Being aware of your culture is an excellent starting point for developmentPhoto Els van der Plas


Prince Claus Fund

Website Prince Claus Fund

'Support and Initiative'

Els van der Plas in The Power of Culture Special: Dutch Culture Funds

'Creating Spaces of Freedom '

Els van der Plas in The Power of Culture Special: Images of Shifting Culture


Countries in which the Prince Claus Fund is active (2001 - 2005)

Culture is not a luxury?

There used to be relatively little attention for beauty in the world of development cooperation. Food and accommodation first, culture was considered a luxury. But culture is a first necessity of life. This has been promoted and confirmed by the Prince Claus Fund over the past ten years. The world map on our website shows that we are involved in cultural projects in practically every country in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

You can’t really help someone if you don’t respect their culture. That’s the motto of the Prince Claus Fund when it comes to development. Culture is more than just art, it’s values, it’s language, religion, rituals. Culture belongs to everyone. Being aware and proud of your culture is an excellent starting point for development.


Over the last ten years, the Prince Claus Fund has become well-known for its unruly and innovative streak. It organised for example an African haute couture fashion show. Subsequently, these designers often had exhibitions in international museums. Being introduced by the Fund often guarantees a breakthrough. If the Fund is doing it, others follow in our footsteps.

The Fund focuses on the so-called Zones of Silence, that means on areas that receive little attention in international media, on cultural centres or subjects that are unexpected or on individuals who represent excellence in culture but who do not have access to an international platform. The Fund publishes a book about Syrian lingerie, supports music theatre in Rwanda, refugee football in Kenya and Bolivian baroque music. The Fund is constantly monitoring its activities to see in which areas we are not represented yet. We try to avoid getting stuck in the things we already know.’

Prince Claus

As a member of the Royal Family Prince Claus couldn’t be political very outspoken, but this Fund definitely bears the stamp of his personality. The Fund is critical and focused on content, just like him. Prince Claus had a very happy childhood in Tanzania, he was a diplomat in the Dominican Republic and in Ivory Cost and that’s partly why he had a very different outlook on the region compared to many other Europeans.

A project like the Sahel Opera with composers, singers, fashion - and stage- designers from the Sahel region would have been unthinkable if it hadn’t been for Prince Claus. This was one of his dream projects. I wasn’ that keen at first. It seemed such an impossible idea. But every time Prince Claus came to our offices, he asked about the progress we were making, so I asked advise from several music experts in Africa and Europe. Everyone thought it was a brilliant idea. This dream is very close to being realised now. The European premiere of the Sahel Opera will be on 13 December this year in Amsterdam at the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ.

International culture network

I am really proud of our extensive international network of art experts, cultural experts and organisations that we have developed over the last ten years. Thanks to this global network we keep in touch with trends and issues. This allows us to continue to be innovative. Our theme for 2005, ‘humour and satire’, turned out to be surprisingly topical.

The future

It would be great if this international cultural awareness would become more embedded in daily life in the Netherlands. This country is very confused right now. It would seem like a good idea to me if people in the Netherlands became more aware of what is happening in the rest of the world. We are keen to share the knowledge and experience that we have acquired and would function already as an information centre for international art and culture and would like to expand this role. In order to be able to support more applications from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, we would like to financially grow another EUR 800,000 over the next five years. We come across so many excellent projects which we really would like to be able to support.

Nies Medema