Britain will spend nearly $2 billion to help theatres, art galleries and other cultural institutions survive the coronavirus crisis, the government has said.
The British arts and culture sector has been hit hard by the pandemic, with live performances still off the cards for now and venues facing an uncertain future under ongoing social distancing measures.
A fund of 1.57 billion pounds ($1.96 billion, 1.73 billion euros) will help museums and historic palaces as well as companies involved in live music and independent cinema.
“The money, which represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture, will provide a lifeline to vital cultural and heritage organisations across the country hit hard by the pandemic,” said a government statement released Sunday.
The announcement followed an impassioned call last week from some 1,500 acts including Ed Sheeran and The Rolling Stones for authorities to save the country’s live music industry from collapse.
Britain has Europe’s highest pandemic death toll, with more than 44,000 reported COVID-19 fatalities and a quarter of a million confirmed cases.
The nation’s arts and culture sector employs 700,000 people, according to the government statement.
In May, Shakespeare’s Globe, the replica open-air theatre in London, warned that it could close without emergency funds to get it through the lockdown.
“This news is truly welcome at a time when so many theatres, orchestras, entertainment venues and other arts organisations face such a bleak future,” said Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“It is absolutely critical that Britain’s cultural sector is restored to health as soon as possible.”
Simon Rattle, director of the London Symphony Orchestra, also hailed the new fund.
“We hope it will be distributed as fast as possible… as so many institutions and individual artists have been staring into the abyss,” he said.
England lifted a number of virus restrictions on the weekend, allowing cinemas, galleries, museums and libraries to welcome the public again after three months — though fears remain of a COVID-19 resurgence.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted Sunday that any US military action against Iran would conform to international law after President Donald Trump was accused of threatening a war crime by declaring cultural sites as potential targets.
Tehran’s foreign minister drew parallels with the Islamic State group’s destruction of the Middle East’s cultural heritage following Trump’s tweets that sites which were “important to… Iranian culture” were on a list of 52 potential US targets.
And as Twitter was flooded with photos of revered Iranian landmarks in ancient cities such as Isfahan under the hashtag #IranianCulturalSites, leading US Democrats said the president would be in breach of international protocols if he made good on his threat.
“You are threatening to commit war crimes,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the top Democrats hoping to challenge Trump in November’s election, wrote on Twitter.
“We are not at war with Iran. The American people do not want a war with Iran.”
“Targeting civilians and cultural sites is what terrorists do. It’s a war crime,” added fellow Senator Chris Murphy.
In a flurry of interviews on the Sunday talk shows, Trump’s top diplomat said the US would not hesitate to hit back hard against Iran’s “kleptocratic regime” if it came under attack, but pledged that any action would be consistent with the rule of law.
“We’ll behave lawfully. We’ll behave inside the system. We always have and we always will,” Pompeo told the ABC network’s “This Week” program.
“The American people should know that every target that we strike will be a lawful target, and it will be a target designed with a singular mission, of protecting and defending America,” he added.
His comments came after his opposite number in Tehran Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that “targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME”.
“A reminder to those hallucinating about emulating ISIS war crimes by targeting our cultural heritage: Through MILLENNIA of history, barbarians have come and ravaged our cities, razed our monuments and burnt our libraries,” said Foreign Minister Zarif.
“Where are they now? We’re still here, & standing tall.”
Nicholas Burns, who served as US ambassador to NATO under president George W. Bush, said the Trump administration would be guilty of hypocrisy given it was part of international efforts to deter IS from destroying countless pre-Islamic artefacts, including in the Syrian UNESCO-listed site of Palmyra.
“Donald Trump’s threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites would be a war crime under UN Security Council resolution 2347 – supported by the Trump Administration itself in 2017 to warn ISIS+Al Qaeda of similar actions.
“His threat is immoral and Un-American,” said Burns who is now a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Others drew comparisons with the Taliban’s 2001 destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in central Afghanistan
Pompeo refused to give any details on the 52 potential targets which Trump said had been drawn up to represent each and every hostage held in the standoff at the US embassy in Tehran four decades ago.
