The Power of Culture

Harry Potter is everywhere

Harry Potter is not just popular in the Western world. J.K. Rowling's children's books have been translated into dozens of languages. In November, the screen version of the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, premiered in twenty-five countries - from the Netherlands to Thailand, from Argentina to the Philippines and from Iceland to South-Africa. During the coming three months the film will be released in Japan, Korea, Egypt and India. This makes the name of the apprentice wizard almost as well-known as the name Coca-Cola, the film's sponsor. Coca-Cola claims that in sponsoring the film, it is promoting literacy among the youth.

Committee for returning war art

A committee in the Netherlands will make recommendations regarding the return of war art. The government made this decision. Surviving relatives of Jews and other persecuted population groups can appeal to the Committee. The art in question is pieces sold as of 10 May 1940 which ended up as state property after the Second World War. In principle, these works of art may be claimed by survivors or relatives. Sales in Germany starting in 1933 and in Austria starting in 1938 will be considered to have been 'involuntary' as well from now on.

'Live' execution on Thai TV

Thailand is planning to broadcast the execution of criminals live on TV. The government hopes that this will serve as a deterrent in the fight against drugs. In 1996, Thailand re-introduced the death penalty. This spring the press was allowed to be present during executions.

WTO summit reaches agreement after difficult consultations

The conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) took place from 9 through 13 November in the Gulf state of Qatar. The 142 WTO countries agreed to continue negotiations next year about freeing up world trade. One sticky issue was reducing European export subsidies for agricultural products. The patent rights on medicines were an important issue for developing countries. In an emergency situation, it has become easier to cheaply copy expensive medicines for aids, malaria and TB.

Rambo and other films about Afghanistan

A new Rambo film is in the making. Leading man Sylvester Stallone, now 55 years old, will again portray the American hero. This time, he will battle Osama bin Laden. In the previous Rambo film, Stallone helped the brave Afghans in their fight against the communists. Rambo III is one of the few Hollywood films that takes place in Afghanistan. George Bush prefers to wait until Kandahar, by the Iranian Mohsen Makhmalbaf, opens in America. The American President wants to see Kandahar to better understand the situation in Afghanistan. In the Afghan capital Kabul, the movie theatre has re-opened - for men - after the departure of the Taliban. Women still are not allowed in.

British judge: adultery no longer allowed in the newspapers

A British judge has ruled that British tabloids are no longer allowed to write about celebrities' sexual escapades. According to the judge, sexual relationships are subject to the privacy rules specified in the Human Rights Act. Both the tabloids and the legitimate newspapers are indignant. They fear that the ruling endangers the freedom of expression.
More information: Press Complaints Commission, 11-11-01

Museum for World Religions in Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan opened the museum for World Religions on November 9. Artifacts and texts from Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism have been brought together here in one collection. The objective of the museum is to promote tolerance and respect for the different religions. The Buddhist monk Hsin Tao initiated the project.
More information: Museum of World Religions,

Thousands of Dalits are Buddhist

In New Delhi, India, thousands of Hindu 'untouchables' have converted to Buddhism. In so doing, they are rebelling against the social discrimination imposed by the Indian caste system. This system divides people into Brahmans (priests), warriors, farmers and labourers. The caste-less untouchables or Dalits fall outside the system. In April next year in Uttar Pradesh, an even larger conversion service will be held.

Sources: Algemeen Dagblad, Het Financieele Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Trouw, de Volkskrant, Museum of World Religions, Press Complaints Commission

Armenian Culture

4000 years of Armenian culture in Dutch museums

Prehistoric findings and Middle Age miniatures can be seen in the Rijksmuseum of Antiquities and in the Catharijne convent.
The Municipal Museum De Lakenhal is displaying work from four contemporary artists of Armenian descent.
In addition to the exhibitions, the Wereldculturencentrum RASA [RASA World Cultures Center] is presenting a three-part Armenian music festival and the museums are offering an extensive program of activities.

You can find more exhibitions, cultural events and gatherings in 'World in action', the schedule on the International Collaboration web site.


december 2001