Craftsmanship receives central focus in Prince Claus Prizes

January 2004 -

Craftsmanship as a renewing force in a globalising world. During the annual presentation of the Prince Claus Prizes on 10 December in the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, the Prince Claus Fund honoured artists, thinkers and cultural organisations that have developed new views on traditional techniques and crafts. The main prize was awarded to the Chinese Wang Shixiang, who has devoted his life to studying his country's cultural heritage.

Some twenty doves fly over the enormous video screen in the Royal Palace’s public room bearing a lute, a Chinese musical instrument that makes them seem to serenade the audience while floating on the wind, 'Doves are peaceful birds that can play peaceful tunes,' says Wang Shixiang. 'I hope that these tunes go to people's minds so that peace will come, because the world is horrible now.'

Wang Shixiang, who is 89, spent most of his life studying the Chinese culture, in particular the rich tradition of furniture design about which he has written several books. He is also a poet and calligrapher. The Prince Claus Fund honoured him for his accomplishments by awarding him the main prize, which he received at the Netherlands' Embassy in Peking from Dutch Prince Johan Friso. He will use the € 100,000.00 prize money to partially finance the construction of a Sino-Netherlands friendship school in south China.

In addition to the main prize, ten Prince Claus Prizes of € 25,000.00 were awarded. Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown was awarded a prize for his projects in Candeal Pequeno, the shanty town where he grew up in Salvador. He founded the percussion school Pracatum there in 1994 along with the social development project Tá Rebocado. A surprising prize winner was the football club MYSA (Mathare Youth Sports Association) from Mathare Valley, a neighbourhood in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. The MYSA youth not only play football, but also help to improve life in this shanty town by cleaning it up. In doing so, they earn points that they can ultimately exchange for a college grant.
Other prize winners were the Argentinean film producer Lita Stantic, who gave new life to Argentinean cinema during the country’s political-economic crises, the District Six Museum in Cape Town, the Arab Human Development Reports, Turkish musician Hasan Saltik, the Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture in Cambodia, cultural activist G.N. Devy from India, Zimbabwean architect Mick Pearce, and Yovita Meta. Yovita Meta founded the Biboki Weavers, an organisation of 38 weavers in West Timor that modernises old techniques and cherishes cultural heritage while stimulating social development.