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How UN cultural treasures helped set the stage for Game of Thrones

MD Staff

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From King’s Landing to the Iron Bank, so many of the breath-taking backdrops seen on the smash hit Game of Thrones television series are available for future generations to enjoy,  thanks to a key, but little-known role played by the United Nations cultural agency.

Established in 1945, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has worked to improve dialogue and understanding between civilizations, cultures and peoples. One of UNESCO’s methods of doing this is by designating and preserving World Heritage Sites, defined as having outstanding universal value to humanity, which it inscribes on the World Heritage List to be protected for posterity.

To date, there are 1,092 natural and cultural places inscribed. The diverse and unique treasures range from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to the Pyramids of Egypt and the Taj Mahal in India.

Since 2011 UNESCO’s work has become inseparable with the magnificent film locations of the wildly popular Game of Thrones series.

For those tuning in to the show’s final episodes, here’s a look back at the Seven Kingdoms with a nod to the UN cultural agency.

Capital of the Seven Kingdoms

Long before it became known as King’s Landing – one of the Seven Kingdoms and seat of the mighty Iron Throne – the old city of Dubrovnik in Croatia was an important Mediterranean seat of power from the 13th century onwards. Severely damaged by an earthquake in 1667 and by armed conflict in the 1990s, UNESCO is co-coordinating a major restoration programme.

Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in 1979.

Old City of Dubrovnik (Croatia).UNESCO/Francesco Bandarin

Battle of the Blackwater 

You may recall the fiery Battle of the Blackwater, or scenes where King Robert Baratheon rules from the Iron Throne in the Red Keep, overlooking Blackwater Bay: Fort Lovrijenac, outside the western wall of the Croatian city, actually played an important role in resisting Venetian rule in the 11th century.

Cannon in Old City of Dubrovnik (Croatia).UNESCO/Silvan Rehfeld

Private retreat for House Martell

It is easy to see why Doran Martell called the Water Gardens of Dorne “my favourite place in this world”.  Actually located in the heart of Seville, the Royal Palace of Alcázar is imbued with Moorish influences that date back from the Reconquest of 1248 to the 16th century. UNESCO points to it as “an exceptional testimony to the civilization of the Almohads as well as that of Christian Andalusia”. 

UNESCO inscribed the Royal Palace of Alcázarin in 1987.

Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville (Spain).UNESCO/José Puy

Daenerys’ journey through Essos

When you look at the Medina of Essaouira in Morocco, perhaps you can image The Khaleesi lining up The Unsullied eunuch slave-soldiers in the city of Astapor before renaming Slaver’s Bay,  the Bay of Dragons. But for UNESCO, Essaouira is an exceptional example of a late-18th-century fortified town in North Africa. Since its creation, it has been a major international trading seaport, linking Morocco and its Saharan hinterland with Europe and the rest of the world.

The Medina of Essaouira joined the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in 2001.

Medina of Essaouira, formerly Mogador (Morocco).UNESCO/Leila Maizaz

Yunkai: ‘A most disreputable place’

In the Yellow City, Daenerys’ language skills are useful with the Yunkai’i, who speak a dialect of High Valyrian. But in Berber, the village of Ait-Ben-Haddou was a popular caravan route long before current-day Morocco was established. The crowded together earthen buildings surrounded by high walls offer a view of a traditional pre-Saharan habitat. 

Ait-Ben-Haddou was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Ait-Ben-Haddou (Morocco).UN News/Jing Zhang

Theon returns to Lordsport Harbour

County Antrim envelops UNESCO-designated Giant’s Causeway and Causeway coast. It is also home to the small fishing harbour of Ballintoy, known to fans as the port of Pyke, home to the Iron Islands of the Greyjoys. Located in real-life Northern Ireland, the Causeway consists of some 40,000 massive black volcanic rock columns sticking out of the sea. Over the last 300 years, geographical studies have greatly contributed to the development of the earth sciences.

The Causeway coast was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.

