Foundation of Three Cultures
“I feel it in my skin / that bitter taste of an endless lament / flowing through you from a hundred nations / from Algeciras to Istanbul / for you to paint in blue / those long winter nights”. So sang Joan Manuel Serrat in his portrayal of the Mediterranean, one of the most culturally rich and diverse places on the planet.
In 1995, representatives from all fifteen member states of the European Union met with delegates from twelve Mediterranean countries (known as the “Mediterranean third countries”) at the Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona. Their aim was to create a framework for multilateral relationships to promote shared prosperity, peace and intercultural understanding across the Mediterranean.
Three years later, as a result of this initiative, the Kingdom of Morocco and the Junta de Andalucía (the autonomous government of Andalusia) joined forces to create an organisation aimed at bringing Mediterranean nations and cultures closer together. They called it the Fundación Tres Culturas (Foundation of Three Cultures).
The key patrons and presidents of the foundation are King Juan Carlos of Spain, and the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI. The foundation is also sponsored by various figures from the worlds of banking, academia and representatives from the Junta de Andalusia, as well as ministers from the Spanish, Moroccan, Israeli and Palestinian governments. In particular, dialogue and cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian representatives is one of the focal objectives of the foundation.
The foundation is involved in a wide range of activities that promote unity, including conferences, debates, talks, exhibitions and concerts by musicians from the region. It even offers Arabic and Hebrew language courses and collaborates in book fairs - such as one most recently held in Cairo. The overriding theme throughout these events is one where culture is used as a tool to promote and establish tolerance and understanding. As the foundation states - “In a complex, political world, it is culture that provides the best channel for dialogue”. The foundation also participates in commemorative events such as International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27th January, marking the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps.
Regular events are also organised at their headquarters in Seville, such as “Cinema Tuesdays”, where a variety of commercial and less well known films are shown that celebrate the Mediterranean and are pertinent to the objectives of the foundation. In recent years a number of Mediterranean cities and regions like Beirut, Tangiers, Istanbul and Sicily have been represented on the silver screen and audiences have been treated to screenings of such delights as Turtles can Fly, No Man’s Land and Caro Diario (Dear Diary).
The Kingdom of Morocco donated the funds to create the headquarters, having originally housed the Moroccan exhibition in Expo ‘92. It remains a striking example of Moroccan art, and the impressive building boasts a variety of amenities, including an auditorium with capacity for 200 people, an exhibition area, archives, classrooms, a central square and a library specialising in Mediterranean topics and the Arab world.
Particularly central to the Foundation’s work are the library and archives which house a comprehensive collection of books and documents on such issues as the Arab world, Euro-Mediterranean relations, human rights, conflict resolution, development and migration. Books are loaned free of charge, which is vital to achieve the objective of promoting an interest and understanding of different cultures at the very heart of Andalusian society.
On being far away from the Mediterranean sea, Rafael Alberti lamented “In my dreams the heavy sea/ tugs at my heart / wanting to drag it away”. For those who have lived near its salty waters and seen the reflection of sunlight off its waves, this is perhaps a sentiment with which we can all empathise. The beauty of the Mediterrean should unite all those that live on its shores. It should not be a stage for bloody battles or tyrannical conflict, but rather a celebration of diversity and the many rich cultures that surround it. Just as the surrounding rivers merge together to form the Mediterranean sea, the sea in turn gives birth to a myriad of cultures and abundant histories that intermingle and colour the region.
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