The Inter-American Year of Culture Draws to a Close“Our Culture, Our Future”

The Inter-American Year of Culture, which drew to a close in April 2012, was a year that celebrated the rich and diverse creative and intellectual potential of the Americas. The following article highlights some of the activities that contributed to frame this unique international event.

Officially launched on March 23rd, 2011, the Inter-American Year of Culture generated interest and enthusiasm from the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) from the start. During the opening ceremony of the Year, OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza declared that this event “was evidence that states recognize the importance of culture as an essential element of their economy, diplomacy and for the social inclusion and peaceful coexistence of their populations”.

In total, 111 cultural initiatives from 20 countries of the Americas were registered in the framework of the Year. These included festivals, parades, galas, competitions, exhibitions, symposiums, conferences and round tables, among others. These initiatives  reached thousands of people from far-flung regions and distinct walks of life, highlighting the important contribution of culture to generating economic resources and jobs, encouraging citizens’ participation and cultivating tolerance and peace among societies. A complete description of all the activities and projects that were registered by each country is available at this webpage.

An analysis of all the initiatives that were registered in the framework of the Inter-American Year of Culture – including their geographical scope; the age, gender and economic status of their target populations and the aspects of development that the initiatives touched – can be accessed by clicking here.

OAS involved in many ways

In addition to national activities carried out by the Member States, the OAS itself  de launched new initiatives to celebrate the Year.  OAS Secretary General inaugurated the award of “Cultural Heritage of the Americas”, a recognition granted, in its first edition, to the gastronomy of Perú.

The Art Museum of the Americas (AMA), in Washington D.C., framed its program for 2011 in the context of the Inter-American Year of Culture, also carrying out projects of social inclusion targeted towards youth.

Additionally, the Office of Scholarships of the OAS Department of Human Development, Education and Culture granted 20 scholarships to students from various countries in 2011 to help them pursue their studies in the field of culture.

For its part, thanks to financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency (ACDI-CIDA),  the OAS Office of Education and Culture of the OAS, launched the Portfolio Culture, Common Denominator for Development. 18 Successful Practices, to increase the exchange of ideas and practices among Member States, thus promoting the design and implementation of new development initiatives in the field of culture. The Internet Portal Culture and Development was expanded in partnership with the Universidad Techológica de Bolívar (Colombia), providing news articles, opinions and resources related to cultural development. The Portal, where the publication Culture, Common Denominator for Development is also available, can be accessed through the following link:

Finally, the V Inter-American Meeting of Ministers of Culture and Highest Appropriate Authorities took place in the framework of the Year, on November 9-10, at OAS Headquarters, in Washington D.C. Delegations reiterated the important contribution of culture to integral development of societies and committed to strengthen their cultural policies, calling for an increase in the resources devoted to culture and for the incorporation of culture into all areas of public policy. The results of the Ministerial Meeting are found at:ónyCultura/Cultura/ReunionesdelosMinistrosdeCultura/FifthMinisterialMeeting/tabid/1938/language/en-US/Default.aspx


Surinamese artist Paul Woei prepares for Exhibition at OAS

As part of The Inter-American Year of Culture, the internationally renowned Surinamese artist, Paul Woei, will be featured in a fine art exhibit from November 14th to 23rd

Paul Woei's work - "Macaw and bananas"

in the Marcus Garvey Hall of Culture of the Organization of American States (OAS), in Washington, D.C.

Keenly interested in topics regarding the colonial exploitation of Indigenous populations in Suriname, Paul Woei has chosen to center this particular exhibit on the heritage of indigenous peoples in the Suriname rainforest, as well as slaves from Africa and indentured laborers from China, India and Indonesia who worked the plantations.

The objective of the exhibit is to preserve and share Suriname’s cultural heritage, which in the artist’s opinion, is rapidly disappearing in today's inter-connected world. Furthermore, through his art, Mr. Woei aims to reach out and teach people to value and respect their heritage.

Moreover, the artist believes that this event will enhance the image of Suriname around the world: “Suriname has been a member of the OAS for many years. Even so, we are often surprised to hear or receive reactions from outsiders who have never even heard of this country. With the theme of my artwork, I hope to reach out to a large audience and put Suriname on the map.” /p>

On display – in works on canvas, paper, wood and bronze – will be the struggle of the descendants of slaves and contract workers, who have been living on now abandoned plantations in the Amazon rainforest. According to Mr. Woei, the artworks were selected from more than 40 years of a fascinating journey in search of cultural information on the colonies: “The subjects depicted exemplify the heroic efforts of people living on plantations trying to survive and their exceptional will and energy which enable them to rise above the humiliating heritage of bondage” says the artist.