Giant’s Causeway (Northern Ireland).UNESCO/Stefano Berti

Cersei’s ‘Walk of Shame’

The iconic scene in in which Cersei Lannister is forced to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing began atop of the baroque Jesuit Staircase, which leads to the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola and Jesuit College in the UNESCO-desnigated Old City of Dubrovnik .

The Jesuit Staircase is located on the south side of Gundulic Square in UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old City of Dubrovnik.UN News/Mita Hosali

Kingslayer for gender equality

The connection between the United Nations and Game of Thrones does not end with UNESCO’s inspiring  sites.

While Jaime Lannister is the twin brother of Cersei and slayer of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, real-life actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Development Fund. Passionate about ending discrimination and violence against women, the father of two girls is focusing his considerable talents on drawing attention to critical issues, such as gender equality – encouraging everyone to be agents of change.

Mr. Coster-Waldau was appointed a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador in 2016.

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New Narratives Lab Promotes Next Generation of Cultural Leaders to Advance Change

MD Staff

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The World Economic Forum today launches the New Narratives Lab, a year-long fellowship dedicated to fostering a new and diverse generation of Cultural Leaders. Through one-to-one mentorship by the World Economic Forum’s network of Cultural Leaders and support from peers, Fellows will develop leadership skills to navigate circles of power and decision-making to bring about change.

The Lab is developed in collaboration with 2020 Crystal Awardee Lynette Wallworth, with major support from the Ford Foundation. “Many artists from under-represented communities demonstrate great leadership potential and desire but may not have the access or resources to activate that leadership. This fellowship is a platform to support their journeys as leaders”, said Nico Daswani, Head of Arts & Culture at the World Economic Forum.

Fellows will engage with their Mentors throughout the course of 2020, including at the Annual Meeting in Davos in January, during a weeklong residency at their mentor’s location in the spring, during the UN General Assembly week in New York in September, and at other Forum events. In addition, Fellows benefit from targeted introductions to business leaders, policy-makers and media influencers in line with their development goals; a coordinated social media, media and documentation strategy; and a $15,000 stipend. Follow the Lab journey at #newnarrativeslab.

“By creating a new fellowship for cultural leaders who strive to create change and by surrounding them with a team of allies who have experience navigating corridors of power, we hope to elevate the role of artists as leaders and to lift them up as they generate urgent new narratives for a changing world”, said Lynette Wallworth, Artistic Director of the Lab and 2020 recipient of the Forum’s Crystal Award.

Fellow and Mentor pairings include:

Rena Effendi (Fellow, Istanbul) with Platon (Mentor, New York)

Rena Effendi is an award-winning photographer whose work portrays the socioeconomic effects of globalization on marginalized communities around the world. Effendi will be supported by Platon, one of the great photographers of our time, to combine powerful storytelling with real-world impact through the creation of multi-stakeholder coalitions.

Thando Hopa (Fellow, Johannesburg) with Angélique Kidjo (Mentor, Paris/New York)

Thando Hopa is a model, diversity activist and lawyer. In April 2019 she made history by becoming the first person with albinism to appear on the cover of Vogue. Hopa will be supported by Grammy Award winning musician and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo in advocating for more inclusive representation in media to benefit and support all bodies and identities.

Wanuri Kahiu (Fellow, Nairobi) with Jin Xing (Mentor, Shanghai)

Wanuri Kahiu is a filmmaker whose award-winning stories and films have received international acclaim and screened at more than 100 film festivals worldwide. Celebrated abroad, her latest film Rafiki was banned by her government for depicting a joyful lesbian love story. Kahiu will be supported by choreographer, media personality and one of China’s most popular TV hosts, Jin Xing, in developing the narratives that will empower artists in Kenya and beyond to advocate effectively for their freedom of expression.

“This fellowship is a response to the critical need for a diversity of perspectives and voices, including those of artists, to be in conversation at the most influential levels, about a world guided by the goals of equity, justice and dignity.” Said Cara Mertes, Project Director, Moving Image Strategies, International Programs, Ford Foundation

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2020 European Capitals of Culture: Rijeka and Galway

MD Staff

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As of 1 January 2020, Rijeka (Croatia) and Galway (Ireland) will hold the title of European Capital of Culture for one year.

