Since its founding in 1996, the Prince Claus Fund has supported artists and cultural organizations particularly in areas where culture is under pressure 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.
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.
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.TEFAF understands the essential importance of art. We greatly appreciate its support and collaboration.”
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. The Prince Claus Fund is actively seeking people passionate about culture to join its circle of Torchbearers - donors who believe in the power of art & culture.
Suriname has a diverse and dynamic culture, a multi-ethnic mix of indigenous groups with African, Asian and European influences, but many elements of its cultural heritage are largely unprotected. The centre of its capital, Paramaribo, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2002. Paramaribo is located at the mouth of the Paramaribo River just a few feet above sea level. Now, with climate change, the country’s capital suffers from frequent flooding. Most buildings are constructed of wood, so fire is a constant concern, and there are many cultural heritage sites and artefacts both in and outside of the capital that are at risk in various ways.
The first step in the protection of this heritage is to bring stakeholders of 20 institutions together with representatives of the government, Civil Protection Service and the Red Cross to identify their needs and priorities for training. A 5-day training programme will be organised for 40-45 participants that will include risk assessment, salvage and recovery techniques, and will culminate with the development of disaster management and mitigation plans for each institution.
The institutions involved include some of the most important archives, libraries, museums and sites in the country, such as Surinaams Museum, the NAKS “EU-FRIE Documentation Centre for Afro-Surinamese Culture”, the Roman Catholic Bishopric Archive, and the Tembe Art Museum of Maroon Art, to name a selection. In these institutions there is a wealth of specific expertise, but a lack of capacity for emergency preparedness or response. There were virtually no plans for how to anticipate or respond to natural disasters, until now.
This project will be a significant step in safeguarding Suriname’s cultural heritage for generations to come. Linking the cultural institutions with government, emergency and humanitarian representatives ensures better coordination when disaster strikes. TEFAF donated this year €10,000 to the project, which supports a large portion of the work to be done.