But one former official expressed skepticism that military planners would agree to target cultural sites.
“For what it’s worth, I find it hard to believe the Pentagon would provide Trump targeting options that include Iranian cultural sites,” said Colin Kahl who was National Security Adviser to former vice president Joe Biden.
“Trump may not care about the laws of war, but DoD (Department of Defense) planners and lawyers do… and targeting cultural sites is war crime.”
Immersive art from a famed desert festival in the American West has swept into Washington, infusing the buttoned-up US capitol with countercultural spirit.
“No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,” which opens Friday at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, celebrates the annual late-summer gathering that sees a temporary city of some 75,000 people spring up in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
For a single week, massive experiential art installations tower over the dusty metropolis before Burning Manparticipants torch many of the works, including a giant wooden statue of a man, as a ritual embracing decommodification and temporality.
Thought it is perhaps best known for its bacchanalian atmosphere favoring sex and drugs, the annual event that started small in 1986 has evolved into a serious cultural and artistic movement, said the Renwick’s crafts curator Nora Atkinson, who spearheaded the show.
She pushed to welcome the radical art of the desert to the rarefied environment of the museum because “it really stands out from a lot of the work being done in the contemporary art world,” she said.
She also highlighted the freewheeling show’s location just steps from the White House.
“I think it’s really important at times like this — when the world is so cynical, when people are so at odds — that we have this kind of healing force,” she said. “It’s all about empowering people.”
“We build the world that we want to live in.”
– Visual hedonism –
Though it drew comparisons to predecessors including the anarchic Dadaists and large-scale land art movement, Burning Man is a choice destination for techies from neighboring Silicon Valley looking to unwind.
That’s no coincidence, according to Atkinson, who attended her first Burning Man last year.
“The further we get into our digital sphere the more we sort of strive for that humanity around us,” she told AFP at an exhibition preview, standing in the massive, intricate wooden “Temple” installation that encompasses the museum’s cavernous Grand Salon hall.
The show — which follows “The Art of Burning Man” exhibition that went on display at a Virginia museum last year — includes both surviving pieces from past festivals and newly commissioned works.
The visually decadent installations — 14 in the 19th-century era Renwick building and six spilling outdoors into the surrounding neighborhood — featured in the show bridge the worlds of fine art and craft, with a focus on works that make use of reclaimed materials.
“Tin Pan Dragon,” for example, is a dragon-esque vehicle crafted from reclaimed aluminum cookware.
And the 14-foot “Ursa Major” sculpture — one of the several public art pieces installed in the surrounding streets where politicians and lawyers roam — is a grizzly bear fashioned from 170,000 pennies.
– ‘Major’ cultural movement –
Yelena Filipchuk of the duo behind the “HYBYCOZO” installation of large-scale glowing polyhedrons with elaborate laser cut-outs praised the Renwick’s move “to go full on with the interactivity” in line with BurningMan’s participatory ethos.
Translating works from a festival in the expansive, inhospitable desert to a museum setting also offered artists the chance to “create a totally immersive environment” she said, as shadows generated from her geometric sculptures danced on the gallery walls.
For Filipchuk, the show underscores Burning Man’s status as a cultural petri dish but also as an “American institution.” “It really represents American values, like creativity, freedom, innovation,” she said.
Acclaimed artist Leo Villareal, whose mirrored light installation glitters above the museum’s staircase, sees the normally ephemeral Burning Man’s entrance into the museum world as part of a “major worldwide cultural movement that has taken on a life of its own.”
“I think people are responding in a huge way,” said Villareal, who is working on a large-scale piece in London to light up more than a dozen bridges over the Thames River.
“For the Smithsonian to get behind the ideas of Burning Man and put it in a show like ‘No Spectators’ is truly remarkable.”
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, has called on Africans to embrace their cultural heritage as a tool for development.
Oba Ogunwusi made the call while speaking at the Annual Aje Festival (Wealth Festival) in Ile Ife, Osun State.
