The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part eighteen in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.


July 2006 -

Development policy based on stimulating creative thinking and on cultural networks is the key to success in the current era of globalisation. This policy philosophy, as exemplified by the Brazilian Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, determines both the national and international approach to culture in his country. This is why Brazil has taken the lead in developing partnerships with other Latin America countries. Nationally, the emphasis is on local cultural projects, so as to prevent the poorest populations from being excluded.

Art can serve as a mobilising force that changes society, according to Gilberto Gil. According to the Minister, who gained international fame as a musician and leader of the Tropicália movement, every slum should have its own music studio, hip-hop is an important form of expression for young people and 'community' radio stations are needed in rural areas. The approximately five hundred local projects that the Ministry supports via the government institution Funarte Fundação Nacional de Arte, are considered 'pontes de cultura' (cultural bridges). Together they form a network that is geared to strengthening and distributing the multicultural Brazilian culture.

Communities enjoy a considerable level of autonomy in designing and conducting projects: the goal of the culture policy is to adapt to the specific arts practices, rather than vice versa. The policy process is also characterized by involvement, which is why the Ministry of Culture organised the first national conference regarding culture policy in December of 2005.

But in spite of the lofty ideals, the financial resources the Brazilian government has to devote to cultural development are limited. So in 1995 Brazil introduced a law that grants extensive tax breaks to companies that invest in cultural productions. This is unique in Latin America, but is controversial, nonetheless. Critics speak of the privatisation of culture; most large companies that are eligible for these tax advantages are located in the rich southeast section of Brazil and only support art projects in that area.