Obituary, Margaret Thatcher

(LTTW, LONDON) Margaret Thatcher, a British Conservative Party politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and the Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990, has passed away after a stroke on Monday, April 8, 2013. Thatcher, who was 87, had been in declining health for some years, suffering from dementia. She was the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and is the only woman to have held the office.

Downing Street announced that she would receive a ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul’s Cathedral.

In every step taken by a leader, there are those who benefit and those who loss from it: thus the approach taken by Thatcher to British culture and its manifestations. Thatcher was the first leader in Europe who started the “privatization” of arts activities with its reduced governmental roles in fundings and facilities by encouraging corporate sponsorship. Many individuals and organizations (especially theater) were hit by Thatcher’s administration policy, but not a few who benefit from it, one of them was the musical Phantom of the Opera with music by Andrew Lloyd Weber. In fact, the budget for the Arts Council was actually increased more than doubled over the past 11 years of her tenure.

The conservative leader was by no means a supporter of creativity in the public sphere, yet Thatcher’s policies awoke an awareness and spirit of rebellion that transformed British art forever. “Love her or loathe her, one thing’s beyond dispute: Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain.” The Associated Press summed it up.

Iraq: Between War and Arts

[Jakarta, LTTW] It’s been a decade since the Iraq War had begun. Did the “mission accomplished” fantasy last? Not from what it seems in many media portrayals of Iraq so far. Nonetheless, let’s not forget that this is about Iraq, the land once known as a peaceful salad bowl of cultures; and to the Iraqis, things are a little bit different. The hopes are high, and they are taking it very seriously.

According to the Telegraph, the Iraqi capital Baghdad is approaching herself as a “capital of culture” for 2013, to remind the world that there is more to culture than bombs and bloods in Iraq. There are more indicators showing that the recent “battlefield” caused by the war is rebuilding itself a home that can provide a positive energy for the people. The National Museum of Baghdad was finally reopened; a number of Iraqi Diasporas have brought together Iraqi artists across the globe to share their experiences through art; not-for-profit projects for the advancement of Iraqi art and public education are springing up everywhere; and top-selling musicians are growing swiftly.

The above indications are truly a good sign of Iraq’s rising, and certainly as good as knowing that the arts are responding to such struggles. However, being around the ever growing arts activities do not necessarily mean that the culture is “vibrant” already; it is a term used for reflecting how the arts is functioning as healing and creative force among the societies. Viewing today’s Iraq’s vibrant art and music scene within this perspective, we have had to trace back from its great history of art and music, and then ask ourselves a question: Will the future of Iraq’s art and music scene be vibrant than ever?