Renowned artist finally gets his Mintoff statue installed, in Paola 10 years later

Justice was finally served for one of Malta’s most authoritative artists, Alfred Camilleri Cauchi, when his statue of former prime minister Dom Mintoff was installed last week in Paola, after an initial attempt to locate the statue in Castille Square had been sabotaged by the Office of the Prime Minister 10 years ago.

A new €170,000 Camilleri Cauchi Mintoff monument was inaugurated last week in Dom Mintoff Garden in Paola on the initiative of the locality’s local council.

This was not, however, the first attempt by Camilleri Cauchi – considered an authority in figurative sculptures – to design a monument to the fiery former prime minister.

Last week’s ceremony in Paola rekindled a dark episode in the artist’s long career when then-Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar, now the politically appointed Heritage Malta chairman, went out of his way and brief, to stop plans for an earlier version of Camilleri Cauchi’s monument that was to be placed in Castille Square.

Not bowing to amateurs

After a competition for the design of the monument launched soon after Labour was elected to power in 2013, Heritage Malta had chosen Camilleri Cauchi’s maquette as the winning submission.

The maquettes of the original Mintoff monument that did not meet with Mario Cutajar’s approval.

The artist was commissioned to immediately start work on the statue so it could be inaugurated along with the Castille Square project that was ongoing at the time.

Problems cropped up, however, when civil service head Mario Cutajar asked for a meeting with Camilleri Cauchi out of the blue.

The artist obliged and, to his surprise, Cutajar informed Camilleri Cauchi he did not like his designs and that they had to be changed.

Insisting that his design had won an official competition, Camilleri Cauchi made small modifications, this time also approved by the Mintoff family, to placate Cutajar’s unsolicited intervention.

Cutajar was still unsatisfied and insisted on a toned-down version of the former leader that would better reflect Malta’s ‘new Labour’.

Alfred Camilleri Cauchi being decorated with a State honour by President George Vella.

Just a few weeks later, the veteran artist received a letter from Heritage Malta informing him that the project had been scrapped altogether and that the competition had been cancelled.

Camilleri Cauchi expressed shock at how the government was intervening in the arts and had harsh words for Cutajar, telling The Times of Malta in an interview: “I don’t bow to amateurs.”.

Eventually, after spending over €100,000 on another abstract monument to Dom Mintoff by direct order to artist and architect Valerio Schembri for his ‘flame’ sculpture, Cutajar bowed to pressure from Labour activists calling for a Mintoff monument in Castille Square.

But instead of going back to Camilleri Cauchi for the job, Heritage Malta chose another renowned sculpture, Noel Galea Bason, to produce a Mintoff monument for Castille Square.

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3 months ago

Two different images of the same person. The statue now in place shows the ‘moderate leader’, standing beside a stone with the old emblem of the Republic of Malta, which he himself introduced when he proclaimed the Republic of Malta. Symbolism with a meaning and a leaning to the back then emblems of the Socialist Republics of the Eastern Communist Bloc. Just without the usual red star in it.

The second image which didn’t make it but was selected first is more to the nature of the ‘Maltese dictator in disguise’ because it shows his usual agitated appearance one knows from old features in films and pictures. Quite fitting to the reality of the time when Mintoff was at the peak of his power. Not liked by the ‘new labour’ party, because it was certainly perceived as being too strong a reminder of the old MLP and the way it ruled Malta, particularly in regards to its then leader.

I am not surprised that this new statue which, as usually has cost a lot of money, has been erected in Paola.

Some of the PLers suggested having a statue of Daphne Caruana Galizia placed inside the PN HQ, well hidden from the public. This is also typical for them to worship the one who shaped the MLP for decades. The ‘new labour’ label was just a bit of cosmetic to the image of that party. But hide away the other person who always pointed out the wrongdoings of that very party.

I think that one day, when the PL era has finally ended for good, there should be a statue of Daphne Caruana Galizia, not hidden away inside the PN HQ, but right at the centre of Castille Square, facing the entrance of the Auberge de Castille and thus being a reminder and a warning to those who are inside that building wielding their power given to them by the Maltese electorate never to forget and never repeat the past.

There is not a single politician in Malta who would even remotely match the character of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Time works slowly and in time she will get the place she deserves, whether the PLers would like it or not. One statue of her would be enough to convey the message, not like the Mintoff cult which is on display in various places of Malta.

Martin Baron
Martin Baron
3 months ago

But didn’t Mario Cutajar give the Premier a goid deal? A very good deal indeed? What was the difference?

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