The Power of Culture

The issue: Olympic Games: comradeship or patriotism?

Top-100 best African books

The top-100 best African books were announced at an international publishing conference in Accra, Ghana. The Nigerian Chinua Achebe is at the top of the list with A World Falling Apart (1958). Jury members had to choose from among 1521 titles in at least fifteen different languages. The top-100 is an initiative taken by the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF). The prizes will be awarded during this book fair in July 2002.

Political leaders want to have a grip on the media

Premier Silvio Berlusconi will probably have control of 95 per cent of the Italian TV market soon. The businessman, who came to power in Italy last year, owns three commercial tv stations. In addition, he now also has influence over the national broadcasting company RAI. It is normal that the five-member board that controls the broadcasting company consists of three representatives of the government and two representatives of the opposition. Berlusconi's government partners are pushing for a reallocation: four government representatives and only one for the opposition.
In Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is attempting to keep a grip on Leo Kirch's collapsing media concern. Kirch owns commercial tv broadcasting stations, the distribution rights for the foremost sporting events and forty per cent of the publishing giant Axel Springer. Currently Schröder, the Deutsche Bank and media giant Bertelsmann are working on a partnership agreement designed to keep the empire from falling under the control of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

British businessmen do not want to keep in step

The British Supreme Court has decided that only the metric system is legally valid on British soil. This ruling was made after market traders, - the so-called 'Metric Martyrs' -, claimed that they had the right to continue using the pound and ounce, which were the previous standards for measuring weight. The spokesperson for the five businessmen called the judges' decision 'the death of democracy'.

Japanese music permitted for a month

In July, the South Korean radio and television stations will be allowed to broadcast Japanese music. This is in honour of the World Cup Soccer Match that will take place in both countries that month. Since the Japanese occupation over fifty year ago, most Japanese cultural expressions have been banned in South Korea. This includes the sale and broadcast of Japanese music.

Hindus rebel against Valentines Day

Hindus in Bombay destroyed Valentine merchandise again this year. Last year believers set fire to the cards and articles that are typical of this February 14th holiday. The demonstrators claimed that they were protesting the Western character of the day.

Will clicking hyperlinks become dangerous?

British Telecom has initiated a striking court case against the American Internet provider Prodigy. The subject of the dispute is the use of the hyperlink. This was invented in 1976 by employees of British Telecom. The company won the exclusive user rights to the hyperlink in 1989. For some unknown reason the telecom giant did not utilise the patent for eleven years. When it was 'rediscovered' in 2001, the patent was no longer valid in Europe. BT wants to use the case against Prodigy to test whether the patent is still legally valid in the United States. If the judge rules that the company's claim is valid, there is the chance that Americans will have to pay for each hyperlink on their web pages.
Pioneers of the world wide web have reacted indignantly to the case. They claim that the American Vannevar Bush created the hyperlink.
For more information: the BT patent (1989)
Vannevar Bush, As we may think (1945)

Old use in new Afghanistan

Afghanistan may have a new government, but the administration of justice is still based on old Islamic laws. Maintaining the sharia means that homosexuals and women who commit adultery can still be stoned to death. Cutting off limbs is also still a valid legal punishment. The primary difference between today's government and the Taliban government is that summary justice will no longer be applied. At least, that is what the new chairman of the Afghan Supreme Court, Fazel Hadi Shinwari, has told the Associated Press. Accused parties will have the chance to defend themselves. Moreover, the punishments will no longer be meted out in public.
The overthrow of the Taliban does not mean the end of the burqa; the garment, which Afghan women were required to wear under the previous regime, completely veils the woman. The garment is part of the culture of the Pathanen - a population group that is spread throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, some Afghan women still fear that they will be beaten if they appear on the street without this cloak.

Composer handed over for Rwanda Tribunal

The Netherlands is turning over the Rwandanese singer and composer Simon Bikindi to the Rwanda Tribunal in Tanzania. According to the Human Rights Watch, Bikindi's folk songs stirred up hate against the Tutsis. Moreover, he is alleged to be one of the founders of the radio station that incited people during the the slaughters in 1994. Bikindi fled to the Netherlands in 2000.
For more information: Human Rights Watch

Vagina monologues banned

The theatre piece the Vagina monologues may no longer be presented in Kuala Lumpur. In January the show, which originated in North America, was still attracting packed houses in the Malasian capital. The city council says that it cancelled additional performances due to complaints from the public. The Vagina monologues are stories about female genitalia. The show is being presented in dozens of countries.

Mass meetings in the context of globalisation

For reasons of solidarity, the World Economic Forum took place in New York this year. Normally the financial, political and cultural leaders meet in the Swiss city of Davos. The consequences of globalisation was the most important topic of conversation this year. Singer Bono of the Irish megaband U2 made a strong appeal for a more equitable allocation of wealth together with Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Secretary-general Kofi Annan of the United Nations also reminded the multinationals of their moral responsibilities. According to the Nobel Prize winner, poor countries profit too little from globalisation.
This was the primary reason that fifty thousand anti-globalists organised a counter-conference in Brazil for the second time: the World Social Forum. Topics such as participatory democracy and privatising water were discussed in hundreds of workshops and rave-parties were organised as a form of demonstration. The foremost objective of the activists in Porto Alegre was to present a more humane alternative to the plans coming from New York. This Spring the International Forum for Globalisation will issue a ten-step plan entitled 'A better world is possible!'
For more information:
World Economic Forum in New York
World Social Forum in Porto Alegre

Ethiopians get the ten commandments back

The Ethiopian orthodox church has had a sacred object returned from Scotland. This is a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. The wooden object is part of the art treasures taken from Ethiopia by the British military in the nineteenth century. It was discovered last year in a cupboard in a Scottish church. The replica was received at the Addis Abeba airport with great ceremony.

World religions continue to grow

During the coming 25 years, all the world religions will gain new followers. With a 2.11 percent increase, Islam will have the fastest growth. This finding comes from the Annual Statistical Table on Global Missions, the annual report regarding global religious developments.
With over two billion followers, Christianity is the world's largest religion. Islam is in second place with 1.24 billion Muslims and Hinduism is in third place with 836 million followers. The Jewish religion, with 14.6 million followers, is the smallest world religion.

Sources: Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Rotterdams Dagblad, Trouw, de Volkskrant, Associated Press BBC News,, The Daily News Zimbabwe, Human Rights Watch, World Economic Forum, World Social Forum, Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission

World Music Theatre Festival

Kathak -roopmati, Birju Maharaj
photo: Avinash Pasricha

New music theatre from Africa, South America and Asia

The World Music Theatre Festival will be held for the third time from March 9 to April 20, 2002. The program contains six new music theatre productions from South Africa, India, Argentina, Indonesia, Brazil and Japan. The performances (opera, musical and theatre dance) have been specially created for this occasion and can be seen in 21 cities and 26 theatres in the Netherlands and Belgium.
You can find more information on the festival web site:

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


march 2002