The Power of Culture


The issue: 30th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention

Miss World pageant postponed until after Ramadan

The organizers of the Miss World pageant in Nigeria have postponed the event for a week so that it will now take place after Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. In doing this, the organization hopes to accommodate the Nigerian Muslim organizations that are protesting the pageant. The Muslim leaders consider looking at scantily clad women objectionable - especially during the month of fasting. Since 1999 twelve Nigerian states have adopted Islamic law.
The beauty pageant is the object of considerable controversy. Many beauty queens are not attending the pageant. The winners from the Ivory Coast, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Spain, France, Denmark, Belgium and Spain are boycotting the festivities to protest the death sentence imposed on Amina Lawal Kurami. A Sharia court in North Nigeria sentenced the single mother to death by stoning because she had an extramarital relationship. Other Misses, including Miss Netherlands and Wales, believe that they can only draw attention to Amina’s case by going.

French writers acquitted

Two French authors who have had to appear in the witness box during the past months can now breathe easier. Nicolas Jones-Gorlin can keep his novel Rose bonbon on the bookstore shelves. French Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy made this ruling after he submitted the book to a special commission. Organizations for children’s rights wanted to ban the novel because it contains detailed sex scenes with young children. However, the Minister ruled that it was sufficient that the publisher Gallimard publish a warning on the book jacket.
Michel Houellebecq, author of Les Particules élémentaires (translated as Atomised), was acquitted of inciting hate against Muslims. Four Islamic organizations had sued the French author for statements he made during an interview in a literary magazine. In the interview he called Islam ‘the most idiotic of all the monotheistic religions’. According to the judge such criticism is protected under the right to free speech.
A trial is still in progress regarding the book Rage and Pride by the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci. She is also accused of inciting hate against Muslims. In particular her statement that ‘Muslims multiply like rats’ stirred up ill feelings. The French movement against racism and for friendship between peoples (Mrap) wants the book banned.

Dutch rap song about ruling politician

Rapper Raymzter, son of a Dutch mother and Moroccan father, has scored a hit with this song ‘Kut Marokkanen!’ (Fucking Moroccans). The Amsterdam Social-Democratic councilman Rob Oudkerk accidentally used this expression earlier this year in front of television cameras. He said that he was referring to a small group of hooligans, not all Moroccans. Raymzter (22) incorporated the statement in a rap song with the objective of exposing prejudice against Moroccan young people. The song was MTV’s superclip this month.

Israeli artists under pressure

Israel’s actions against the Palestinians have induced all sorts of groups to call for a boycott of Israeli cultural expressions. The Network of Palestinian Art Centers is encouraging cultural devotees to boycott artistic events in Israel. The intention of the boycott is to force Israeli leaders to stop the violence against Palestine. They compare Israel’s policy to that of the South-African Apartheid Regime. An international cultural boycott also contributed to reforms in South Africa.
Others believe that Israeli artists must be excluded outside their own territory. This is why the British novelist Nicholas Blincoe disrupted a performance of the Israeli singer Noa in London during a festival of Mediterranean music.
The foundation Palestinian Artists Resisting Apartheid Culture (Para-culture) is calling on Israeli artists to politicize their work. In the foundation’s opinion, they must demonstrate more solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues whose ‘artistic talent is wasted’ due to the daily violence. Israeli art works must criticize the Palestinian issue more explicitly.
However, Israeli artists who express criticism of their political leaders’ policy are not welcome everywhere, either. Musician Yair Dalal, who has always called attention to the fate of the Palestinians, was not allowed to perform in Italy and Zanzibar because he is from Israel.

Rumanian law to protect Rumania’s native tongue

In Rumania a law is being considered whose objective is to forbid all non-Rumanian expressions. Words that are borrowed from another language must be replaced by Rumanian terms. The law was introduced by Senator George Pruteanu, who wants to quell the increasing influence of English. According to the Senator older, uneducated people are being estranged from a society in which so many foreign expressions are used. In his opinion, monitoring one’s own language is an act of patriotism. Opponents of the law say that you cannot curtail the development of a language. Implementing such a law will be extremely difficult. Many English terms have been in the Rumanian dictionaries for years.

Artists from Muslim countries not welcome in the US

The Iranian filmmaker Bahman Qobadi could not accept his prize at the Chicago Film Festival in person. The North American authorities would not give him a visa. Since the terrorist attacks in 2001 the United States has severely tightened its visa policy for many Islamic countries. A number of foreign artists have had to cancel performances as a result. The renowned Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami was also refused entry into the US. He was to attend the showing of his film Ten at the New York film festival. Protests by prominent cultural leaders like director Martin Scorsese could not revere the government’s decision. The Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki decided to boycott the film festival in protest.

Body of vagrant as art

In Plymouth, Great Britain, the judge will probably have to rule whether the embalmed body of a vagrant is art that should be kept. Vagrant Edwin MacKenzie was a friend of the recently deceased artist Robert Lenkiewicz. The painter, who repeatedly portrayed people from the fringes of society, embalmed MacKenzie’s body after his death in 1984. The vagrant had requested him to do this because he wanted to live on as a work of art. This caused fierce protests from the authorities, who demanded that the body be buried.
Now that the body has been found in the studio of the deceased artist the discussion regarding its artistic value has been rekindled. MacKenzie has no family members and did not leave a will. The foundation that represents Lenkiewicz’ interest must prove that the body should be preserved as a work of art within a few weeks. Otherwise the body will have to be buried. 11/10/02

No Western productions on Namibian television

The Namibian national broadcaster NBC is only being allowed to telecast domestic TV programs. Foreign productions such as the series Dune and The Bold and The Beautiful set the wrong example for Namibian youth, according to a ruling by President Sam Nujoma. Critics say the measure is primarily intended to suppress critical foreign reporting criticizing Nujoma’s policy.

Sources: Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Trouw, de Volkskrant, Het belang van Limburg, The Guardian, The Observer, Le Monde, Liberation, ABCNews, BBC News,, VOA news, Jamaica Observer,, Daily Times of Nigeria, Salon, Plymouth Evening Herald, Evenimentul Zilei

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.

Documentary Film Festival

ATMAN, Pirjo Honkasalo

IDFA Festival 2002

On Thursday 21 November the fifteenth edition of this documentary film festival will begin in Amsterdam. For 11 days 200 documentaries from throughout the entire world will be shown. There is a theme program entitled What do you believe in? with approximately thirty films about beliefs in the broadest sense of the word. You can find more information on the IDFA web site.

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


november 2002