Swiss extend cultural links with India

Pro Helvetia's New Delhi office is its first in Asia (Reuters)

The Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia, hopes to foster a strong cultural exchange with India with the opening of a liaison office in New Delhi on Monday.

This content was published on January 8, 2007 minutes

The venture in the Indian capital is the fourth such Arts Council enterprise following the establishment of similar offices in Cape Town, Warsaw and Cairo.

The New Delhi office will be used as a springboard to launch a number of collaborative projects with the dual aim of introducing Swiss culture to India and to stimulate mutual exchanges between the two countries.

Swiss dance group Compagnie Drift will be performing at the opening ceremony on Monday before embarking on a tour of several Indian states.

The Arts Council is a government-sponsored organisation that promotes the arts both within Switzerland and outside its borders.

New Delhi project leader Chandrika Grover Ralleigh said she was looking forward to the challenge.

"I can already say that this task of bringing two cultures closer together feels like an enormous privilege," she told the Arts Council newsletter. "The feedback in Asia over this Pro Helvetia initiative has been overwhelmingly positive."

Fruitful exchange

She added that the two countries shared common themes despite seeming so different on the surface.

"I believe we have many things in common [such as] multi-linguistic and multi-cultural [traditions]. And on the other side there also exists a curiosity about each other's lands and their culture that acts as a driving force for mutual exchange," she said.

"I hope very much that we will be able to promote things that will prove to be fruitful and positive for both sides."

The office plans special co-productions in music, theatre, dance and literature projects in the next few years that can be intensified in future with the help of new partners.

The New Delhi office will only have two staff to reach an Indian population in excess of one billion people and still growing.

However, Ralleigh believes it can still make a difference in such a vast country.

"As a small office we are very well aware of our limitations. But on the other hand we do not have a fixed programme and we can tackle our tasks with freedom of movement and flexibility.

"I am convinced that our voice will be heard."

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Pro Helvetia was created in 1939 with the objective of protecting Switzerland's independent cultural identity against the propaganda of Nazi Germany.

It is run by a Board of Trustees whose 25 members are appointed by the government.

It has 74 staff (20 of them located outside of Switzerland) and was allocated funding of SFr137 million for the period 2004-2007.

That budget was slashed by SFr1 million in 2005 as a punishment for backing an exhibition in Paris that included an exhibit that mocked Justice Minister Christoph Blocher.

The agency spends 60% of its operational budget abroad.

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