4.2.7 Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes
A need for intercultural dialogue
The ongoing influx of immigrants into Dutch society, most of them coming from outside Europe, has triggered the debate about "cultural identity". What does it mean to be Dutch in a cultural sense? What can be seen as cultural heritage, taking into account the wide variety of cultural references within the ethnically plural country of the Netherlands? According to the prevailing public opinion, all segments of the population (autochthones and immigrants alike) suffer from a lack of cultural and (national) historic knowledge.
Dialogue with minority groups is an important issue in the Netherlands. Diverse initiatives have been taken by the Balkendende II Cabinet (mid 2003 - June 2006), following the murders of the politician and member of Rotterdam City Council, Pim Fortuijn in 2002, and of columnist, filmmaker and film director, Theo van Gogh in 2004. Both were known for their controversial opinions and statements; they frequently transgressed the rules of established societal and political order. The tension that resulted in society led to the government's search for new ways of stimulating social cohesion. It was believed that Dutch tolerance had outlived its due-date; besides, it was acknowledged that for a long period of time social conflicts had taken place in Dutch society between different (ethnic) groups, in particular in more underprivileged neighbourhoods in the large cities. There had been a general rejection of these facts.
In the cultural policy document Make Way for Cultural Diversity [Ruim baan voor culturele diversiteit, 1999], one of the objectives formulated was to support activities promoting and organising the talents of persons with a non-Dutch or dual cultural background. According to the policy paper, each city develops its own activities regarding cultural diversity. After the above mentioned fundamental changes in the Dutch political climate in 2002 and 2003, priority was given to dialogue with, and the integration of, minorities rather than to the promotion of cultural autonomy for ethnic groups. Dutch cultural heritage is also acting as an increasing focal point when it comes to reflections on Dutch national culture (see chapter 3.4.1).
To improve the historic and cultural knowledge of the population, a temporary advisory committee, established by the Minister of Culture, advised (2006) on the shape and content which this cultural canon should have. It was proposed to introduce a Canon of the Netherlands consisting of 50 key facts and key collection items of Dutch history and culture, to be presented in an appealing and inspiring educational setting. The Canon can be accessed digitally; 50 "windows" open to short stories that illustrate the significance of the relevant component of the canon (see http://www.entoen.nu/). Examples of other canons can be found on this website too, for instance canons restricted to the arts and culture sector (books, literature, writers, architecture, theatre, children and youth movies etc.). The Canon of the Netherlands is part of the 10 point cultural participation plan Minister Plasterk introduced in his policy memorandum Art for Life's Sake [Kunst van leven, 2007] (for other points in the 10 point cultural participation plan, see chapter 4.2.4, chapter 8.2.2, chapter 8.3.1 and chapter 8.4.1).
At the same time, the Cabinet decided to create a National History Museum. 3 municipalities -Amsterdam, Arnhem and The Hague - were invited to develop plans for such a museum, which should provide a broad target group with an overview of the history of the Netherlands, based on the Canon. The Dutch Open Air Museum [Nederlands Openluchtmuseum] in Arnhem was appointed by Minister of Culture Ronald Plasterk to fulfil this role. Digitisation should play an important part in realising the plan, as a means to increase the museum's public appeal. A national museum for Dutch history is part of the 10 point cultural participation plan Minister Plasterk introduced in his policy memorandum Art for Life's Sake [Kunst van leven, 2007]. The plan focuses on access to facilities that allows every child and student to engage in arts and culture, in, around and outside of school (for other points in the 10 point cultural participation plan, see chapter 4.2.4, chapter 8.2.2, chapter 8.3.1 and chapter 8.4.1).
In her policy paper More than the Sum [Meer dan de som, 2003], State Secretary Medy van der Laan combined the themes of cultural diversity and integration. The intercultural situation is defined as follows: "What we refer to as Dutch culture is the result of centuries of intercultural interaction and constant change. Long-term cross-border dynamism has formed the recognisable, unique and yet mobile cultural supply in the Netherlands. Intercultural enrichment is achieved by giving space to cultural diversity, which, paradoxically, also serves to bind culture. Here, cultural heritage plays a key role, as cultural self-awareness is essential for the intercultural debate. The implementation of the cultural diversity policy should be differentiated: every institution should develop its own approach, in accordance with its target groups - which are not automatically the young or ethnic minorities. Diversity can be expressed in repertoire innovation and marketing, but also in the social composition of the board, management and staff. Greater emphasis should be placed - also by the Council for Culture - on the qualities of non-western cultural expressions".
