Report from the 2010 Prince Claus Awards Committee
The Prince Claus Awards
The Prince Claus Fund’s Awards Programme celebrates and brings to public attention outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development. Awards are given annually to individuals, groups, organisations or institutions in recognition of their contribution within the Prince Claus Fund’s areas of interest.
Each year in December, the Principal Prince Claus Award of EUR 100,000 is presented to the Principal Laureate at a prestigious venue in Amsterdam in the presence of members of the Royal family and an audience of 600 international guests. The Prince Claus Awards of EUR 25,000 are presented to the recipients in their respective countries by the Netherlands Ambassadors.
Participants in the Fund’s expanding network of colleagues, partners and experts in relevant fields are invited to nominate candidates for the annual Prince Claus Awards, and are requested to provide insights and give second opinions on potential laureates.
A total of 98 nominations were received for the 2010 Prince Claus Awards. Research and documentation on these nominations was considered at a first meeting of the 2010 Prince Claus Awards Committee on 17 and 18 December 2009. A short list was established and the staff of the Fund’s Bureau then carried out further research and gathered extensive second opinions from advisors in the Fund’s network. On 20-21 May 2010, the Awards Committee met again for in-depth assessment of the short-listed candidates and the selection of 11 recommended recipients of the 2010 Prince Claus Awards.
2010 Prince Claus Awards Committee
Peter Geschiere (Chair), Professor of Anthropology, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
N’Goné Fall, Curator, Architect, Cultural Consultant, Dakar, Senegal / Paris, France
Rahul Mehrotra, Architect, Urban Designer, Professor of Architecture, Mumbai, India / Cambridge, USA
Laksmi Pamuntjak, Poet, Writer, Jakarta, Indonesia
José Roca, Curator, Bogota, Colombia
Fariba de Bruin-Derakhshani is Secretary to the Committee.
Criteria and considerations
The Prince Claus Awards are presented to artists, intellectuals and cultural operators in recognition of their outstanding achievements and contributions in the field of culture and development. The awards are given to individuals, groups and organisations around the globe, but primarily in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Quality is a sine qua non for a Prince Claus Award. The quality of a laureate’s work is assessed in professional and personal contexts and for its positive impact on wider cultural and social fields. The creation of interactions and links between different cultures, the fostering of commonalities and the initiation of shared cultural currents are highly valued. The Prince Claus Awards recognise artistic and intellectual qualities that are relevant in the contemporary context. They legitimise experimentation and innovation, recognise audacity and tenacity, support inspirational developments and seek to enhance their beneficial impact on societies.
The Prince Claus Fund maintains a broad view of culture that accommodates all types of artistic and intellectual disciplines. This open approach encompasses the transmission of culture and achievements in education, media and the applied arts. It includes fields such as science and technology that interact with and impact on the domain of culture and development. Proposals from every cultural field and area of potential are welcomed. The Fund seeks originality, experimentation and groundbreaking initiatives. Mutual exchange, interculturality and the transcending of borders are high on the Fund’s agenda, and it has a keen interest in vocabularies and vernaculars that develop into universal languages linking people in different cultures.
The Prince Claus Fund aims to provide protection to culture in places where it is threatened and to explore ‘zones of silence’. The Fund continues its interest in previous themes, such as Humour and Satire, Culture and Nature, the Positive Results of Asylum and Migration, and Creating Spaces of Freedom.
2010 Theme: Frontiers of Reality
Frontiers of Reality is a crucial theme for contemporary culture and development. Perceptions of reality vary according to our knowledge and the cultural, political and social environment in which we live. In former times, notions of reality were relatively established, stabilised by fixed conventions and perspectives limited by time and distance. Information about events and the impact of discoveries filtered slowly into societies, and the borders and edges of reality altered gradually. Today, new technologies and media provide increased and accelerated access, spreading information quickly and bringing voices from previously isolated or repressed groups. Many new versions of reality are surfacing. It is the collage of this collective experience that really makes our world so we need to assimilate and make sense of these new perspectives.
At the same time, the universal human desire for security and stability tends to resist knowledge that challenges established definitions of reality. Communities and societies develop diverse ways, both subtle and overt, of restricting and limiting alternative views. The drive for dominance and power leads to aggressive and life threatening control of the frontiers of reality. Discrimination, censorship, criminalisation of expression, media distortion, propaganda, border controls, travel restrictions and militarisation are forms of reality control.
