Toespraak van Prins Constantijn bij de uitreiking van de Prins Claus Prijs te Amsterdam

14 december 2011

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

11 awards; 11 outstanding personalities and organisations

Over the past 15 years, the Prince Claus Fund has positioned itself in the complex interplay of culture and development. Our starting point is that culture is a basic need. This seems so simple, and obvious to many here today, but in practice this basic need is often denied or sometimes  considered as trivial or even a luxury.

But if culture were a luxury; then why suffer for it?
If it were trivial; then why prosecute it?
If it were harmless; then why die for it?
This dichotomy always puzzled me. While culture is what defines human beings; it is still regularly ignored, as an essential part of development.

Culture itself is not a luxury; but being able to take it for granted, is. In the Netherlands, we have such luxury, which is important to acknowledge; especially as elsewhere people put their lives and freedom on the line for the possibility to express themselves.

Like our laureates the Protest Poets in the Book Cafe in Zimbabwe that kept critical thinking alive; and Nidia Bustos supporting performing arts and heritage of Campesinos in Nicaragua during Somoza's dictatorship. Or Regina Galindo who walks her bloody steps of protest in her singular march against exploitation and injustice in her home country.

I truly don't know what drives individuals to become exceptional. It must be that creative expression conveys deep sense of meaning and belonging that is worth fighting for.

The independent mind, daring to aspire for change and inspiring others, is what is feared most by oppressive governments. Why? Because people can truly make a difference by showing civil courage.  This was a bit of a mantra for my father. After living under two dictatorships in Germany and in the Dominican Republic, he was convinced of people's duty to show 'Zivil Courage'.  

In remembering him, we celebrate today: the courage to speak up, to perform, and express. The PCF awards provide a stage to acknowledge the exceptional work of organisations and people who make a real difference. They contribute to culture, and through culture. In doing so, they offer - in their own small or grand manner - new pathways for hope and development.

But culture is not just problematic and heavy. It's not only about its utility. It is also a source of pleasure, aesthetics, entertainment, amazing human achievement, contemplation, satire and fun. I don't know about you, but I could not live without it! I go to experience the arts to be inspired, to be challenged by new perspectives, and to widen my horizon.

These last 15 years, the PCF paid tribute to those who show us why we should remain optimistic about human development. The miracle of humanity is that there always are people like Rena Effendi somewhere; standing up against prejudice and framing the world through her critical eyes - like we saw in the video; a Riwaq Centre to guard cultural heritage, or someone like Kettly Mars or Rabih Mroue creating new works of art and literature to free minds and mindsets.

Every year, for 15 years, we allow ourselves to be surprised what richness and quality the world has to offer; and under what circumstances culture is produced and enjoyed.

All together there are 15 laureates and former laureates among this remarkable audience today. It was not planned this way but it is a happy coincidence. They symbolize how the Fund has grown its network over the years and how it has become a reference to people across the world who seek positive change.   

Today's winner
Today, however, the biggest praise goes to Ntone Edjabe (1970, Douala, Cameroon) of Chimurenga, as winner of the Principal PC Award. He is a writer and DJ, who attended the University of Lagos but was 'educated' by Nigerian musician and radical thinker Fela Kuti. Chimurenga means  'struggle for liberation' in Zimbabwe's Shona language. It is an important magazine about culture, music and politics; and is also an innovative, Pan African, cultural platform based in South Africa.

In 2002, Ntone Edjabe launched the Chimurenga to stimulate original perspectives on the contemporary African experience. It offers fresh interpretations, analyses, poetry, experimental texts and visual materials by leading creative thinkers and radical practitioners in a multiplicity of disciplines from Africa and elsewhere.

Mr Edjabe is a year younger than I am but has lived twice the life.

We first get to admire a video before we get to admire this remarkable person worthy of the PCF principal award 2011.