The Department of Immigration and Integration, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, is the main public actor responsible for implementing the programmes and policies for promoting intercultural dialogue. Other important actors in the field are (large) municipalities.
Examples of good practice
Examples of good practice in the field of intercultural encounter are documented on the site http://www.en.nl/, which currently contains some 400 good practice initiatives. The site is part of the so-called &-campaign, a public-private partnership that stimulates social cohesion in a society which is increasingly characterised by multiculturalism. The campaign also awards the &-arts and culture prize. The first prize was awarded in 2006.
Introdans is one of the largest ballet companies in the Netherlands. The company performs inside and outside the country, for adults and children alike. Since 2005, Introdans has 66 employees and 6 interns, 39% of which do not have a Dutch cultural background. At Introdans, people of different background, age, education and with different ambitions and desires all work together: all in all, the organisation is characterised by diversity. Introdans exploits its staff's qualities by placing responsibility for projects as low as possible in the organisation's hierarchy. In this manner, the management, for example, stimulates the dancers to make their own choreography for the company, and technicians to develop lighting plans for performances.
Kosmopolis, a House for Cultural Dialogue
In 2007, on the initiative of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education, Culture and Science, Foundation Kosmopolis [Stichting Kosmopolis] was established, as a House for Cultural Dialogue in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. The goals of Kosmopolis are to create a profound dialogue between communities that do not communicate in society, though arts and culture, nationwide and in an international context. It aims to encourage encounters between ethnic groups, young and old citizens, inhabitants of cities and regions, non believers and devotees. Their platform is both virtual and tangible. Kosmopolis cooperates with cultural institutions in the Netherlands and each city develops its own activities, which are funded in part from local funds and in part from central funds. Cultural manifestations, artistic events (exhibitions, literature, music, poetry, dance, film, new media), reflection and debate, are aimed to draw a large public from different parts of the population. The Kosmopolis in Amsterdam, also known as Marhaba, focuses on cultural manifestations from and intercultural dialogue with the Muslim world abroad (see also chapter 4.2.4).
Krater Theater is an organisation that regards art and culture as a source of inspiration and a connecting link in the multicultural South-Eastern part of Amsterdam. Krater Theater organises dramatic youth performances for children, from 4 to 12 years, in community centres and develops artistic dance, theatre, visual art, and photography / film / video and music projects, in schools and in a socio-cultural context. The school projects allow children to become acquainted with, for example, drama, dance and visual art. Performances are geared towards children with differing cultural backgrounds who live in multicultural neighbourhoods.
Neighbourhood Belongs to all of Us
The aim of the project, Neighbourhood Belongs to all of Us, to increase solidarity between the various residents of the Slaaghwijk neighbourhood in Leiden which is highly multicultural. Various activities have been organised. For example, a municipal working group Leiden - City of Refugees [Leiden Stad van Vluchtelingen] started a wall-painting project. Five poems have been painted onto the walls of five blocks of flats. The five poems stem from the five largest cultural groups in the neighbourhood: Moroccan, Turkish, Surinamese, Chinese and Dutch. Each poem is accompanied by an image that either illustrates the poem, or is associated with the country of origin. Dutch and English translations of the poems can be found on a pillar that has been placed in front of the wall. The neighbourhood has welcomed this initiative. The president of the neighbourhood council has described the poems as creating a "world of difference" on the previously blank walls. He believes that the residents are proud of "their" poem. It is a sign of recognition, and a poem in one's own language makes one feel welcome and accepted.
LaZiz is a (monthly) recurring dance evening that takes place in Amsterdam's pop venue Paradiso. The leading thread is Arabic pop music, or, in other words, the music that is played on the TMFs and MTVs of the Arab world. The musical styles that cross the floor during LaZiz are very diverse: Saudi, Iranian, Lebanese, Egyptian, and Moroccan. The evenings are an initiative of three DJ's and a VJ, who noted that there was hardly any platform for this type of music in the Netherlands. Paradiso chose to programme LaZiz in the framework of its so-called hotchpotch evenings, during which different music is played on different dance floors. This is to ensure that fans of other musical styles and genres come into contact with LaZiz. All visitors can participate in a workshop on belly dancing, the main style of dancing at LaZiz.Additional Resources: