The Power of Culture


Miss World pageant continues to stir up controversy

The Nigerian federal state Zamfara has issued a Fatwa (religious decree) calling on Muslims to murder journalist Isioma Daniel because of her column regarding the controversial Miss World pageant in Nigeria (see Actueel, October and November 2002). The Nigerian government has condemned the death sentence. According to the government, the Fatwa violates the constitution.
Daniel, a journalist for the Nigerian newspaper ThisDay, defended the Miss World Pageant against Muslim critics. She wrote that the prophet Mohammed would probably have married one of the participants. Repeated apologies from the newspaper have been to no avail. The article incited bloody riots in the Northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, where more than two hundred people were killed and hundreds more wounded. In the past years, Kaduna has frequently been the stage for battles between Muslims and Christians.
The organisation of the beauty contest denies any responsibility for the riots and condemns the article in ThisDay.
Because of the violence, the finals of the Miss World pageant have been moved from Nigeria to London. The event is not being wholeheartedly welcomed there, either. British politicians and writers believe the pageant should be cancelled out of respect for the victims of the riots.
More information:
The apologies of the newspaper ThisDay
The press release from the Miss World organisation

Education lags behind in many countries

Seventy of the 153 countries reviewed will not be able to improve the level of education they offer before the year 2015. Some countries will even do worse. These are the findings published in the UNESCO report ‘Is the World on Track?’, which examines education per country.
In 2000, international agreements were made at the World Education Forum in Senegal regarding improvements in education. According to the ‘Education for All’ (EFA) plan, all children must have access to good, free primary schools before 2015. Also, differences in education based on sex must also be eliminated and illiteracy among adults should be cut in half. The report states that 28 countries will not achieve any of these objectives. The HIV epidemic and armed conflicts will prevent many states from freeing up resources and manpower for education. In addition, there is a world-wide shortage of teachers. If all children are to go to school in 2015, 15 to 35 million additional teachers are needed.
More information: UNESCO report "Is the World on Track?"

Hemingway estate leads to collaboration between Cuba and the USA

Cuba and the United States are going to collectively manage the Cuban estate of Ernest Hemingway. This primarily involves the large quantity of materials that were stored for more than forty years in the basement of Hemingway’s Cuban villa. The house belonged to Hemingway from 1939 until his death in 1961. His widow then donated the property to the Cuban state.
Cuba's National Council of Cultural Heritage and the Council for Social Science Research in New York will collectively record all the letters, photos and documents on microfilm. Copies of these documents will go to a library in Boston, where they will be accessible to the public. The collaboration is exceptional due to the US embargo on relations with Cuba.

Anne Frank exhibition in India

The travelling Dutch Anne Frank exhibition: ‘A history for today’ will be on display in India through January 2003. The exhibition has previously been displayed in Austria, Finland and the United States. The exhibition uses Anne Frank’s life story to inform visitors world-wide about the Holocaust. The makers want to demonstrate the great importance of tolerance for minorities today as well.
Indian actors will simultaneously perform the theatre play ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’.
Information and data on the site of the Anne Frank Foundation

Third World economy benefits from free press

According to a recent publication by the World Bank, freedom of the press plays an important role in the economic development of the Third World. Independent journalists can monitor governments and companies, and can thus prevent national resources from being wasted. They also can inform peasant populations about politics using radio broadcasts. This will make inhabitants of underdeveloped areas more likely to vote for politicians who want to improve circumstances in their regions. In addition, reliable information about national economic developments will benefit financial markets. Nineteen prominent authors, including Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, collaborated in ‘The Right to Tell? The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development’.
More information: World Bank press release

Monks in Hong Kong oppose the advance of tourism

Buddhist monks in Hong Kong have threatened to close their doors to visitors for a week. The threat is the result of discontent with the government’s intention to build a tourist village around the complex. The Po Lin monastery houses the largest sitting Buddha statue in the world. The winding road to the abbey is an obstacle to mass tourism so Hong Kong’s city managers want to build a cable lift that can transport 4500 people an hour. This will enable visitors to get to the neighbouring Disneyland, which will be ready in 2005.
The monks have no objection to the funicular, but do object to the hotels, restaurants and cafés that will be constructed at the station. They fear that hotel guests will disrupt the evening quiet. They are also opposed to the animal products the catering facilities will sell. No meat or fish is eaten in the monastery. For the time being, Hong Kong authorities’ promise to involve the monks more closely in consultations has prevented the strike.

Dutch Institute for the Deaf introduces Islamic gestures

The Dutch Institute for the Deaf Effatha has ordered the production of CD-ROMs and video tapes with 163 Islamic gestures imported from Morocco. Dutch gestures did not allow the deaf from Turkish and Moroccan families to communicate about Islamic concepts. There is no Dutch equivalent for 'fasting' or 'praying', for example. The list of concepts was formulated in collaboration with an Institute for the Deaf in Morocco.
More information: Effatha

Arabic news station will broadcast in English

At the beginning of 2003 Al-Jazeera, the Arabic news station from Qatar, will start broadcasting programs in English as well as Arabic. Initially existing programs will be translated simultaneously. If this is successful, a separate English language channel will follow. The station, which became known in the West after the attacks on 11 September, hopes to reach a larger audience so that it can compete with TV stations such as the BBC and CNN. Another motive for the broadcasts is to offer people from the West, who do not understand Arabic, a chance to see the world from another perspective.

Sources: Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Trouw, de Volkskrant, The Guardian, ABCNews, BBC News, UNESCO, Wereldbank, Anne Frank Stichting, Effatha


An artist’s task is to express things ordinary mortals do not dare to or cannot articulate. At least, this is the contemporary (Western) view of art. But what if art has a violent, pornographic, racist or unworthy message? Read more...


The government must have the option of banning some works of art.




Latin American movies

Still form Madame Satâ

Worldcinema tour

Three extraordinary movies from Latin America will be in Dutch movie theatres until 5 January 2003. Madame Satâ portrays a legendary Brazilian street fighter and drag queen. In LA FIEBRE DEL LOCO, a Chilean fishing village battles with the annual hunt for oysters which induce lust and are thus expensive, and DE LA CALLE shows the nerve-racking existence of the 15 year-old Rufino in Mexico City. Information about dates and venues can be found on the Rotterdam Film Festival web site.

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


Bangladeshi spirit, an on line photo gallery with photos by students attending Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography in Dhaka, about the culture of Bangladesh.


december 2002