A journey of peace for 21 Mediterranean Donkeys at Ta’ Pinu

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A journey of peace for 21 Mediterranean Donkeys at Ta' Pinu SanctuaryThe moment has finally arrived, after a journey of peace from Malta, the island of Gozo now has 21 more donkeys on it: Mediterranean Peace Donkeys. The exhibition opened on Friday at the renowned Ta’ Pinu National Shrine, a revered place of pilgrimage for centuries and remains open to the public until the 28th of February.

This exhibition is not to be missed, it tells a story through art with a difference, that will touch the heart and soul of every person who visits.

One of the donkeys in the exhbition was painted by children from the Victoria Primary School Gozo, as seen above. The school used the ‘Peace Donkey’ Project to address the subjects of friendship and peace.

The decoration of the donkey was coordinated by artists Emma Morgan, Abi Macleod Clark and Federico Chini who are also parents of children attending the Happy School.

Against a backdrop of the recent extremists’ attacks in the West and conflict in the Middle East, the little island of Gozo in the heart of the Mediterranean is making a strong stand for peace

CARAVAN’s exhibition of 21 life-sized fibreglass Maltese donkeys painted by noted Gozitan, Maltese, Egyptian and Western artists symbolising the need for peace between East and West.

The Mediterranean Peace Donkey project is a peace-building exhibition of 21 life-sized fibreglass “Maltese” donkeys painted by premier Gozitan, Maltese, Egyptian and Western artists symbolising the need for peace and compassion between the Middle East and West, and more specifically throughout the Mediterranean Basin (i.e. a donkey for each of the 21 Mediterranean nations).

This exhibition takes place when there has never been a more important time for the peoples of the Mediterranean countries to unite and stand together for peace in the region and globally.

This unique art exhibition is a crucial example that people everywhere can participate and work together towards harmony, understanding and peace, with the island of Gozo, both historically and contemporarily, representing an intercultural bridge between the East and West.

Organised by CARAVAN, an international peace-building arts NGO, The Mediterranean Peace Donkey exhibition uses the symbol of the renowned and endangered Maltese donkey to focus global attention on four critical needs:

-Interreligious Harmony: The donkey represents “peace and compassion” in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and in the cultures of the Middle East and West.

-East-West Relations: The Maltese donkey is an historic “East-West symbol,” as four Maltese donkeys were sent to General George Washington in 1786, prior to becoming the President of the United States of America.

-Donkey Welfare in Conflict Zones of the Middle East: As a “beast of burden” the donkey is a humanitarian symbol, thereby raising awareness about the difficult conditions facing working donkeys in the Middle East region.

-Humanitarian Assistance for Migrants/Refugees in the Mediterranean: As a means of journeying, the donkey also symbolises the thousands of migrants and refugees passing through the Mediterranean region looking for a better life.

The forms for the life-size fibreglass donkeys was sculpted by the premier Egyptian artist Dr. Reda Abdel Rahman, which were then fabricated in Malta. The Mediterranean Peace Donkey exhibition in Gozo at the Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary follows their display over a two- month period in Mdina, Malta during the Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale.

The whole initiative follows in the footsteps of both the widely successful 2013 CARAVAN Egyptian donkey initiative in Cairo, Egypt and London, England which was seen by over 120,000 people, and also of an international approach to public art that has featured painted animals.

For the Mediterranean Peace Donkey initiative, CARAVAN is partnering with The Donkey Sanctuary, the global leader in the field of donkey welfare who is also primary sponsor, together with United Religions Initiative (URI). The exhibition is curated by Rev. Paul- Gordon Chandler, the President of CARAVAN. 21 Mediterranean Peace Donkeys start a journey to Gozo this monthThe Symbolism of the Maltese Donkey (Hmar Malti)-seen all over Gozo

The Donkey Sanctuary have prepared a report, titled Caught in the Middle, about the plight of donkeys in conflict zones of the Middle East.

The form for the life-size “Maltese” fibreglass donkeys is based on the celebrated and endangered Maltese donkey, which has great symbolism. Through these Mediterranean Peace Donkeys we are attempting to focus international attention on four critical needs represented by the symbolism of the Maltese donkey.

1-The donkey is an interfaith symbol as it represents “peace and compassion” in the primary religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) and cultures of the Middle East and West. Examples are numerous, such as both Jesus and the second Muslim caliph, Omar Ibn El Kattab, each riding donkeys when they entered Jerusalem. This therefore highlights the importance of peace, harmony and tolerance between faiths. The painted “Mediterranean Peace Donkeys” serve as “Encounter Points” to help to change negative stereotypes of the “other,” encouraging intercultural and interreligious friendships.

2-The Maltese donkey has historic symbolism for East-West relations. Four of these Maltese donkeys were sent by the Marquis de Lafayette of France to George Washington in 1786 (soon to be the first President of the United States of America) as a gift from the Mediterranean to the West. Hence the Maltese donkey is in many ways an historic “East-West symbol,” hence these Mediterranean Peace Donkeys speak powerfully to today’s need of creating respect, developing understanding and encouraging friendship between the Middle East and West.

3-The donkey is seen throughout the Mediterranean as a “beast of burden” for the poor and is therefore a humanitarian symbol that raises awareness about the difficult conditions and challenges facing working donkeys in the Middle East region. Our aim in this exhibition is to draw global attention to donkeys, raising their status from exploited animals to ones that should be treasured, and play an essential role in local economies. More specifically, CARAVAN is partnering with The Donkey Sanctuary, the global leaders in the field of donkey welfare, to highlight the plight of donkeys caught up in human conflict throughout the Middle East.

4-The donkey is a means of journeying, and therefore is also a symbol of the thousands of migrants and refugees passing through the Mediterranean region trying to reach to Europe, fleeing conflict or economic hardship in their own countries, and their desperate need for humanitarian assistance.

The participating artists are:
Mediterranean Peace Donkeys to travel to Gozo for Cittadella exhibition

Top Photograph: Charles Spiteri

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