Newsletter 10/10

South Africa innovates in solar power

Solar power is currently attracting a lot of attention in South Africa, where the annual sunshine hours are twice those of Europe.

Buyelwa Sonjica, Minister for Minerals and Energy, and public utility Eskom are steering the highly coal-dependent country towards this source of renewable energy.

A team of scientists at the University of Johannesburg, headed by Professor Vivian Alberts, has been working over a number of years to develop ultra-thin solar panels.

Production of the panels is scheduled to come on stream at the end of 2010 at a new plant in Paarl (Western Cap) set up under a public- private partnership (PPP).

The panels have a life expectancy of 20 years and are recyclable.

Because they are much lighter than the classic photovoltaic panel, they are much easier to handle and install.

The electricity they generate should eventually cost less than the price paid for electricity from coal-fired power plants (10 rand per watt).

This new initiative is in keeping with the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

A big success: foreign cultural centres in Paris

FICEP, the Forum for foreign cultural institutes and centres in Paris, is a grouping of 46 cultural institutes and the organiser of Foreign Cultures Week, an event running from 24th September to 3rd October that included, among many other features, an introduction to over 30 languages.

Over a packed week, artistic events were hosted at different institutes to promote dialogue between cultures from every continent.

At the Algerian Cultural Centre, for example, an unusual brass ensemble by the name of “Fanfaraï” explored Arab/Berber themes and Afro-Cuban, Latino and jazz influences.

The Korean Cultural Centre featured shamanic ritual represented by the extraordinary figure of shaman Kim Keum Hwa, who has been designated a “Living Natural treasure” in her home country.

The Iranian Cultural Centre highlighted the heritage of the Persian language (Farsi) as expressed through the great poets, Ferdossi, Khayyam, Rumi, Saadi and Haffiz.

The Cultural Centre of Japan staged a concert by trio Tenchijin, a fusion of traditional music, jazz and rock.

The Kurdish Institute showed a documentary on the removal of hundreds of children from their families over the period 1937-1938 to be brought up in Turkish-speaking households.

At the Camões Institute, Portuguese guitarist Ricardo Marquas played jazz and bossa nova.

"Nordic Delight", the theme of the exhibition held at the Swedish Institute, featured paintings in which darkness played a major role.

The Anatolian Cultural Centre paid tribute to hammams and Turkish baths.

At the Syrian Arab Cultural Centre, the mosaic work of Syrian artist Ayman Annan, much of which illustrates the ancient city of Palmyra, was given pride of place.

The work of Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llossa was featured by the Latin American Cultural Centre, which also exhibited work by three great contemporary Mexican ceramicists, Gloria Carrasco, Rosario Guillermo and Gustavo Pérez, as part of celebrating the bicentenary of Mexican independence.

The Chinese Cultural Centre exhibited works by the renowned painter and ceramicist Bai Ming, who is also member of the UNESCO- affiliated International Academy of Ceramics.

Painter Jan Zelenka, who has lived in Paris since his exile in 1978, exhibited a series of oils and drawings at the Czech Centre, all based on the theme of Don Quixote revisited, with giant vegetables flying through the clouds.

An exhibition of photographs and a series of concerts were staged at the Romanian Cultural Institute.

At the Russian Science and Culture Centre, architect Lya Pavlova explored the theme of “the city: a space for freedom, a space for heritage” by comparing the organisation of several European cities (Moscow, Paris, London, etc.) over the years.

Speaking at the opening of the Forum of foreign cultural institutes in Paris, France's Minister for Culture and Communication Frédéric Mitterrand reminded his audience that culture was the expression of sharing ideas and dialogue.

The success of the network of cultural institutes and centres in Paris certainly bears witness to this, bringing new life to the French capital and going far beyond the nostalgic images of the Paris of Montmartre, Montparnasse or Saint Germain des Prés. It is now perfectly possible to imagine a South African Cultural Centre: its success would be guaranteed.