People who work at the frontiers, often in difficult or dangerous contexts, are instrumental in bringing attention to different experiences and cultural ideas. Their explorations and practices break through current limits. In selecting the theme of Frontiers of Reality, the Prince Claus Fund aims to honour those who open up different perceptions and make significant contributions to the construction of new knowledge, better understanding, empowerment and greater equity – essential factors for local and global development and stability.
Recommendations for the 2010 Prince Claus Awards
The 2010 Principal Prince Claus Award
Barzakh Editions is a remarkable independent publishing house that has created a platform for a new generation of Algerian writers and opened a door for the flow of ideas between Algeria and the world.
Founded in 2000, in the aftermath of crisis and a context of cultural isolation, economic crises and political violence, its name refers to an intermediate zone where souls are in transit, where personal realities are confronted and assessed against other realities. Many Algerian writers had emigrated during the conflicts of the past decades and the remaining writers had few possibilities. Connections with neighbouring countries were limited. Most Algerian literature was published in France, Lebanon or Egypt, expensive to import and thus beyond the reach of the majority in Algeria. During this particularly harsh period when it seemed that the country would become increasingly isolated, Barzakh Editions succeeded in creating a space between an authoritarian state and a powerful Islamist movement that seemed to hold the country in a deadlock. Driven by a passion for books and a conviction that freedom of thought and expression are essential for development, co-founding editors Sofiane Hadjadj and Selma Hellal began to make the work of local and exiled authors accessible and affordable, to encourage creativity and experimentation, and to provide publishing opportunities for local authors, both the established and new voices.
Barzakh Editions has published more than 110 books of consistently high quality in both content and presentation. Novels and poetry are primary fields, alongside a range of genres and subjects such as philosophy, urbanism, photography, theatre, social history, biography, political essays and artists’ catalogues. Barzakh has succeeded in breaking through restrictive frontiers that seemed to close up the country and limit the space for cultural exchange in various ways. Through its collaborations with French publishers, works by Algeria-based authors are translated into French and Italian for wide distribution. Barzakh publishes authors from francophone sub-Saharan Africa and Arabic translations of French literature. It has developed networks and exchanges with Arab, African and European countries, and fosters the local audience through discussions, poetry readings and art exhibitions.<
The Principal Prince Claus Award honours Barzakh Editions for giving concrete form to Algeria’s voices, for opening up a much needed space for critical reflection on Algerian realities, for building a bridge connecting different languages and cultures, and for creatively breaking through the threatening cultural isolation of the country.
Ten 2010 Prince Claus Awards
Decolonizing Architecture institute (DAi)
Decolonizing Architecture institute’s unique practice is dedicated to the identification of architecture’s role as a central tool in spatial power relations and in the making of conflict. It seeks to subvert and propose new ways for the re-use of architecture’s dominating potential. The work has significant implications for citizens, strategists and policymakers in diverse regions and contexts around the world, and is contributing to a new perspective on urban planning and innovative methodologies for the processes of reclaiming spaces.
Founded in 2007, DAi is run by scholars, activists and architects Sandi Hilal, Eyal Weizman and Alessandro Petti, as a residency involving local and international practitioners. Looking forward to the future evacuation of colonising forces from Palestinian territories, Decolonizing Architecture offers practical possibilities for their re-appropriation. Its materials document various methods of dismantling and re-formulating Israeli settlements and military bases. Drawings and projections show how spaces can be transformed, and models also provide evidence in legal process. People can relate to these visual representations and are empowered to imagine the reconfiguration of their devastated environment. DAi’s plans reflect both the place of refuge and site of origin, and offer visions for the restoration of historical sites. Spreading their ideas through exhibitions, lectures, videos and publications, DAi challenges individuals and communities to think and plan for an unthreatening built environment.
Decolonizing Architecture is honoured for introducing a non-traditional approach to development in conflict and post-conflict situations, for providing valuable speculation on the future realities of disputed territories, for its critical challenge to outdated urban planning theories based on a more peaceful world, and for highlighting the role of architecture and visualisation in creating and altering the frontiers of reality.
