South Africa and the Netherlands intensify cooperation in cultural heritage

February 2008 -

More cooperation and more joint projects are the results of the visit that the Dutch Deputy Minister of European Affairs, Frans Timmermans, paid to South Africa from 4 to 8 February 2008. "South Africa's Minister of Culture, Pallo Jordan, and I had a lengthy discussion. We will give access to our knowledge of underwater archaeology. South Africa's coastal waters are dotted with shipwrecks containing a lot of historically relevant material. But they have little know-how and experience in that area, meaning that we can certainly contribute. Museums are digitising their collections, and we will be helping them. South Africa is also allocating significant sums to heritage projects, meaning that this is a mutual commitment."


Minister of state Frans Timmermans

The Netherlands supports South Africa's cultural sector each year with a sum of about one million euros from the Culture and Development programme, including for heritage projects. One example is making the VOC archives accessible. Thus the cooperation will be intensified. "We also share viewpoints in our stance against illegal art trading. Sadly, both South Africa and the Netherlands are important transit points in this illegal trade. We will be keeping closer contact in that area in the coming period."

Timmermans also talked about the role that Afrikaans plays not only as a culture carrier but also as lingua franca. "Many black South Africans speak Afrikaans, while the whites claim the language as their heritage. Language, of course, belongs to everyone who speaks it. There are more blacks than whites that use Afrikaans. Jordan also explained that the 17th-century slaves from Malaysia and the former Dutch Indies kept journals in Dutch, but also with Arabic script. I think that is fascinating and hope to find a way to have an exposition devoted to the theme in the Netherlands."

Timmermans came to Winternachten 2008 and also attended the opening of an exposition by Marlene Dumas. "The way she literally crosses borders is fantastic. I also wrote about it in my web log. All of these patriotic prophets of mono-culturalism should take lessons from her. Solidarity with what is your own is irrevocably linked to solidarity with what is essentially human, and therefore with absolute openness for diversity."