The Power of Culture


Vietnam wants to punish actor for movie role

The Vietnamese actor Don Duong is facing the treat of being banned from acting because of the role he played in We Were Soldiers. According to the Vietnamese government, the American film about the Vietnam War, which was released this year, distorts history and does not do justice to image of the Vietnamese soldier. We Were Soldiers has been officially banned in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese army’s newspaper calls Duong a traitor. The authorities of Ho Chi Minh City, where the actor lives, want to fine Duong and ban him from leaving Vietnam for five years.
Information about We Were Soldiers in the Internet Movie Database

Mandatory crucifixes in Italy

The Italian minister of Education, Letizia Moratti, wants to make the Christian symbol, the crucifix, mandatory in all public buildings, public schools and public stations. The crucifix would be displayed to remind Italians of their Christian tradition. Jewish and Islamic organizations have reacted to the proposal with indignation.

French writers under fire

In France, a fierce debate is currently underway regarding freedom of speech and the limits of artistic expression after three French authors were accused of inciting hatred and child pornography. Michel Houellebecq, author of Elementary particles, is being sued by four Islamic organizations for insulting their religion. In an interview with the French magazine Lire, he is accused of having called Islam 'a stupid and dangerous religion'. The plaintiffs support their accusation with excerpts from Platform, Houellebecq's last novel, which they say insults Islam. It is remarkable that the four organizations have also sued the magazine Lire because it published the interview.
Two other French writers, Nicolas Jones-Gorlin and Louis Skorecki, have been accused of child pornography. Jones-Gorlin's Rose bonbon and Skorecki's Il entrerait dans la légende both contain detailed scenes of sex and violence involving young girls. Child welfare organizations want the novels taken off the market. The same French League for Human Rights, la Ligue des droits the l'homme (LDH), which Houellebecq reproached for inciting 'Islamophobia', has taken the author’s side in this case.

Should British Asians speak English at home?

David Blunkett, the British minister of the Interior, has advised Asians in Great Britain to speak English at home as well. Research from 2001 is said to have demonstrated that thirty percent of British Asians only speak their native language at home, while a good command of English is one of the conditions for successful integration, according to the minister. Blunkett made this announcement in the book Rethinking Britishness, which contains essays about British identity.
Critics do not believe the government should issue guidelines for how citizens should behave at home. Other opponents wonder whether the recommendation also applies to those who speak Welsh and Gaelic.

China blocks search engines

The Chinese government has blocked the search engines Google andAltavista for at least ten days. Foreign web sites such as those of CNN and BBCare now partially or completely inaccessible to Chinese Internet users. The suspicion is that the Chinese government wants to prevent its people from being informed about the upcoming party summit by reading critical reports. The Congress of the Communist Party, which meets every 5 years, will convene at the beginning of November.

Presidency of Argentina offered as possible first prize in Argentine game show

Argentineans have so little confidence in their politicians that they search for new ones in unusual ways. Soon a TV show will premiere that offers the leadership of a new political party as the first prize. In Candidate of the People, sixteen 'ordinary' Argentineans will battle for a possible seat in Parliament. The winner, selected by viewers, will also participate in the presidential elections in 2003. Argentina has been plagued by a serious economic crisis. In the past year, four presidents have tried in vain to turn the tide.

North and South Korea attempt reconciliation on the soccer field

After a nine-year hiatus, North and South Korea have once again competed against each other in a soccer match in Seoul. Officially the two countries are still at war with one other. Poverty is compelling North Korea to relinquish its isolationist policy. The unique match was permeated with reconciliatory symbolism. Instead of the two national anthems, a song that is a hit in both countries was played. The public also waved flags depicting a figure of an undivided Korea.

Miss World candidates revolt against the stoning of a Nigerian woman

Participants in the Miss World pageant have threatened to boycott the event in Nigeria at the end of November. They are doing this to protest the death penalty imposed on Amina Lawal Kurami. A sharia court in Northern Nigeria condemned the 30-year old single mother to death by stoning because she had an extra-marital relationship. Twelve Nigerian states have an Islamic law that forbids unmarried women from having sex. The national winners from Norway, Belgium, France and the Ivory Coast have all said that they will not come to Nigeria if this verdict is not revoked.
Earlier this year, the Nigerian Safiya Husaini was condemned to death for similar reasons. After a storm of international protest, she was acquitted based on technicalities.

Sources: Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Trouw, de Volkskrant, Le Monde, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Observer, New York Post, The Straits Times, BBC News,, Reuters

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.

Family stories from South Africa

foto: David Goldblatt

What was it like to live in South Africa in the past and what is like now? Starting on 4 October 2002, you can learn about some of the experiences of nine South African families through the Family stories from South Africa exhibition in the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. The stories have been captured by a large group of top photographers, movie makers, artists, writers and historians. Family Stories was largely created in South Africa in collaboration with three museums in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape.
The KIT Tropenmuseum has devoted a web site to the exhibition.

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


october 2002