Photographer Maya Goded (Mexico City, 1967) creates subtle images of hidden or shunned communities. Her first project, Tierra Negra (1994), is a collection of moments from her three-year sojourn with Mexicans of African descent, a group whose contribution to Mexican identity is seldom acknowledged. Goded was then drawn to investigate female sexuality, prostitution, tenderness and gender violence in a society that defines women’s roles strictly and maintains notions of womanhood wreathed in myths of purity, fragility and motherhood. Her five years of intense interaction and work with prostitutes and pimps in Mexico City are published in Plaza de Soledad (2006) and Good Girls (2007). Her nine books to date include sensitive studies of the grief of relatives of murdered and sexually abused women, the conditions of traditional healers, and the endurance needed to attain socially defined beauty.
Goded’s images are imbued with unusual intimacy and genuine presence that spring from mutual trust established over a long period of time. This bond is evident in the body language she captures, creating empathy in the viewer. She explores people living in harsh situations constructed around notions of power and control – both the strong, whose refusal to conform threatens established norms, and the vulnerable, whose lives are distorted by social prescription. Each image is accompanied by the name of the person portrayed and a few telling details that foster a sense of connection.
Maya Goded is honoured for her profound and intimate photography, for challenging preconceptions and giving unique insight into little-known realities, and for celebrating otherness and human commonalities that transcend socially constructed barriers.
Filmmaker Jia Zhang-Ke (1970, Fenyang) breaks away from previous generations’ historical dramas and political idealisations to convey other kinds of realities. He depicts episodes in the life and loyalties of a teenage pickpocket (Xiao Wu, 1997); working conditions and workers facing unemployment, aging and broken state promises (24 City, 2008); the displaced and soon-to-be displaced figuring out how to proceed as public buildings are demolished, houses submerge under the rising waters of the Three Gorges Dam and human ties are stretched to the limit (Still Life, 2006). The realities of home, belonging and security for ordinary people in China unfold in parallel narratives amid the demolition of social fabric and the erasure of memory and connection in the name of economic progress.
Jia combines humanistic realism with striking aesthetics and rich cultural texture. He uses local people and professional actors, dialects, on-site sounds, improvisation and interpretive imagination to express individual experiences as realistically as possible. A master of the long shot that gradually fills with subtle gestures and details, Jia makes time palpable and delights in ironies and allusions: a spaceship lift-off, a tightrope-walker between high-rises. He captures universal human experiences that exist regardless of context, and shows Chinese ways of coping, maintaining deeply held values, surviving with the quiet dignity, restraint and resourcefulness of the ‘still living’.
Jia Zhang-Ke is honoured for the outstanding aesthetic and intellectual qualities of his work, for his committed social engagement in focusing on the realities of ordinary contemporary lives, for his significant contribution to local cultural identity and confidence, and for creatively transcending and altering the frontiers of reality. <
Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev
Gulnara Kasmalieva (1960, Bishek) and Muratbek Djumaliev (1965, Bishek) are cultural catalysts in the Central Asian region, which is in many respects a Zone of Silence. Their practice embodies the transition from a deeply rooted tradition of art making towards the use of contemporary languages. Graduates of Kyrgyz State College of Fine Art, they accessed international ideas when studying in Russia during the period of perestroika. Returning to Bishek they experimented with new technologies and developed documentary-style videos and photography that provide unprecedented representations of Kyrgyzstan’s passage to independence and the impact of Soviet-era legacies on life and identity.
Their extensive practice includes the seminal video installation A New Silk Road: Algorithm of Survival and Hope (2006), documenting contemporary experiences along the historical trade route as it encounters rapid globalisation. They weave different perspectives together, picking up on popular visual culture, showing local reinvention and adaptations, and bringing the new nation-states together in an innovative exposé of intersecting frontiers of reality.
At ArtEast, the cultural centre they run in Bishek, Kasmalieva and Djumaliev are active as curators and leaders with a mission to stimulate the next generation. They provide gallery space for regional and international exhibitions, courses in contemporary theory, practice and art management, access to media equipment, workshops, networking and collaborations, enabling young artists to get in touch with artists, curators and critics in other contexts.
Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev are awarded for their groundbreaking art practices, for their significant contribution to contemporary culture in Central Asia, for establishing a space of freedom and opportunity for young artists, and for creating original representations of the intersections of different realities.
Kwani Trust is revolutionising creative literary production in Kenya and across Anglophone Africa. Starting in 2003, it launched an independent literary journal, Kwani? (Swahili for ‘So what?’), to challenge the institutionalised academic control of authorship and entrenched literary conventions of an older generation. Kwani’s editors, Binyavanga Wainaina and Billy Kahura, actively encourage new talent, original sensibilities and creative use of language. Poetry has a strong presence, alongside humour and slang. The wide range of stories, personal narratives and commentaries reflect day-to-day realities, exploring topics such as urbanisation, relationships, ethnicity, injustice and politics. The pool of contributors is constantly expanding and includes writers from many African countries.
Positive response to the journal led to a variety of popular activities: Poetry Open Mic, a monthly performance event; Sunday Salon Nairobi, a prose reading series; writers’ forums, public debates, workshops and competitions; and the annual Kwani? Literary Festival, which features continental and global cultural figures.
Kwani Trust publishes short-story collections and books such as The Life and Times of Richard Onyango (a Kenyan artist) and Kenya Burning (a visual narrative of 2007 post-election violence). Recognising the economic constraints of local readers, it also produces affordable pocket-sized editions and distributes literature from other African countries. It uses new technologies to reach wider audiences, has built a global network and facilitates local participation in international events.
Kwani Trust is honoured for establishing a dynamic platform for new African voices and perspectives, for its progressive influence and energetic dedication to developing a supportive environment for literary expression, and for crossing social and cultural frontiers to expose new facets of reality.
Dinh Q. Lê
Visual artist Dinh Q. Lê (1968, Ha-Tien) is the co-founder of two transformative institutions that are opening up possibilities for Vietnamese artists. The Vietnam Foundation for the Arts is a Los Angeles-based centre that counteracts isolation through exchanges and collaboration. And Sàn Art, the first independent not-for-profit art space in Ho Chi Minh City, runs local and international exhibitions, residencies, projects, a reading room, discussions, lectures and networking opportunities.
Brought up in Vietnam during the American war, Dinh Q. Lê moved to the USA aged 10. Surrounded by Hollywood and western media interpretations of his homeland, he studied and began his art practice. He devised an innovative technique based on Vietnamese craft heritage, literally and metaphorically weaving images and fragments into complex combinations of different traditions, histories and modernities. These ‘surreal memory landscapes’ dramatically portray the schizophrenic realities of exiles and migrants.
Returning to Vietnam, aged 25, he continues his explorations of contradictory realities. The Farmers and the Helicopter (2006), a documentary video on passionate local desire to recreate the iconic destroyer of Vietnam’s traumatic past, contrasts with South China Sea Pishkun (2009), a 3D animation of the mass crashing of helicopters into the South China Sea during America’s panicked retreat from Saigon – the Vietnamese view still widely unknown. Other works examine genocide, consumerist glitz in disadvantaged places, and the promotion of Vietnam as idyllic paradise for tourists.
The Prince Claus Award honours Dinh Q. Lê for his strong creative work exploring different constructions of reality, for providing inspiration and practical opportunities for young artists, and for advancing free thought and contemporary visual expression in a context of indifference and hostility.
Ana Maria Machado
Ana Maria Machado (1941, Rio de Janeiro) creates compelling children’s stories that deal with prejudices and human rights. She developed a passion for storytelling during her traditional rural upbringing, studied humanities, became a visual artist and curator, was arrested and exiled during the dictatorship, completed a PhD in linguistics and semiotics, lectured and worked as journalist. The author of more than 100 books, translated into 11 languages, she opened the first children’s literature bookshop in Brazil.
Machado shares a way of looking at the world that is original, funny and poetic. She has a mother’s faith in the child’s imagination, an ear for natural patterns of everyday spoken language and a painter’s eye for colour, composition and detail. Her experiments with narrative structure, symbolic language and combinations of the real and the fantastic are evidence of her consummate mastery of the writer’s craft. Above all, Machado is able to express complex concepts with skilful simplicity and subtle passion. Edged with excitement, tension and humour, the intriguing scenarios she creates become personal encounters with difficult subjects such as racism, gender discrimination, poverty and identity. Machado interrogates Brazil’s historical memory, bringing past experiences alive as part of everyday life in a way that appeals to children. In From Another World (2005), her characters and the readers confront the realities of slavery through the unquiet ghost of a slave girl who seeks their help. Presenting distilled wisdom in an unpretentious style, her stories encompass understanding of difference, courage in the face of tyranny and respect for others, and insist on delight and the joy of living.