“Thanks to their title of European Capital of Culture, Rijeka and Galway will be harnessing the full potential of culture to enrich our life experience and to bring our communities closer together”, stated Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas. “Promoting culture as a core element of our way of life has many positive impacts on society, in terms of social inclusion, integration and economic growth. It enables people to gain new experiences, skills and opportunities to participate in society and to make our societies fairer and more inclusive. I wish them every success in this endeavour.”

“The European Capital of Culture initiative brings people together and highlights the role of culture in promoting the values on which our European Union is built: diversity, respect, tolerance and openness”, statedCommissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel. “A successful Capital of Culture is inclusive and meaningful to its citizens. It is also open to the world, illustrating our Union’s willingness to promote culture as a driver for peace and mutual understanding worldwide whilst bringing long-lasting socio-economic benefits to its region. I very much look forward to visiting both Rijeka and Galway and wish them every success in 2020.”

Rijeka is the first Croatian European Capital of Culture bringing it international visibility, which will extend to the rest of the Western Balkan region. ‘Port of Diversity’ will be the motto, with hundreds of projects among 250 partners from 40 countries. Rijeka’s cultural programme focuses on the themes of water, work and migration, connected to its identity, but also current issues in the wider world. The opening exhibition will feature Rijeka’s famous artist, David Maljković, with other highlights including ‘The Sea is Glowing’ exhibition; a world music and gastronomy festival – ‘Porto Etno’; and new permanent installations of contemporary art on the coastline. Opening celebrations will take place on 1-2 February 2020.

Galway, Ireland

Galway is the third city in Ireland to hold the European Capital of Culture title (after Dublin in 1991 and Cork in 2005). Galway’s cultural programme motto is ‘Let the Magic In’, exploring quintessential local themes of language, landscape and migration – with a European and universal relevance and resonance. The ‘Hope it rains’ theme will use Galway weather as a source of creativity; while other highlights include a celebration of world literature – with a dramatic interpretation of the world’s oldest surviving literary epic, the story of Gilgamesh; and excerpts from Homer’s Odyssey, read on Galway beaches. Meanwhile, new installations will celebrate the beauty of Connemara and County Galway. Galway 2020 will begin in February 2020, at the start of Imbolc – the first Celtic season in Ireland’s ancient, pre-Christian calendar.

Background

Melina Mercouri, then Greek Minister of Culture, took the initiative to start the European Capital of Culture in 1985. It has since become one of the most high-profile cultural initiatives in Europe. Cities are selected based on a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension – promoting participation and active involvement by city inhabitants, communities and various stakeholders; and it must contribute to the long-term development of the city and its surrounding region.

Holding the title of European Capital of Culture gives cities the chance to boost their image, put themselves on the world map, promote sustainable tourism and rethink their development through culture. The title has a long-term impact, not only on culture but also in social and economic terms, both for the city and the region.

In 2019, Plovdiv in Bulgaria and Matera in Italy were European Capitals of Culture. Following Rijeka and Galway in 2020, the future European Capitals of Culture will be Timisoara (Romania), Elefsina (Greece) and Novi Sad (Serbia, candidate country) in 2021, Esch (Luxembourg) and Kaunas (Lithuania) in 2022, Veszprém (Hungary) in 2023 and Tartu (Estonia), Bad Ischl (Austria) and Bodø (Norway, EFTA/EEA country) in 2024.

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2020 Crystal Award Winners

MD Staff

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Deepika Padukone

Artist Theaster Gates, choreographer and media personality Jin Xing, actor Deepika Padukone and artist Lynette Wallworth are the recipients of the 26th Annual Crystal Award, the World Economic Forum announced today. The award celebrates the achievements of artists and cultural figures whose leadership inspires inclusive and sustainable change. The winners will be honoured in the opening session of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, on Monday 20 January.

“These wonderful cultural leaders are bridge-builders. They connect us to each other, they help us reflect on the human condition and they provide visions of the world that can cut through the limitations of short-term or linear thinking,” said Hilde Schwab, Chairwoman and Co-Founder of the World Arts Forum, which hosts the awards.