In Paul Woei’s eyes, this Fine Art Exhibition will contribute to the social development of the region in many different ways. It will promote intercultural dialogue and respect for cultural diversity; strengthen the identity of the local populations; reinforce social inclusion; promote cultural exchange among groups and/or regions and display the diversity of Suriname cultures.

The event will be supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Suriname/ Permanent Mission of the Republic of Suriname to the OAS, in Washington, D.C. and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Suriname.

To see more about the Paul Woei's work click here


Argentina’s National Prizes: a Stimulus to Artistic and Intellectual Creation

On August 25th 2011, in a ceremony in the Palais de Glace, in Buenos Aires, the National Secretariat of Culture of Argentina (Secretaría de Cultura de Argentina) celebrated the closing of its National Contest for artistic and intellectual literary works, rewarding numerous notable authors and intellectuals from across the country.

The event brought together 300 writers, composers, authors and others, to celebrate Argentina’s literature.

According to Jorge Coscia, Secretary of Culture of the Nation, (Secretario de Cultura de la Nación) the National Prizes seeks to stimulate the authors who, through their work, have contributed significantly to the progress of the discipline in which they compete.

In this year’s edition of the contest, the five main categories were: Poetry, Drama, Political essay, Psychological essay and Music (Tango and Folklore).

The deadline to submit the works was May 17th 2011. In total, 282 authors from 15 different provinces presented their creations. According to the contest rules, in order to be eligible to compete, the works submitted had to have been released, presented or exhibited between 2007 and 2010.

A jury of five experienced readers in the above-mentioned categories evaluated the submissions. The National Prizes jury attempted to ensure a plurality of looks and aesthetic and theoretical points of view. The jurors chose three prize winners and three honorable mentions, in each one of the categories. The first prize in each discipline was US$ 50,000, the second US$ 30,000 and the third US$ 17,000.

In Poetry, Diana Bellesi (for Tener lo que se tiene), Arturo Carrera (for Las cuatro estaciones) and Hugo Gola Massola (for Retomas) respectively won the First, Second and Third Prizes.

In Drama, the First Prize was given to Rafael Spregelburd (for La terquedad). Jorge Eduardo Accame (for Segovia, o de la poesía) won the Second Prize and Rafael Guillermo Bruza (for Tango turco), the Third.

In the Political Essay category, Luis Eduardo Grüner (for La oscuridad y las luces) won the First Prize. Horacio Verbitsky (for Historia política de la iglesia argentina ) won the Second Prize and Vicente Antonio Palermo (for Sal en las heridas. Las Malvinas en la cultura argentina contemporánea) won the Third Prize.

Concerning the Psycological Essays, Alejandro Antonio Dagfal (for Entre París y Buenos Aires), Juan Eduardo Tesone (for En las huellas del nombre propio) and Emilio Alfredo Vaschetto (for Los descarriados. Clínica del extravío mental), won the First, Second and Third Prize respectively.

Finally, in the Tango and Folklore category, the First Prize was given to Teresa Adelina Sellares (Teresa Parodi, for Todavía cantan conmigo). Mario Oscar Herrerías (for Boomerang) and Carlos Enrique Aguirre (for Casa nueva) were given Second and Third Prizes.

The National Prizes were inaugurated in 1913. Since their creation, they have always been one of the main official cultural events in Argentina that stimulate and reward local artistic, literary, intellectual and musical productions. As the Contest disappeared for a few years (last edition was in 2000) and was brought back to the scene only this year, Rodolfo Hamawi, National Director of Cultural Industries (Director Nacional de Industrias Culturales), explained that: “Before there were other priorities. One of them was the federalization of culture and of cultural industries. During those times, the Nation was in debt to its creators. But now, [with the return of the National Prizes] we can say that this topic is back on the agenda”.

In the same vein, Jorge Coscia, Secretary of Culture of the Nation, stated enthusiastically that: “The current state of culture in Argentina is among the most auspicious of the past decades, with record cultural indicators that show that we Argentineans have recovered something else: our culture and the capacity to produce it, reinvent it, consume it and display it.”

Another edition of the National Prizes for next year has already been announced, with the following categories: Children’s Literature, Musical Comedy, Jazz and Melody and Philosophical and Pedagogical Essays.

To see pictures of the event, click here.