Iraqi legacy: saving what is left to save
American troops must monitor the Iraqi borders better to prevent
Iraqi cultural artefacts from being smuggled out of the country,
according to Donny George, director of the National Museum
in Baghdad, who spoke at a conference of international experts
the Iraqi cultural legacy. On 29 April experts met for the
second time in London, at the initiative of Unesco and the British
Curators of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Pergamon museum
in Berlin, the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum in
New York and the British Museum in London discussed how they could
best help their colleagues in Iraq. At the beginning of May
experts will go to Iraq to assess the damage and draw up plans
Museums in Baghdad, Mosul and other cities in Iraq
were plundered last month. The National Museum, the largest archaeological
in Baghdad and the most important museum in the Middle East,
suffered the worst damage. The museum was a storehouse for objects
from Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian and Islamic cultures, covering
a history of thousands of years. The area that is now called
Iraq is the cradle of our civilisation. Even before the outbreak
of the war, a group of archaeologists called for these antiquities
to be protected (see Current, March
The National Museum was spared during the bombing, but American
soldiers were not able to keep out plunderers. In a brief time
more than a hundred thousand sculptures, vases and other irreplaceable
objects were stolen or destroyed. According to the art experts,
organised crime was responsible for the first wave of plundering.
The Iraqi National library was set on fire by plunderers and many
priceless manuscripts were lost.
Immediately after the plundering, Unesco issued a call to monitor
museums and cultural institutions. It also called for a ban on
transport and trade in Iraqi cultural artefacts. Moreover, a database
must be created as quickly as possible containing all the data
regarding the Iraqi art heritage. This way art dealers and customs
agents can check to see where an object came from.
Martin Sullivan, Bush’s most important cultural consultant,
resigned in protest against American passivity.
Unesco and Iraq
in Iraq: Unesco culture sector, news, photos, links and
The threat to world heritage in Iraq
Baghdad Museum Project, virtual museum
The University of Chicago has started amassing an inventory of
lost art treasures
Women’s film festival in Senegal
At the beginning of April, Senegal was host to the first edition
of the women’s film festival Films-femmes-Afrique. With twenty
films and a number of debates, the festival brought a number of
ticklish questions up for discussion, such as the practice of marrying
girls off, marrying girls off at too young an age and circumcision.
There was a plea for better education for girls, a better position
for women in society and for peace. The films submitted were made
by both men and women. To attract as large a public as possible,
all the showings were free.
The two institutions who organised the festival, Trait d'Union
and Admica, received financial support from the Ministry of Culture,
Unicef and Aide
et Action (Aid and Action).
Competition for African comic books
The Italian magazine Africa e mediterraneo is conducting a competition
for the best African comic book. The comic books must not have
been published yet and the makers must be of African descent
or must live in Africa. The winning authors are invited to attend
an exposition about their work. The publisher of Africa e mediterraneo,
Lai-Momo, handles special editions of the comic books and will
place the winning work on the magazine’s web site.
Africa e mediterraneo began publication in 1992 and appears four
times per year. Acknowledging the presence of large numbers of
African migrants in Europe, the magazine wants to inform people
about African issues and to contribute to knowledge about African
Largest lesson ever calls attention to education for girls
More than 1.3 million children from different continents and
time zones participated in the largest class ever held on 9 April.
The class now holds the world record for number of students.
In so doing the participants called attention to the 115 million
children, most of them girls, who receive no form of basic education
whatsoever. A girl who has been to school is better able to protect
her children and family against malnutrition and diseases such
as HIV/AIDS. Education for girls combats poverty, according to
UN secretary-general Kofi Anan.
The largest lesson ever was an initiative of the Global
Campaign for Education (GCE), represented in the Netherlands by Novib, the
General Education League and Plan
Nederland. Thirty thousand children
from 1000 schools participated in the Netherlands. Bangladesh had
the largest number of participants: 450,000 children and adults
throughout the entire country.
Anan’s address, news and photos from countries participating in the GCE
and photos from the Netherlands at Novib
for All Week at Unesco
Meagre foreign language skills bad for cultural cross-pollination
In order to do business effectively with neighbouring countries,
Dutch people must also be prepared to communicate with those countries
in the future. This is the message presented in an open letter
to parents of school-age children from the French and German ambassadors
to the Netherlands. The two ambassadors are concerned about the
level of the second modern language as currently taught in secondary
schools. In their letter they appeal to parents to let school directors
know that education about and in modern foreign languages is extremely
important. "Commerce, trade and service provision are kept
running in part through language skills", the ambassadors
declare. In addition, they see languages as an instrument for developing
and maintaining cultures: "(…) there is also such a
thing as exchanging ideas among people, cultural cross-pollination
across borders, personal contacts and friendship. And to accomplish
this, our languages are necessary as a 'means of transportation'."
More information: The open letter from the ambassadors
"Government underestimates importance of ICT for development"
The government underestimates the importance of information and
communication technology (ICT) for developing countries. There
is no specific policy in this domain, according to Hivos director
Manuela Monteiro, who also says that access to information
is access to power.
Monteiro expressed her criticism while signing the new collaboration
agreement between Hivos and the International Institute for Communication
and Development (IICD). In the coming years, these organisations
plan to collaborate both financially and in terms of the specifications
for projects in Ecuador and Zambia.
More information: Hivos
Protest in Syria against Prince Claus prize-winner
He is regarded as the standard-bearer for freedom of speech and
is extremely popular among his countrymen. Ali Ferzat’s cartoons
are published by both the national Syrian press and foreign newspapers.
Last year the Prince
Claus Fund also decided that the work of the
Syrian cartoonist creates space for 'social comments and discussion'
and awarded him a prize. And yet, a group of Syrian citizens protested
against Ferzat in April. The protests focussed primarily on his
political cartoons about the Iraqi people and the Iraqi leader.
The campaign against the cartoonist was initiated by the Syrian
national newspaper Tishreen. One of the demonstrators has since
offered his apologies to Ferzat. The man said that he was incited
by the national newspaper. Ali Ferzat himself believes that the
government is looking for an excuse to shut down his newspaper,
Report from the 2002 Prince Claus Awards Committee
Library for children in Ethiopia
On 5 April, EBCEF, the Ethiopian organisation for children’s
books and education, opened the first Ethiopian children’s
According to the EBCEF, very few books are published in Ethiopia.
There are hardly any children’s books. Children who come
in contact with literature early on learn to think critically and
creatively. Literature is important for a society in which democracy,
peace and freedom are important values. These ideas are the motivation
behind the EBCEF’s attempts to stimulate and support the
reading and publication of children’s books. One way the
organisation does this is to organise a book fair and a competition
for the best Ethiopian children’s book each year.
Special programs with film, exhibitions, group reading, writing
and drawing workshops and storytellers are designed to inform and
inspire the visitors to the children’s book library.
Photos at EBCEF
Parool, Trouw, de
e mediterraneo, AllAfrica.com, Unesco, Global
Campaign for education, Aob, Hivos, Novib, Plan
Claus Fonds, EBCEF, IICD,