Artist Maya Lin, acclaimed soprano and arts/health advocate Renée Fleming and actors and humanitarians Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba are the recipients of the 29th Annual Crystal Award, the World Economic Forum announced today. The winners will be honoured at the opening session of the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, on the evening of Monday, 16 January. The award celebrates the achievements of leading artists who are bridge-builders and role models for all leaders of society.
The Crystal Award is presented at Davos each year by Hilde Schwab, Chairwoman and Co-Founder of the World Economic Forum’s World Arts Forum. The cultural leaders receiving the 2023 Crystal Award 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.
Maya Lin receives the 2023 Crystal Award for her extraordinary creative talent in combining science, art and architecture and her exemplary leadership in the promotion of nature and environment. Lin has fashioned a remarkable interdisciplinary career through her highly acclaimed art and architectural works, showcasing sustainable design and emphasizing a stronger connection to the land and nature.
From her first public work, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., Lin has been committed to focusing attention on the key issues of our time: women’s rights, civil rights, Native American history and the climate crisis. In 2016, on awarding Lin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Barack Obama said her Vietnam Veterans Memorial “changed the way we think about sacrifice and patriotism and ourselves”.
Lin’s latest memorial, What is Missing?, is experimental and multidisciplinary in nature. In this work, Lin uses science-based artworks to raise awareness of the current mass extinctions of species, while emphasizing that by protecting and restoring habitats and reforming our land-use practices we could significantly reduce emissions and restore and protect biodiversity
Renée Fleming receives the 2023 Crystal Award for her leadership in championing the power of music and its relation to health, community and culture.
Renée Fleming is one of the most acclaimed sopranos of our time and a leading advocate for research at the intersection of arts, health and neuroscience. She launched the first ongoing collaboration between the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. It also led the NIH to recently award $20 million in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years. The Renée Fleming Foundation is now partnering with the Foundation for the NIH to develop a toolkit for standardizing music and health clinical research for brain disorders of ageing. Fleming has presented her programme, Music and the Mind, around the world.
Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba receive the 2023 Crystal Award for their leadership in addressing food security, climate change and environmental conservation.
Actor, filmmaker and humanitarian, Idris Elba, and his wife, the model, actress and humanitarian, Sabrina Dhowre Elba, were appointed UN Goodwill Ambassadors for IFAD in April 2020. As IFAD Goodwill Ambassadors, they focus on issues related to food security, climate change and environmental conservation. The couple recently visited an IFAD-supported project in Sierra Leone, where they met farmers who received support for rice production and assistance with rural finance after the Ebola crisis.
The late Queen Elizabeth II awarded Idris Elba with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2016 and the Prince’s Trust, founded by King Charles in 1976 – which Elba credits with helping to start his career – appointed him as its anti-crime ambassador in 2009
Elba supports causes related to poverty, HIV/AIDS, at-risk and disadvantaged youth, health and education. He worked with the UN and the Department for International Development in the UK during the Ebola health crisis and filmed campaigns in support of UNICEF, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. He has recently created a number of youth-focused campaigns to promote education and learning and discourage violence.
Sabrina Dhowre Elba works with a variety of civil society organizations, including Farm Africa, raising funds to help farmers across eastern Africa, and Conservation International on environmental issues. She promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls worldwide. She chairs the European board for Global Citizen and has been a keynote speaker at leading global events.
Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elbaare board members of Conservation International.
Crystal awardees are part of a large community of cultural leaders in Davos.
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Recent years have witnessed the mushrooming of oriental restaurants serving ‘authentic’ Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Malaysian and of late Vietnamese cuisine (in certain instances it is not so authentic!). It is not just expats or members of the diplomatic community of these countries residing in India, but even the Indian consumer, in not just metro cities but even tier 2 cities, who is always up for some lip-smacking cuisine from East and South-East Asia.
In metropolitan cities – especially Mumbai, the National Capital Region (NCR) region and Bengaluru — apart from several other cities, it is true that several Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai restaurants serve East Asian and South-East Asian cuisine of a high quality, which is truly authentic.
It would be pertinent to point out, that for long restaurants located in five-star hotels were the preferred choice for consumers willing to spend on some authentic oriental cuisine. That is no longer the case with a number of stand-alone restaurants (some in the fine dining category) mushrooming in recent years in not just metropolitan cities, but tier two cities as well.
