Since its founding in 1996, the Prince Claus Fund has supported artists and cultural organizations particularly in areas where culture is repressed or resources for cultural expression are scarce. It offers annual awards that honor excellence and artistic achievement, supports innovative cultural projects that contribute to development and extends travel grants that facilitate culturally enriching exchanges. The Fund is a networking organization that actively seeks cultural collaborations.

The Cultural Emergency Response program

Through its Cultural Emergency Response (CER) program, the Fund provides ‘first aid’ where cultural heritage is damaged or threatened by natural or man-made disasters. TEFAF has been an active partner of the CER program since 2008. TEFAF’s contributions have helped to restore rare documents affected by the flooding of a unique Turkish library, enabled the excavation of holy relics from an ancient monastery in Burma destroyed in a mudslide, saved ancient rock art from destruction by armed rebels in Niger and contributed to strengthening a 17th century Nepalese temple to withstand earthquakes, as well as other projects.

People need art

According to the Prince Claus Fund’s Director Joumana El Zein Khoury: “Support for cultural expression and protecting cultural heritage are more important now than ever. The world is changing very fast and people need art to help them understand and deal with those changes. They need reminders of their past that give meaning to identity. But everywhere there are regimes that want to control expression and people who want to obliterate the past. TEFAF understands the essential importance of art. We greatly appreciate its support and collaboration.”

Looking back and moving forward

The Fund was originally a gift from the Dutch government to Prince Claus, husband to Queen Beatrix, in recognition of his diplomatic efforts and his lifelong belief in the quality and importance of culture in all its forms all over the world. In its first 20 years, the Fund presented awards to 222 outstanding cultural achievers, supported nearly 2,100 cultural initiatives and responded quickly to more than 250 emergency situations of endangered cultural heritage.

The Prince Claus Fund currently receives support from the Dutch Foreign Ministry, the Dutch Postcode Lottery, and individual and institutional donors like TEFAF, who believe in its mission and vision.

A TEFAF and CER project - The Rashid Talukder collection

Throughout history, artists have documented war, often to glorify the victor. In contemporary times, photo journalists have taken up that task, but their artistic images often testify to the horrors of war for everyone it touches.

Documenting the realities of violence is invariably sensitive and can prove dangerous to the person who bears witness. In the 1960s and 70s, Bangladeshi photo journalist Rashid Talukder captured the lead-up to his country’s war for independence from Pakistan and what followed. He knew that many of his pictures were too politically controversial to be published without risking his life, but they were an important record of his country’s history. He wrapped his negatives in cloth and buried them in metal trunks where they stayed for decades, unknown and unarchived.

In 2010, a year before his death, Talukder gave his whole collection of more than 155,000 negatives to the Drik Picture Library in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with many of the negatives in a deteriorating condition. Drik is a distinctive multimedia organization that was established in 1989, with major expertise in advocacy and awareness campaigns, production of communication material and training. TEFAF joined forces with the Prince Claus Fund’s CER program and Drik, the Fund's Network Partner, to help stabilize, archive and digitalize thousands of the negatives, selected on the basis of their historical importance and fragility.

“This grant was a very powerful incentive to commence work on restoring our visual history”, says Mostafa Sorower of the Drik Picture Library. “It enabled us to invest in assets, technical knowledge and begin archiving the work of one of Bangladesh's pioneers in photography.”

By the summer of 2016, Drik Picture Library had scanned 13,500 negatives and inserted the key metadata for each respective image. The availability of these scanned images enabled them to be reprinted and subsequently displayed in Bangladesh’s Parliament Building, the internationally attended Dhaka Art Summit and the Bangladesh National Museum. These exhibitions, and the media coverage they attracted, offered the rare opportunity for Bangladeshis and international audiences to view the previously unseen images.

“In terms of social, historical and artistic value,” says the Prince Claus Fund’s Director Joumana El Zein Khoury, “this collection is incredibly special. I can’t stress the importance of Rashid Talukder’s work enough. It captures the first 40 years of a new nation’s history… it is an actual time capsule of the cultural memory of Bangladesh.”

Drik Picture Library plans to continue the project, assigning metadata to and scanning an additional 6,500 negatives. Drik also plans to host a major retrospective exhibition on Rashid Talukder's body of work once additional funding is secured.