Ana Maria Machado is awarded for her outstanding children’s literature, for opening frontiers of reality for young people and communicating essential human values to impressionable minds and hearts, and for her significant contribution to recognition of the importance of children’s literature in the formation of worldviews.
Independent filmmaker Mehrdad Oskouei (Tehran, 1969) penetrates subaltern segments of Iranian society to give voice to unknown perspectives, challenge preconceptions and offer unique readings of people’s lives and experiences. Graduating from Tehran’s University of Arts, he started in theatre and short fiction films before turning towards realistic reporting. He has developed a hybrid cinematic language that combines documentary, poetic and dramatic sensibilities, enabling him to convey the multiple layers of reality.
Oskouei’s personal concern and commitment to the people he films creates trust, which is the vital spark in his works. In The Other Side of the Burka (2004), an investigation of high female suicide rates in a patriarchal enclave in southern Iran, he achieves an unprecedented degree of openness. The women tell their own stories, describe their suffering and discuss their situation with honesty and clarity in close-up face-to-face interviews; documentary facts of the women’s rooms, work, routines and the community rituals enacted to deal with symptoms are interwoven with evocative metaphors and moments of psychological pain, the glimpse of a shoulder, the corpse beneath the burial cloth.
His 24 films offer in-depth encounters with orphans, widowers and juvenile delinquents, and examine Iranian experience of broken homes, rhinoplasty and urban youth cultures. Passionate about the role of film in social development, Oskouei founded the Short Film Society and runs workshops to stimulate young filmmakers.
Mehrdad Oskouei is honoured for his moving, informative and evocative films, for his honest engagement with his subjects and his commitment to accurately representing their concerns, and for working in difficult contexts to break down prejudice and generate social justice.
Yoani Sánchez (1975, Havana) is a leading figure in the use of social networking technologies to breach imposed frontiers. A graduate in philology, she is now dedicated to computer sciences and their capacity to alter perceptions and generate social change. She works as a webmaster, columnist and editor for Desde Cuba, an online news portal. Determined to promote freedom of information and to speak out regardless of danger, in 2007, Yoani Sánchez set up a blog, Generation Y.
Her regular posts offer punchy accounts of the day-to-day environment. Avoiding direct criticism and global politics, her blog provides subjective insights into the practical difficulties people face. Emphasising the vital importance of material autonomy for any form of active citizenship, her subjects include unaffordable food, shortage of proteins and vegetables, the turgid proceedings of parliament and the lack of meaningful reforms.
Sánchez operates in a context of strict control and censorship, working clandestinely, under threat of arrest. Local access to internet is limited and filters set up by the authorities slow and block connection to Generation Y. Local supporters circulate her writings in emails and USB memories, and volunteers translate her Spanish reports into 22 languages. Generation Y’s growth has been exponential. It is now one of the most-followed blogs in cyberspace, and a compilation has been published as Cuba Libre.
Yoani Sánchez is awarded for raising global awareness of daily Cuban realities through her blog, for her inspiring and courageous example in giving a voice to the silenced, and for demonstrating the immense impact internet communications technologies can have as tools for social change and development.
Aung Zaw (1968) is the founder and director of The Irrawaddy, the most reliable source of information on realities in Burma. A committed pro-democracy activist, he started in student politics, setting up an underground network to organise resistance to authoritarian rule in 1987. He was arrested and released several times, tortured during interrogation and, following the military coup in 1988, went into exile in Thailand.
Recognising the urgency of keeping channels of communication open between Burma and the world, Aung Zaw founded the Burma Information Group to document human rights violations, lobby for democracy and provide information to international newspapers and human rights organisations. In 1993 he launched The Irrawaddy, the first independent publication on Burma and the most significant resource for up-to-date news on the situation. As editor and contributor he has built up an extraordinary network of trusted sources on the ground, inside one of the world’s most repressive states. In 2000, he set up the website to increase access. Published in Burmese and English, The Irrawaddy is officially banned and the website is largely blocked in a context of almost total control and surveillance of media and information. Dedicated to democracy for all, and to objective journalism, Aung Zaw remains unaffiliated to any political group and he has recently expanded coverage to related regional developments.
Aung Zaw is honoured for his active dedication to achieving democratic government in Burma, for building such a valuable resource for exposing realities that those in power want to hide, for maintaining the flow of ideas and upholding freedom of information, and for his inspiring role in transgressing the containment of violently enforced political boundaries.
September 6, 2010