If one were to look at Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malaysian stand-alone restaurants in India, there is certainly scope for more authenticity. It is also important, for restaurants specializing in one oriental cuisine, to focus on one cuisine – while a few popular dishes from other cuisines are perfectly acceptable – a mish mash of dishes from across the orient while specializing in one cuisine is not advantageous.
There is no doubt, that it is important to cater to Indian taste buds, it is also important to bear in mind, that a lot of Indian consumers who have travelled and have a good knowledge of different cuisines are looking for authentic cuisine.
A number of oriental restaurants, which claim to serve authentic oriental food and specialize in one particular oriental cuisine end up serving a mish-mash of different Asian cuisines. While there is nothing wrong in the same, it is important then to position yourself as a restaurant which serves a blend of dishes from across the orient. It would be pertinent to point out, that as far as Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Korean cuisine is concerned, the Indian consumer – especially in metropolitan cities – has numerous choices.
Here it would also be important to mention that many oriental restaurants have managed to strike a balance by catering to local palette, while also ensuring a degree of authenticity and providing a mix of dishes from the orient at a reasonable price. It is also important for stand-alone fine dining restaurants to realize, that if they are excessively over-priced, they will lose their competitiveness if there are other options available to the consumer.
In conclusion, there is a growing demand for East Asian and South-East Asian cuisine in India. As mentioned earlier, it is not just expats or members of the diplomatic community, but a large number of Indians who are well travelled who are willing to spend on good oriental cuisine. It is important however for restaurateurs and chefs to remain in sync with changing trends in the market, and to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive market.
In this snapshot WhatsApp interview, Negash Abdurahman, producer of the the film ‘Cuba in Africa’ which won several prestigious international awards, narrates his experiences.
Abdurahman is an Ethiopian-American filmmaker and an educational technology specialist. He is also the Founder of RI Systems Inc. His award-winning film Cuba in Africa was years in the making, overcoming many challenges. Cuba In Africa tells the story of Cuban volunteers who gave everything to win the independence of Angola, Namibia and contributed to the fall of apartheid in South Africa.
Here are the interview excerpts:
What important messages are contained in your award winning documentary film called “Cuba in Africa” which you produced in the United States?
The film titled ‘Cuba in Africa’ is a short documentary that explores the role Cuba played in the independence of Angola and Namibia, the release of Nelson Mandela and the fall of apartheid in South Africa.
Cuba was the only country in history that came to Africa’s aid without expecting anything in return.
The magnitude of Cuba’s sacrifice is astounding. An Island nation of roughly 8 million people at the time, sent over 400,000 people — military as well as civilians — to help Africans in their fight for freedom. This was unprecedented.
Producing documentary films, perhaps, involve some challenges and difficulties. Did you experience any in the process?
Generally, producing documentary films involve many challenges and difficulties. We, as a team, had to overcome many challenges.
The Cubans were reluctant to tell their story. It took me several years to get permission to enter Cuba to conduct interviews with a cross-section of Cuban veterans of the Angola war.
Finding money was difficult. Telling a story that says something positive about Cuba, even if true, goes against the popular narrative in the United States. Therefore, the projected was rejected by almost all major funding institutions that typically provide money for historical documentaries.
The embargo on Cuba created many logistical difficulties as we had to make sure that we did everything according to US law. It was difficult and took time, but we were able to overcome the challenges.
By the way, explain the main driving reasons why this film has become part of your evolving life-time career?
I am an accidental story teller. Cuba in Africa is my first film and I stumbled on the story after visiting post-apartheid South Africa. I had heard about Cuba’s involvement in Africa before, but I had not uderstood the magnitude. A friend asked me if anyone has done a documentary on this story. I looked and it appeared no one has done a documentary on this important subject. That’s where my determination came from.
I have an eclectic background. Although I had a graduate degree in international relations, I switched fields and ended up in technology and innovation during most of my career. Specifically, I worked in the field of educational technology, looking for creative ways on how technology can contribute to innovation in teaching and learning.
Is this film that took you to festivals in the Middle East and Africa?
