The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Culture boost for sunny ties

Increased two-way traffic in the fields of arts, music and theatre through more cultural exchange programmes. Better opportunities for dialogue in related areas and last, but not the least exciting, a heady dose of soccer from the land of the Kaiser.

Heinrich Blomeke, regional director, South Asia, Max Mueller Bhavan (MMB) Goethe Institut, promises a whole new world of excitement in the months ahead. On his first visit to Calcutta, Blomeke, who could squeeze in a trip to the Indian Museum, Cima Gallery, the Birla Academy and the swank new British Council, is impressed with the “inherent warmth” the city exudes.

“Over the years, we have accumulated the simple capital of trust from the people of India, and Calcutta has been one of our most vibrant and active centres. Naturally, this city figures in most of our new plans being formulated to keep up with changing times,” he smiles.

The country head of the Max Mueller Bhavan Goethe Institut feels the already buoyant relations with Calcutta will get a further boost, thanks to the changing foreign cultural policy of the German government. Information technology (IT), a thrust area, will play a “more significant role” in MMB’s future programmes.

“IT has opened up incredible avenues of communication and we propose to use this powerful tool to broaden our access to the fringe areas in India. Of course, we don’t want to replace the warmth of physical contact completely by introducing virtual space. But, the MMB is looking at reaching out to a wider audience with its language courses and other packages through the Internet,” says Blomeke.

An important fallout of the restructuring of German foreign cultural policy will be better contact of Indian artists, musicians and theatre personalities with their German counterparts. “We are looking at sending more people from India to Germany during the key cultural events in the German calendar, like Documenta 11.”

The art fair, which offers a major overview of the artistic documents of the world, was held in the German city of Kassel from June 8 to September 15 this year, and had a sizeable participation from India, including city-based installation artist Adip Datta.

Likewise, the international dance festival in Dusseldorf attracted a big delegation from India and the institute organised a trip for people in charge of Indian libraries on a fact-finding mission to Germany to get oriented in IT documentation. “We are really looking at more trips like this so that there can be continuous dialogue.” Also on the agenda is a theatre workshop, which will involve group theatre personalities from Calcutta, “a core strength of the city”, and visits by big jazz and chamber music groups next year.

Blomeke is “extremely happy” with the response to the exhibition of ‘Posters against right-wing violence’ currently on at the MMB, and its satellite events.

The MMB chief said the India Festival at the Asia Pacific Week in Berlin in the fall of 2003 is another big event to look forward to. Organised by the House of the Cultures of the World, the festival will have a huge participation from Indian art groups. “One of their bigger schemes is contemporary artistic projects in India, for which the House of Cultures has appointed four curators from here,” says Blomeke.

News for soccer buffs — the Goethe Institut is tying up with the German football federation to hype World Cup 2006 in India.

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