The Power of Culture


Heated discussion about Jewish eruv in London

There is currently a heated discussion underway in Hampstead and Golders Green, suburbs of London, about the arrival of an eruv, an area where orthodox Jews are allowed to push prams and wheel chairs on the Sabbath. Orthodox Jews are forbidden to transport any vehicles outside the house on the Sabbath. An eruv, which already exists in nearly 200 cities throughout the world, is an area partially fenced in by high poles with wire, and partially by existing borders such as railway lines. The organisationThe United Synagogue has requested that an eruv be constructed so that invalids and mothers with young children can participate in the collective celebration of the Sabbath.
The plan has created resistance from all sorts of groups. One group believes that it is improper in principal that some people have to be dependent on a fence in order to be permitted to go outside. Another group is afraid that the Jewish inhabitants are trying to appropriate the neighbourhood with this type of 'fence', and fears an influx of new Jewish inhabitants and thus possible anti-Semitic attacks. A third organisation considers dozens of telephone-type poles an eyesore.
Meanwhile the first poles have already been set.

Open criticism by Cuban rappers

A few young rappers have dared to openly criticise their lives on the socialist island during the annual Cuban hiphop festival. Singer Papa Humbertico and members of the group Alto Voltaje criticised the economic malaise, the boredom among the youth, and the display of power by the Cuban police, and all this was enthusiastically received by the thousands of spectators present. Cuba has had a strong hiphop movement for some ten years and currently has approximately five hundred hiphop groups.

UNESCO requests support for flooded cultural treasures

Koïchiro Matsuura, director-general of UNESCO, has asked the international community for help to restore devastated cultural treasures in Europe. Floods have damaged historical buildings, libraries and archives, primarily in the Czech Republic and Germany. Matsuura is particularly concerned about damage to the monuments on the List of World Treasures, such as the historical centre of Prague and the local Jewish neighbourhood dating from the Middle Ages. In Dresden part of the Semper Opera, the Frauenkirche and the Zwingerpaleis have been damaged by water. The famous baroque buildings had just been restored. Denis MacShane, the British minister of Foreign Affairs, has called on art students in his country to lend a helping hand to the areas affected.
More information: UNESCO Webworld news

Russians angry at British author

A few Russian opinion makers have reacted angrily to passages from the new novel by Martin Amis. In Koba the Dread, Laughter and the Twenty Million the British author compares the regime of Stalin to a black comedy. Stalin's regime cost twenty million people their lives. According to Amis the absurdity of that regime gives the period almost a comic character. In Amis’ opinion that hilarious element is precisely the reason that Stalin’s lust for murder has never been so sharply criticised as Hitler’s holocaust, while it was responsible for many millions more victims. The Russian critics say it is scandalous to compare tragedies of this magnitude to a literary genre.

New calendar in Turkmenistan

Saparmoerat Niazov, president of the Central-Asiatic republic of Turkmenistan, is going to rename the months of the calendar. Names such as January, February and March will be replaced by more nationalistic names such as 'Independence' and 'The Flag'. Niazov, who, human rights organisations say is conducting a dictatorial regime, also wants to name one month after himself, one after his deceased mother and one after a book he has written. Not long ago the president forbade all ballet performances in the capital because he says he does not understand them.

Fuss about pygmies in Wallonian zoo

An exposition dealing with pygmies’ way of life has been set up in a zoo in the Wallonian city of Yvoir. Eight Pygmies from Cameroon came over for this event; they wanted to give the public a taste of their culture through song and dance. Belgian organisations for development aid and migrants are extremely indignant about the exhibition. It reminds them of the country’s colonial history, when inhabitants of the Belgian Congo were put on display at the World Fair as oddities. Moreover, they find a zoo a denigrating location for such an exposition. The organisers have pointed out that the funds collected as entry fees will be used to improve the pygmies’ lives.
More information:La Commune d'Yvoir

Indian in Mexico declared a saint

Pope John Paul II has declared Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin a saint in Mexico City. It is rare for an Indian to be honoured in this way. In 1531 Cuauhtlatoatzin - 'he who speaks like an eagle' – had two visions of the Virgin Mary, known in Mexico as the Virgin of Guadelupe. The shroud on which the Virgin left her impression has been on display in the Basilica of Guadelupe in Mexico City ever since. This was the beginning of a cult that brings twenty million pilgrims to the site each year.
The fact that God was willing to reveal himself to a simple Indian contributed to the large-scale conversion of the Mexican peasantry since that time. Critics have always claimed that the Catholic Church concocted the story precisely for this reason. The recent declaration of sainthood is also seen by some as a papal trick to try to counter the rise of Protestantism in Mexico.
More information: First indigenous Saint of the American continent, papal address

Will the American amusement industry soon become hackers?

American civil rights organisations such as Electronic Frontier Foundation have reacted to the Peer-to-Peer Piracy Act with concern. This legislative proposal gives the American amusement industry far-reaching tools against piracy. Film and music companies have been given the right to use hacker-like tools to combat illegal copying. This gives them authorisation to obstruct exchange services and randomly search hard disks for illegal files.
More information: Peer to Peer Piracy Act

New Yorkers consider a design for 'Ground Zero'

More than four thousand people have critiqued all the designs for 'Ground Zero', the devastated area in New York City. Six project offices have submitted sketches for the area where the WTC towers were the target of a terrorist attack nearly a year ago. The large-scale involvement was organised by the Civic Alliance to Rebuild Downtown New York, in which over 75 societal organisations, environmental organisations and companies participate. The participants found all the plans too commercial. Because 20,000 victims were never found, many surviving relatives would prefer to see a commemorative monument at that site instead of office buildings or shops. Project developers are trying their best to create business space, because the city has lost twenty percent of its commercial space since the attack.
More information: Gotham Gazette's Rebuilding NYC

Sources: Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Rotterdams Dagblad, Trouw, de Volkskrant, Gazet van Antwerpen, De Standaard, Libération, Le Monde, Le Soir, The Guardian, The Ham&High Network, The Observer,, LA Weekly, The New York Times, The Washington Times, La Nueva Cuba, BBC News, BBC Online, 10 Downing Street Newsroom, The Art Newspaper, ET, The Muslim News, The,, Unesco

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.

Mundos Creados

Latin-American photography

On 7 September the ninth edition of the international photography exhibit Noorderlicht opened in the Friesian Museum in Leeuwarden, an event taking place in 23 museums, galleries and other suitable locations. The theme of this year’s event in Leeuwarden is Latin America. A multi-faceted and colourful image of Latin America and Latin American photography is sketched by a total of 40 local, 5 European and 10 Dutch photographers under the title Mundos Creados.
You can find more information on the Noorderlicht website.

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


september 2002