lives

Fondazzjoni Kreattività chairman Rupert Cefai about what we can expect from the eighth edition of the consistently successful event ŻiguŻajg, Malta’s foremost arts and culture festival for children and young people

How would you trace the evolution of ŻiguŻajg from 2011 to now, and what kind of influence did Fondazzjoni Kreattività have on its development?

ŻiguŻajg was born of a clear need to provide young audiences with high-quality performances and creative projects. Since 2011, the festival has grown to provide exactly this; an annual collection of great repertoire that children look forward to every year. This means that young people will grow up with an experience of what great art really is, and will grow up to expect more. Fondazzjoni Kreattività gave the festival the backing and the stability to allow it to form a long-term strategy and to grow both in size and quality year after year.

What do you think makes ŻiguŻajg unique in the Maltese cultural ecology, and why do you think it has enjoyed such a strong and enduring impact?

ŻiguŻajg shows the best that there is on offer both locally and internationally year after year; put simply, the festival treats its young audience with respect and creates a great programme of great work. At the same time, the Festival works with local practitioners, commissioning work and pushing them to create the best work that they are capable of producing. The Festival has enjoyed a long-lasting impact because of this; parents, teachers and the children themselves know that ŻiguŻajg will show them something amazing, and look forward to it every year.

In terms of the local sector, ŻiguŻajg has built itself a reputation as being a professional and reliable commissioner and co-producer; artists enjoy working with us within the Festival’s structure. Apart from working with artists and performers, ŻiguŻajg also provides an opportunity for students seeking a career in arts management. Many of those who have worked within the Festival Team, have gone on to work full-time in the creative sector.

Rupert Cefai
Rupert Cefai

ŻiguŻajg is also one of the only events on the island that brings together a variety of cultural bodies working in unison. Could you tell us a little bit about what entities are involved in this year’s edition, and what they will each be contributing?

Yes, every year we work with many public cultural organisations, asking them to co-create work with the festival. This year, we’re working with the MPO and the MYO to create a beautiful piece The Adventures of Peer Gynt, ZfinMalta to form a devised piece Play|Ground, and with Teatru Manoel on the children’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors. We’re also working with Teatru Malta on a site-specific piece in collaboration with Image Aiguë in France, to produce a piece called L’homme qui marche. As expected also, we’re working with Valletta 2018 on a number of creative projects.

ŻiguŻajg wants to place the creative arts at the centre of children’s lives and experiences. This will only be possible if all cultural bodies work together to produce great work for children. The fact that the ŻiguŻajg brings these organisations together year after year is testimony to the importance that is now being placed on the festival’s endeavours.

What would you say are some of the highlights of this year’s edition?

It’s always difficult to choose a particular highlight! ŻiguŻajg always pushes itself to create a something different during the festival. I always look forward to the something ‘extra’ that the Festival creates, outside of performances and exhibitions. This year, there’s the interactive installation Ċaqlembut with Late Interactive at Pjazza San Ġorġ, and the amazing parade Barra bid-Daqq which will visit schools during the festival period, and will create a great festive parade on the final day of ŻiguŻajg! Elements like these create the intense festival atmosphere that lets people know there’s a great festival going on!

How do you hope that ŻiguŻajg will continue to evolve from here onwards?

Now that the ŻiguŻajg brand is well established in Malta, we are looking at developing a programme in collaboration with Spazju Kreattiv and other partners that will give our audiences a year-long season of work for children and young people.

We are also hoping to give more opportunities to local creatives to develop their skills and pursue professional careers in the arts, so we plan to work with more Maltese companies to collaborate on an international level.

In terms of international recognition, we’re also building on our international collaborations by organising delegate packages especially catered for the international professionals visiting the Festival; we’ll continue to build on this in future editions.

ŻiguŻajg’s work with audiences is also an essential part of what it does and, I can’t say too much at this stage, but we have plans in the pipeline to diversify our catchment and develop projects which have direct contact with communities.

The eighth edition of ŻiguŻajg will be taking place across various venues in Valletta from November 16 to 25. For more information and a full programme, log on to: http://www.ziguzajg.org/