The Power of Culture

Jan van Riebeeck controversial in Cape Town

In 2002, the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie's initial arrival at the Cape the Good Hope, South Africa, 350 years ago will be commemorated. Is Jan van Riebeeck, the man whom the history books credit with the 'discovery' of the Cape, a hero or a criminal? According to the activist group 'Citizens for Truth and die Waarheid' (Catew), van Riebeeck's statue should actually be in a prison. Van Riebeeck was a convicted criminal sent abroad with the VOC for punishment, according to Catew. The VOC celebrates its 400th anniversary this year. The Cape VOC Foundation will convene at an international conference in April in Stellenbosch celebrating the world's largest trading enterprise during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Catew campaigners fear that little attention will be given to the original Cape inhabitants, the Khoisan, during the commemoration.

In defence of their own culture:
Cat protected, dog on the menu

The city council of the Italian capital of Rome proclaimed a group of stray cats to be cultural heritage last month. The municipality refers to the historical connection with these animals: cats are among Rome's oldest inhabitants. Meanwhile in South Korea, twenty members of parliament proposed a bill to legalise the consumption of dog meat. According to them, dog meat is part of the national tradition and culture. In 1988, during the Olympic Games in Seoul, the government prohibited the consumption of dog meat for fear of what its visiting international neighbours would think. During the upcoming Soccer World Championships in 2002, the attention of the international community again will be focussed on South Korea.

Ex-president Senghor of Senegal dies

On Thursday December 20, 2001 the Senegalese ex-president Léopold Sédar Senghor died in France. He settled there after he voluntarily resigned as head of state in 1980. In 1960, Senghor became the first president of Senegal. History will remember him as one of the rare democratic heads of state in Africa. In addition to being a statesman, he was a writer and a poet.

Modern French translation of the Bible
a great success

A modern French translation of the Bible has made it to the best-seller list in France. Well-known French writers, poets and essayists translated the Bible in a contemporary literary style, as modern as rap-music and minimalist poetry. The translators have no special knowledge of Hebrew or Greek. The translation was published in September by publishing house Bayard and appeared on the best-seller lists in France in December.

Female circumcision

Kenya has banned the circumcision of girls up to seventeen years of age. The law has passed parliament and is awaiting ratification. Girls older than seventeen can choose.
In the Netherlands, female circumcision is widespread among the Somali community. The Dutch Member of Parliament Dittrich (D66) made a proposal in December to punish female circumcision separately under Dutch law. According to Minister of Justice Korthals, this is not necessary. The current laws are sufficient: currently when girls are discovered to have been circumcised, the case is dealt with as child abuse. Adults can be persecuted on the basis of grievous bodily harm.
12-13-01, 12-14-01

Beethoven's Ninth World Heritage

UNESCO, the UN's culture organization, wants to keep Ludwig van Beethoven's ninth symphony for future generations. The composition has been added to the register of the 'Memory of the World' UNESCO program. The Berlin State Library, which currently has the original score, made this announcement. The Memory of the World program is all about preserving and making documentary heritage, such as manuscripts, printed books and archives available.
More information: UNESCO Memory of the World Programme en Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

Sources: Algemeen Dagblad, Het Financieele Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Trouw, de Volkskrant, South African Broadcasting Corporation, UNESCO, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

Unpacking Europe

Europe seen through non-Western eyes

Unpacking Europe is an exhibition of eighteen non-European artists from Africa and Asia, most of whom live and work in Europe or the United States. Each one comments on Western culture from his/her own cultural background, which is frequently presented as the artistic norm. Unpacking Europe is an effort to radically shift this image. The exhibition shows a revealing image of Europe as a cultural melting pot. The mutual influence between Europe and other parts of the world has smudged borders, so that slowly a global culture is emerging.
On display until February 24th in Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

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


januari 2002