According to him, the promotion of culture encourages unity which is important for development in all aspects of life.
The Ooni is unhappy that despite the diversity of the Nigerian culture, the government is not doing enough to explore the opportunities inherent in the development of culture and heritage.
“There is no nation that will grow without culture and heritage, go and find out; all developed nations in the world decided to put their heritage, culture and tradition as number one. But we have jettisoned our heritage and culture. Both of them are stronger than religion, they should be number one,” he said.
“We have a very diverse culture in Nigeria and common ancestral roots as Africans. Our culture is the only way forward for growth and development. It is unfortunate, the government is not paying attention to it as they used to.”
He lamented that since Festac 77, 41 years ago, there hasn’t been a festival of that calibre.
“The Largest gathering of the entire black race happened in 1977 in Nigeria; that’s over 40 years ago. The way forward for the entire black race is to continue to uphold our culture and heritage and that is what we are doing in Ife land we are very proud of it,” he said.
“Our faith still stands and nothing can shake it but our culture must be allowed to thrive.”
Oyo State Government has described the death of Professor Akinwunmi Ishola as a monumental loss not only to his hometown Oyo State and but Nigeria generally.
Born in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, Isola a giant literary scholar, actor, dramatist, culture advocate and was known for promoting Yoruba language. Some of his popular plays Agogo Ewo, Campus Queen, Koseegbe and O leku were adapted into movies by foreknown cinematographer Tunde Kelani.
Isola died in Ibadan on Saturday, February 17.
The State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Toye Arulogun on Monday led other top officials on a visit to the family of the late playwright in Akobo area of Ibadan.
Arulogun during the visit described Professor Isola as an epitome of Yoruba Culture who had left an indelible mark that would forever be remembered.
“He stood tall in the culture and theatre landscape as his scholarly output and theatrical contributions in the world of art and culture would be sorely missed,” he said.
The Commissioner urged the family not to be bereaved but rather thank God for the contribution of the deceased to the development of the country, the uplift of the Yoruba culture saying that Professor Isola’s name will remain as a household name in both civil and academic societies.
He said that the state government will support the burial arrangement of the renowned playwright and that the honour given to him while he was alive will be replicated with a befitting burial to celebrate him.
Responding on behalf of the family, the son of the deceased, Mr Akinjide Isola appreciated the effort of the state government for the visit.
Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka believes the Nigerian government inherited a burden that may take a while to lessen but it must sustain efforts at improving the economy.
This comes as Nigeria assesses the Buhari administration after one year in office.
He was speaking to Channels Television in Johannesburg where he is expected to speak at a public lecture entitled Politics, Culture and the New Africa.
“This administration has inherited a heavy baggage. While I am critical in some aspects of the priority, I think that to clear up the mess left by previous administrations is going to take quite a while especially in the sector of economy.
“So I don’t use words like optimism or pessimism, I’m just pragmatic. I look at what there is on the ground and of course wherever I can intervene, I do both privately and publicly,” he said.
Renowned Nigerian author and playwright, Professor Kole Omotoso, also said that the current administration has ticked a number of little things but there must be more effort to alleviate the sufferings of the people.
“We are going in the right direction but in the process, we need to do so many things. We need to look at not just the suffering of the people but the way people seem to indulge in bearing suffering.
“It is as if even if you try to solve the problem for them they will prefer to be suffering and smiling,” Prof. Omotoso said.
The Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and National Orientation, on Monday August 4, 2014 oragnised an evening of entertainment for the “Nigeria: Our Heritage Project.”
The project,which is centered on the centennial of Nigeria’s commonwealth was held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall in Washington D.C.
Guests at the event were President Goodluck Jonathan, as well as celebrities including, Don Jazzy, Rita Dominic, Ali Nuhu, Davido, Flavour, Tiwa Savage, Tee Billz, Masterkraft, Tola Odunsi, Leslie Kasumba, Di’ja, Lola Ogunnaike, Obi Asika, Ubi Franklin, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, and Iyanya.