‘Art of democracy’: Prince Claus Fund presents 2022 impact awards

Photo: Frank van Beek

Culture is a weapon to fight totalitarianism, according to prince Constantijn, who last week awarded €300,000 to six international artists for their community work – one of whom is in jail.

The six awards were given by the Prince Claus Fund, founded in 1996 by the late husband of princess Beatrix, to support artists and creators in places ‘where cultural expression is under pressure’.

‘As we celebrate, wars are raging in Urkaine and Yemen, with the aim to repress and negate local culture,’ prince Constantijn told an awards ceremony in Amsterdam attended by the royal family. ‘Brave people are risking their lives in places like Myanmar, Iran and China, where they are fighting to retain their freedom, their culture, retain their identities, express themselves, be recognised and listened to.

‘One of our award recipients, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is in prison in Cuba for his art and his battle for freedom of expression. The people who we support are not fighting with weapons, but with creativity and imagination. They are at the forefront of a global struggle to defend open, democratic societies, to ensure our fundamental freedoms are respected and to pass this on to the next generation.’

The biannual awards of €50,000 each were given to Alcántara, an artist who leads the San Isidro Collective promoting freedom of expression in Cuba; architect May al-Ibrashy, who works on heritage conservation and community engagement in Egypt; María Medrano, a poet working with former prisoners and people from sexual diversity minorities in Argentina; Moroccan visual artist Hassan Darsi; Senegalese-French film director Alain Gomis; and Ailton Krenak, indigenous writer and environmentalist from Brazil.

Each year, the fund also gives ‘mentorship’ and ‘seed’ awards to younger and newer artists, musicians and dancers to develop their craft. The impact awards did not take place physically in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Prince Constantijn stressed that the funds – awarded by an independent Prince Claus Impact Awards Jury – are about supporting a ‘basic need’, culture.

‘Culture is the weapon to fight authoritarianism, which is why cultural activists are among the first to suffer – in their vulnerability lies their power,’ he said. ‘They hold the key to a better world, a mirror to expose injustice, a different voice to express humanity.

‘The culture the Prince Claus Fund supports is the voice of people, not of systems. When people cannot dress as they like, listen to the music they want, read books that inspire, interact on social media channels of their choice, they will eventually rise up. The fund supports young as well as experienced artists who are the catalyst for change.’

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