The Power of Culture

Bono steps in for the poor

Bono, the lead singer for the Irish rock band U2, has personally persuaded George W. Bush to increase aid for the poor. The American president announced this himself during the UN Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey, Mexico. The United States will increase its annual contribution to development help from ten to fifteen billion dollars starting in 2006. The objective of the UN conference was to find money to realise the Millennium goals, the agreements the UN member states made in 2000 regarding the world´s poor. According to these agreements, the number of people who must live on less than a dollar a day (1.2 billion) must be cut in half by 2015. To achieve this goal an additional fifty billion dollars is needed annually.
Critics are calling Bono´s presence during Bush's speech a Republican publicity stunt. They believe that Bush´s friendship with the Mexican president, the host of the UN conference, was a bigger influence on Bush's surprising aid increase.

Anger over flippant concentration camp

The Jewish Museum in New York City has created quite a stir with the exposition Mirroring Evil. In this exhibition young artists display their vision of Nazi symbols. The figures from the catalogue created anger in the Jewish community long before the show opened. The artists are accused of having used images too flippantly. A concentration camp made of lego blocks in particular evoked a great deal of resistance. Critics said this made a mockery of the horrors that occurred during the Second World War.

Afghan legacy in Paris

Fans of Afghan art do not have to go to Kabul, but to Paris. Together with the Barcelonian Fundació la Caixa, the French Musée national des Arts asiatiques - Guimet has organised a retrospective of some 4000 years of Afghan art. The art objects have been brought out of the country during the past centuries by a colourful assortment of plunderers, archaeologists, explorers and buyers. It is probably largely due to this large-scale emigration that the objects have been preserved. The members of the Taliban were not the best curators. During the Taliban regime the museum in Kabul was plundered and two centuries-old images of Buddha from Bamiyan were blown up.
According to museum curator Pierre Cambon of the Guimet museum, the current exposition is a reaction to the poor state of the legacy in Afghanistan itself. In 1995, he made a shocking and revealing inventory for UNESCO of the art treasures left in the country after all the wars.
Moreover, it appears that a third 35-meter figure of Buddha was the victim of Taliban explosives. This is buried somewhere in the province of Bamiyan. Together with the Afghan government UNESCO wants to reconstruct the two sculptures that were ravaged. It is estimated that this reconstruction will cost at least thirty million euros.
The exhibition: Afghanistan, une histoire millénaire

Visa for Ladonia

In 1996 the Swedish artist Lars Vilks 'Ladonia', created an Internet state in which life revolves around art. The state has a Minister of Jazz, a Minister of Photography, a Minister of Literature and a Minister of Film. The creation of Ladonia was a protest against the Swedish authorities, who wanted to remove two of Vilks' art works. According to Vilks, since last February three thousand Pakistanis have requested a visa via the Internet. Apparently they did not know that this was a virtual state. This is not the only situation in which people who want to immigrate have mistakenly applied for citizenship to a country that only exists on the Internet. Making up a country or a region as a hobby is called 'geofiction'.
More information: Ladonia
Fictional countries: Society for Geofiction

Barbie with a headscarf

Iran has developed its own Barbie and Ken. The Iranian Ministry of Education found the dolls manufactured by the American company Mattel, which are also quite popular in Iran, too frivolous. So the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults has developed versions that more accurately reflect Islamic society: Sara and Dara. The twins, a brother and sister who are eight years old, are based on figures from a primary school book. Obviously, Sara wears a headscarf.

Believers commandeer TV station

Followers of the banned religious movement Falun Gong briefly took over a TV station in Northeast China. Transmissions of the state television station in Changchun were briefly replaced by images of Falun Gong-leader Li Hongzi. Hongzi, who lives in the United States, protested against the policy of the Chinese authorities. The commandeering took place during the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in Peking. Because demonstrations of the Falun Gong are still severely punished, the members of the group decided to use a different tool this time to let their message of protest be heard.

Prison for winner of the Booker Prize

The Indian writer Arundhati Roy must spend one day in jail for being held in contempt by the Indian Supreme Court. Roy is accused of depicting the court as undemocratic. The author, who won the Booker Prize in 1997 for The God of Small Things, has for years been associated with the fight against building a dam in the Indian Narmada Valley. This project would mean the destruction of dozens of villages. The opponents were overjoyed when the World Bank withdrew its financing in the early nineties. In spite of this, the Indian Supreme Court granted permission to build the dam in 2000. During the subsequent demonstration, Roy accused the Court of not having any consideration for the opinion of those who oppose the dam.
More information: Friends of the River Narmada
Explanation by Arundhati Roy

Peace recital by Israeli musicians

Daniel Barenboim has not received approval from the Israeli army to conduct a peace recital. The Israeli pianist planned to give a piano recital in the Palestinian city of Ramallah on the west banks of the Jordan river. His explanation for this: "I believe that it is important that Israelis understand that the Palestinian population does not consist solely of suicide bombers, but also of intellectuals and people who love music and that Palestinians understand that not all Israelis are soldiers." At the time, Barenboim did not know that Israeli citizens are not allowed into this area of Palestine due to the danger of war.
Barenboim, who is also the chief conductor of the Berlin Staatskapelle and the Chicago Symphony, caused a riot in 2001 when he allowed music by Richard Wagner to be played during the Festival of Israel. Many Jews associate Wagner with Nazi Germany.

Sources: Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Trouw, de Volkskrant, Het Laatste Nieuws, De Standaard, The Guardian, Libération, Le Monde, BBC News, BBC Online, Jewish Museum, Musée national des Arts asiatiques - Guimet

Contemporary Aboriginal Art

Gordon Bennet: Notes to Basquiat

From March 30, 2002 through December 8, 2002 the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam will present a retrospective of the development of the art of the oldest inhabitants of Australia, from paintings on stone to computer prints on silk. The socially and politically charged works will be exhibited for the first time in the Netherlands and, so far, are being collected exclusively by the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam.
See the website of the Wereldmuseum as well:

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


april 2002