Rene — Claus Fund witholds support for Havana Biennial

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Press Release
22 August 2003
Increased suppression of cultural expression in Cuba leads the
Prince Claus Fund to withhold support from the 2003 Havana Biennial
As a result of the arrest of 75 Cuban cultural and social activists in recent months and their being sentenced to harsh terms of imprisonment of up to 28 years, the Prince Claus Fund has decided not to provide financial support to the 8th Havana Biennial, which will be held in November 2003. All those sentenced were engaged in the critical Cuban cultural and social arenas. The convictions signal a significant deterioration of the situation for intellectuals and artists. The body responsible for organising the 8th Havana Biennial, which is an internationally acclaimed platform for non-western art, is associated with the government and has not distanced itself from the policy of prosecution. As a result, the Prince Claus Fund is forced to withdraw its collaboration.
The Prince Claus Fund was a key financier of the 7th Havana Biennial in 2000, contributing 90,000 euro because of the high quality of the exhibition and the emphasis on intercultural exchange with artists in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. Another reason for support was that the Biennial gave Cubans – living in a country in which the independent provision of information is scarce – access to international cultural developments. These reasons would have applied this time as well. The Fund nevertheless considers that it would be inappropriate to collaborate directly or indirectly with a government that pursues a policy of severe repression.
The Prince Claus Fund sees its task as drawing attention to the difficult situation in which artists and intellectuals find themselves in Cuba at the moment. Under the present circumstances, it is particularly important to stand up for those who struggle peacefully for freedom of speech and for free cultural expression.
The Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development
The Prince Claus Fund is a platform for intercultural exchange. In collaboration with people and organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Fund realises contemporary activities and publications in the fields of culture and development. The Prince Claus Awards are part of this policy. Special attention is paid to what are called zones of silence, areas where people are deprived by political or economic circumstances of the opportunity for free cultural expression. This is why the Fund gave an award in 1999 to the Cuban cultural periodical Vitral, which operates as a volunteer organisation, albeit on the fringe, supported by the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba.
For more information, please contact the Prince Claus Fund, The Netherlands,
tel + 31.70.427.43.03, fax + 31.70.427.42.77, m.tummers@princeclausfund.nl