Award recipients

Theaster Gates, for his leadership in creating sustainable communities
Theaster Gates is an artist who lives and works in Chicago. Drawing on his interest and training in urban planning and preservation, Gates creates works that focus on space theory, land development, sculpture and performance. In 2010, Gates established the Rebuild Foundation to galvanize communities through neighbourhood regeneration and the development of educational and arts programming. Many of the foundation’s initiatives are centred on the revitalization of Chicago’s South Side, creating hubs and archives for black culture that serve as catalysts for discussions on race, equality, space and history. Gates is a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Visual Arts and the Harris School of Public Policy, and is Distinguished Visiting Artist and Director of Artist Initiatives at the Lunder Institute for American Art at Colby College. His work has been exhibited internationally.

“Special thanks to the World Economic Forum for this most prized Crystal Award. I am always reminded that the impact of the arts and artists is incomparable when we think about the transformation of cities and towns. I am honoured to work as a believer in beauty and creativity and hope the work and the ideals that I lead within Chicago have resonance throughout the world,” said Gates.

Jin Xing, for her leadership in shaping inclusive cultural norms
Jin Xing is a choreographer, media personality and China’s most popular TV host. She is a former male ballet dancer and army colonel, who was the first person, publicly, to undergo gender reassignment surgery in her country. She is the founder of the award-winning Jin Xing Dance Theatre, the country’s first independent dance company. Her television shows, which include Venus Hits Mars, The Jin Xing Show and Chinese Dating, draw more than 100 million viewers a week and create a space for discussion on contemporary life in China. She is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France and received an honorary Doctorate of Dance from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

“In today’s complex and fractured world, I pursue my mission to be true to the society, to be a true voice for the public, as an artist, a public figure and as a human being. I’m grateful and honoured to receive this year’s Crystal Award. This honour encourages me to continue my mission and be crystal clear towards life,” said Jin.

Deepika Padukone, for her leadership in raising mental health awareness
Deepika Padukone is an internationally acclaimed actor, fashion icon and mental health ambassador from India. She has acted in close to 30 feature films across genres and won several awards for her performances. Many of her films also rank among the highest grossing films of all time. Padukone was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2014 and sought professional help to aid her recovery. In June 2015, she founded The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF) to give hope to every person experiencing stress, anxiety and depression (SAD). The foundation’s programmes and initiatives include nationwide public awareness and destigmatization campaigns, adolescent mental health programmes, funding support for treatment in rural communities, training general physicians in common mental health disorders, research and an annual lecture series featuring the world’s foremost thinkers and achievers.

“With more than 300 million people suffering with the illness, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability in the world today and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. It is therefore increasingly clear that, now more than ever before, we need to aggressively address what is an invisible and overlooked health and social burden. I am humbled and deeply honoured to be chosen for this year’s Crystal Award and dedicate the award to the millions around the world who experience stress, anxiety and depression, and other forms of mental illness,” Padukone said.

Lynette Wallworth, for her leadership in creating inclusive narratives
Lynette Wallworth is an Australian artist whose immersive video installations, virtual reality and film works reflect the connections between people and the natural world, as well as exploring the nature of resilience. She won an Emmy Award for her virtual reality film Collisions, which the World Economic Forum commissioned, premiered and executive-produced. Wallworth was named one of the “100 Leading Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policy magazine for immersing audiences in the destructive power of nuclear weapons. Her 2018 mixed-reality film Awavena, the story of the first woman Shaman from the Yawanawa tribe in Brazil, as well as her most recent works, have been made at the invitation of indigenous communities. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Virtual and Augmented Reality and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Sundance Institute.

“I have sought to use my skills as an artist to bring unheard voices, including indigenous voices, into the rooms they have been excluded from. These voices ring out with resilience, persistence, power and grace. In supporting my work, the creation and the presentation of it, the World Economic Forum has helped me place it in front of those I most wished to impact, those whose decisions help shape our shared future. I am immensely grateful that these works, these voices, have been heard and are being honoured by a Crystal Award,” said Lynette Wallworth

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