The Power of Culture


Eighteenth edition of the Fespaco African film festival

From February 18th to March 1st the eighteenth edition of the Fespaco African film festival will be held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The Fespaco is the leading festival devoted to African film. The festival, which is held once every other year, was first organised in 1969 by a number of film fans. In the interim the organisation has been turned over to an independent agency that is recognised and supported by the Ministry of Culture. This year the theme of the festival is the actor’s role in making and promoting films. According to the organisers in the African film world, most of the attention gets paid to the directors and too little to the actors.

Prince Claus chair for development

The University of Utrecht has been awarded the Prince Claus chair, with development as its discipline. Young scientists from Africa, Asia or Latin America will be eligible. The chair will be awarded to a different scientist each year, appointed alternately by the university and the Institute for Social Studies (ISS). A board of directors, chaired by Princess Máxima, will decide on the appointment. In establishing the Prince Claus chair the university and the ISS want to show their respect and express their appreciation for Prince Claus and his work in promoting balanced development in the world. The Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity will be officially established on March 6th.
More information: press release by the Government Information Office

English cricket team will go to Zimbabwe

The English & Welsh Cricket Board (ECB) will participate in the upcoming World Cup matches in Zimbabwe. The British government had requested the Board not to participate because of the dictatorial regime of President Robert Mugabe. However, the ECB says that it is obligated to go due to sponsor contracts that have already been signed. The governments of New Zealand and Australia also requested their teams to stay home, but both these teams are still going, as well. Opponents of Mugabe have urged the International Cricket Council (ICC) to at least demand that the Zimbabwe government allow the reporters who travel with the teams to report on the situation in the country. Moreover, there have been rumours in Pakistan that it will boycott the cricket matches in Great Britain if premier Tony Blair declares war on Iraq.

China wants purloined artefacts back

Chinese art experts are demanding the return of stolen archaeological artefacts from foreign museums. The experts have reacted indignantly to the declarations by eighteen Western Art Institutes last December in which they refuse to give back these art objects (see Current, January 2003). An estimated one million Chinese artefacts are held by more than two hundred museums in 47 countries. Thousands of art objects from China are also in the hands of individual collectors.

BBC and al-Jazeera will collaborate

The British state broadcaster, the BBC, is going to collaborate with the Arabic news station al-Jazeera. The collaboration will give the BBC more possibilities in its reporting from the Middle East. Conversely this arrangement will provide the Katar broadcaster recommendations and content for its English language web site that is scheduled to go live in February.

Catholic church may soon be without African incense

The Catholic Church may have to make do with artificial incense in the future. If no measures are being taken, the incense trees in the Horn of Africa will die, according to Dutch Prof. Dr. Frans Bongers, professor of tropical forrest ecology. The type of incense used during the church services comes from the resin of a tree that only grows in Eritrea, Ethiopia and the Sudan. The incense is a primary source of income, especially for Eritrea, which is why the trees have been tapped so intensely that they were unable to produce seeds. According to Bongers the tree can only be saved if the production of incense is cut back dramatically.

Berlin soccer club must speak German

The trainer of the Berlin soccer team Hertha BSC wants its players to speak German to one another. The Bundes League club contains players from sixteen countries, including Brazil, Hungary, Angola, Cameroon, Iceland, Poland, Bulgaria and Croatia. Many of the players do not speak German and interpreters are assigned to them so that they can understand one another. Trainer Huub Stevens, who himself comes from the Netherlands, hopes that this measure will improve mutual communication and thus improve the club’s performance, as well. However, he has unwittingly sparked a lively discussion in Germany, which has been faced with the problem of integrating groups of ethnic minorities and with high unemployment for years. The debate centres around whether employers in a country with eight million foreigners should be allowed to require that only one language is spoken at work.

Exorcism leads to the fall of the government of Greenland

The coalition parties in semi-autonomous Greenland have declared a lack of confidence in one another after an incident involving a spiritual healer. After the swearing in of the government, which just took power, a high official in the Social-democratic Siumut party hired an Inuit healer to rid government buildings of negative energy. He is supposed to have encouraged the hundreds of civil servants that fall under his responsibility to do the same. Members of the coalition party Inuit Ataqatigitt accused the magistrate and his boss, premier Hans Enoksen, of ruining the modern image of their island. According to them the exorcism is not a historical Inuit tradition, but simply evidence that the magistrate is an idiot.

Venetians sue Napoleon

A group of Venetians has brought charges against Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) for crimes against their city. They are doing this to protest the return of his statue. The French emperor took Venice from the Austrians in 1805. For some years his statue stood across from the Ducal Palace. The Comité Français par la Sauvegarde culture fund bought the Venetian statue and gave it to the Correr museum in Venice. According to the opponents, including members of the Northern League political party, it does not belong there. Someone who exploited the city for years should not be honored with a statue. Proponents point out that the emperor is now part of the city’s history. Moreover, though he did destroy a lot of things, he also implemented a great number of legal, political and cultural innovations.

Angolese minister stimulates national culture

The Angolese minister of Culture, Boaventura Cardoso, used the occasion of the National Day of Culture to announce that laws will be enacted to protect and develop Angolese culture. Cardoso wants to use such legislation to stimulate art production and to give artists better status. He plans to set up a theatre school and wants to breathe new life into the currently defunct FENACULT national cultural festival. All the museums and monuments that were damaged during the war must be repaired. The population of a country must be conscious of its national art and culture, according to Cardoso. Not only the government, but society as well is responsible for preserving this legacy.

Christmas to be a national holiday in Egypt

The Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has declared Christmas a national holiday. It is the first Christian holiday recognised in a predominantly Islamic Egypt. Ten percent of the almost 70 million Egyptians are members of the Christian Coptic Church. This religious group has always complained that they are neglected in every area of Egyptian life, a complaint that is confirmed by organisations such as Human Rights Watch. One reason for Mubarak’s declaration it that he wants to emphasise national unity in Egypt. Critics claim that he is only acquiescing to criticism by the United States that the social climate in Egypt is not tolerant enough. Egypt is second only to Israel in terms of the amount of American financial support it receives.

Musician is Minister in Brazil

The popular musician Gilberto Gil (1924) has been appointed the new Minister of Culture of Brazil. As a singer, guitarist and composer, Gil has been one of the driving forces behind the country’s musical world for decades. During the 60’s he revised the traditional bossa nova by adding stylistic elements from pop and rock. As a singer of protest songs Gil became a folk hero, but he fell into disfavour with the military regime. After three years of exile in England he returned to Brazil in 1972 to become an internationally respected musician. Gil’s career is not unique in international politics. Melina Mercouri was appointed Minister of Culture for Greece in the past and the Czech writer Vaclav Havel was even elected president of his country.

Sources: Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Rotterdams Dagblad, Trouw, de Volkskrant, De Standaard, Der Spiegel, The Guardian,The Independent, The Age, Deutsche Welle, BBC News, BBC Online,, Reuters,,,, Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Palestine Chronicle, Austin American Statesman, Voice of America,



Art, culture and colonialism

Four new exhibitions at the Tropenmuseum (KIT - Royal Institute for the Tropics) in Amsterdam, dealing with the culture and history of Southeast Asia and Oceania, offer a view of the colonial past. The theme that ties these expositions together is the relevance of the colonial past for today’s society. The museum wants this exhibition to contribute to the debate over national and cultural identity and the significance of the colonial past in current society.
The exhibitions will be on display starting February 1st. You can find more information at the KIT web site.

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



february 2003