The European Cultural Foundation (ECF) is pleased to announce that British-based film-maker John Akomfrah (1957, Ghana) and curator Charles Esche (1962, England) – Director of the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands – received the ECF Princess Margriet Award this evening at a packed ceremony at the Egg in Brussels.
The award is given out annually to European artists, intellectuals and activists who envisage a truly intercultural landscape and strive for societal change.
The prestigious annual public award ceremony was hosted by ECF’s Director Katherine Watson and was attended by HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium and ECF’s President HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands.
In her opening speech, Princess Laurentien observed that ‘the Europe we have today is still young and will not last unless we continue to build, invest in and visualize our future’. She praised the laureates for pushing boundaries and generating images of who we are and who we might become.
ECF also welcomed honoured guests including Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission (DGEC); the Dutch Ambassador HE Henne Schuwer; Hilary Carty (Jury Chair); Adriana Esmeijer, Director of the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds; and Ann Goldstein, Director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
Jury member Jan Dibbets praised the two laureates and said they were both chosen unanimously by a team of international jurors. The laudation praised Akomfrah for producing a vital body of work that interweaves stories of the migrants of Europe, defying purist notions of cultural identity, and focusing on the experience of becoming and the capacity to change. Charles Esche was praised for his work as a key independent curator and critical voice – work that has revealed the radical potential of the museum to be a site of hospitality and genuine knowledge exchange. “ .”
The 350 guests were delighted at the showing of John Akomfrah’s new film piece entitled Peripeteia, a moving visualization of two characters drawn in the 16th century by Albrecht Dürer – a black male and female whose stories have been ‘lost to the winds of history’.
Both laureates received prize money of 25,000 Euros and a uniquely crafted award made by Nathalie Bruys.
Earlier in the day Charles Esche took part in a public debate – “Politics, economics and culture, a different balance?” – co-organised with Flemish-Dutch House deBuren. Other participants included Professor Judith Marquand (Wolfson College, Oxford) and Franco “Bifo” Berardi (writer and media activist). The debate was moderated by Frénk van der Linden (journalist).
Esche spoke in the debate of the need to invest in art and culture so that ‘our old Europe’ and its value system’ can be renewed, and Europe take its part in the emerging one world.
The Princess Margriet Award – a tribute to HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, who served as ECF President from 1983 to 2007 – was established in partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.