Cuba in Africa has won over 20 Best Short Documentary Awards from all over the world, including at the Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF), held on Los Angeles in May of 2022.
Most recently, we were invited to the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF), one of the largest festivals on the African continent, held in Lagos, Nigeria in October 2022. In the same month, we were also invited to the Meta Film Festival in Dubai.
In what ways would you argue that the film’s popularity provides the necessary platform for a change in Africa? Interesting to ask about the kind of feedback you have received so far?
Cuba in Africa has received a warm, emotional response all over the world. Most people never heard of this story. They were touched by the altruism of Cubans who sacrificed their sons and daughters on behalf of Africa.
After all that, what are the future perspectives? Do you hope to follow-up the theme in the coming years?
Our immediate plan is to find distributors who can make sure the world gets to see this important story. The long-term plan is to see if we can turn this short documentary into a feature film.
You can watch a two-minutes trailer for Cuba in Africa at http://www.cubainafrica.com
Tips for Commissioning a Piece of Art
For centuries, people have been commissioning artists to create a piece that has special meaning for them, something to hang in their house, or a piece that communicates a message that the owner wants to express.
If you are one of these people, and you want a portrait or a piece of London canvas art, there are a few things you need to remember when commissioning a work of art.
The first thing you need to do is, have a concise list of what you want the piece to look like and include; do you like art deco, or do you want something more classic? Unless the artist, and you, are ok with the artist using their imagination, it is on you to have the idea.
You can be as specific or as vague as you want, but the artist will need some direction when it comes to the style, elements, colour palette, etc.
It doesn’t matter how much you love an artist or even how much you are willing to pay; some artists won’t accept your commission. This could be due to several reasons, such as a tight timeframe, the artist not feeling like they could do the work justice, or any other reasons.
What you need to remember is to not fight them on it. If they don’t think they can do it, ask if they may know someone who can or if it would be better to contact them later in the month or year.
Regarding the price, it is typically frowned upon to haggle. You are asking them to spend their time and use their immense skill and talent to create a piece for you; through years of working and mastering their craft, they know how valuable said time and skill is worth.
You must also know that you need to accept the price, and you can also get a quote for the work if you have enough details of what you want the piece to look like and include. Lastly, art is also more expensive than you may think, even if the piece is small or not as “detailed” as other work.
Once an artist gets a week or two into creating your piece, you are going to struggle to get them to change anything; and if you do, there is a very good chance the price is going to go up, or you will need to pay for a new commission completely.
This is why it is essential to know exactly what you want, what style and paint the artist must use, the size of the work etc., before a pencil or paintbrush even touches the canvas.
While many artists are highly talented and skilled, you need to accept that there may be some elements or styles that they aren’t masters of; maybe they can make incredible backdrops but struggle with faces, or they’re brilliant with people and not with animals.
While this may be more common with younger, less experienced artists, do your due diligence and find out if there are any aspects they aren’t completely confident with, and adjust them.
Another thing you need to be prepared for is the timeframe or the price to change. Artists can give you rough ideas for when they can finish a piece, but they are still humans with lives, and you never know what could happen that might slow them down.
The price can also change if they discover that your piece needs a specialised tool or expensive paint they didn’t have. While some may not charge you for this, others may.
It is essential to stay in contact with the artist while they are working on your piece. It would be best if you weren’t asking for updates every hour on the hour, but a weekly update to find out the progress or any problems helps keep the process running smoothly.
This also ensures that there are no surprises when reveal day comes, as you would already be aware of and signed off on any changes or alterations.
As mentioned, most artists who take commissions are incredibly talented and skilled, but they aren’t miracle workers. You must know that there are potentially things that aren’t possible, or at least not possible, within the parameters you provide; not everyone can do a Sistine Chapel or Jackson Pollock.
While artists can do and create a lot, it is essential to remember that there are limitations and that not everything you can imagine is possible.
Finally, you need to always be patient. There is a reason great tattoos take 20 or 30 hours or why growing the perfect garden may take a few years; awe-inspiring art takes much more time than you may think.
Even if you get given a timeline, it is still important to wait until the artist is fully satisfied with the work. This also means that you can’t rush the artist if you decide that you want the piece earlier than the agreed-upon finishing time.
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