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BOSTON, Sept 24, 2018 (News Wires) - If you want to boost your creativity, forming close relationships with people from other cultures could help, according to a recent US study.

Carried out by researchers from MIT Sloan and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the new study recruited a diverse group of participants and carried out a series of four experiments, with one group of subjects in each.

The participants included 115 MBA students, 108 people who had dated both someone from their home country and from a foreign country, 141 United States residents in current employment, and 2,226 foreign nationals who had worked in the US before returning to their home country.

The experiments measured the participants on various tasks including thinking tests, workplace assignments, and the likelihood of becoming entrepreneurs.

The findings showed that the MBA students who dated someone from another culture during their programme performed better on thinking tests, while the repatriates who had kept in touch with friends made in America after they had returned home tended to be more innovative and more likely to become entrepreneurs.

In addition, the team also found that when the group of participants who had dated both someone from their home country and a foreign country were asked to think about each relationship while completing thinking tests, they showed higher levels of creativity when thinking about a past intercultural relationship than those who thought about a past intracultural relationship.

However, the researchers also found that it was only the length of the intercultural relationships and not the number of relationships which predicted higher creativity, due to the deeper cultural learning which occurs during long-term relationships.

“The current findings suggest that people cannot simply 'collect' intercultural relationships at a superficial level, but instead must engage in cultural learning at a deep level,” the authors added.

“For us, creativity is about connecting dots,” said study author Jackson Lu. “Every time someone enters a close relationship with a person from a different culture, they collect more dots to connect to the ones they already have.”

“These relationships can also enhance your cognitive flexibility, which means that not only do you have more dots, but you're in a better position to connect them all,” he said. “Intercultural relationships force you to switch your cognitive framework. You realise there are differences, and that really pushes you outside the box.”

By Paolo Sabbatini

Recently, I spent a few days in the territory which was the home of ancient Etruscans, whose capital today is the beautiful city of Viterbo, about 100km from Rome. I was invited to spend a few days in the magical residence of Eugenio and Annamaria Benedetti, philanthropists and culture connoisseurs: being a cosmopolitan couple they have been living all over the world, including of course in Egypt, but they have made the land of the Etruscans their home. In fact, Eugenio is a descendant of Empedocle Gaglio, the Founder of the Italian Hospital in Cairo.

Anyway, on September 2, we watched the historical procession in Viterbo, with over 300 figures and effigies wearing period costumes, paying homage to Santa Rosa, the patron saint of the city.

The Bishop of Viterbo had invited Coptic Orthodox Bishop Barnaba Suryani, Representative of Pope Tawadros II in Italy, to attend the historic occasion. We were sitting in the Church, next to the municipal and religious authorities of the city.

However, the most important event occurred the next day, the evening of September 3: the pageant of “Macchina di Santa Rosa”. This pageant involves a lofty, artistically-made tower with lights, weighing about 50 quintals, surmounted by a statue of Santa Rosa, being carried in procession through the streets of the historic centre of Viterbo, on the shoulders of more than 100 porters.

The event originated in 1258, when Pope Alexander VI promoted the transport of a canopy, which gradually transformed into an imposing tower made out of various materials, always carried on the shoulders of its porters, named "Facchini di Santa Rosa”.

The procession is a good example of the preservation of traditional cultural heritage, promoting the city and area where it belongs. In fact, the event recently gained UNESCO recognition and has been placed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

That evening, in the Piazza del Municipio of Viterbo, sitting on the chairs arranged at our disposal by the Mayor, we waited for this imposing building to appear before our eyes, across the street, shining with the light of a thousand candles, a beacon in the dark night of the city, since all other lights had been turned off.

After a moment of stunned silence, the thousands of people in the jam-packed streets could hear only the calls of the head of the "Facchini di Santa Rosa" who had embarked on this strenuous journey, full of danger: if one out of the hundred porters loses control, he will jeopardise the stability of the whole tower and imperil his fellow porters.

This journey, beyond its requirement of pure physical prowess, is really a journey of faith. The concepts of physical and spiritual strength, will, determination, friendship among porters make up the spirit of the Viterbo people.

I felt ecstatic to have watched such a sui generis spectacle and I sincerely hope to make all my twenty-five readers take note of it and why not gather together in Viterbo for September 3, 2019, God willing.

 

CAIRO, August 29, 2018 - The Kuwaiti National Council for Culture, Arts and Literature (NCCAL) said on Wednesday that the cultural co-operation between Egypt and Kuwait boundless, the NCCL's Acting Secretary General Bader Al-Duwaish was quoted by MENA as saying.

Al-Duwaish added that choosing Kuwait as the guest of honour at the Cairo International Book Fair in 2014 was proof of the two countries’ strong cultural relations.

The co-operation is maintained throughout the year, with Kuwait taking part in the various cultural activities being held in Egypt and vice versa, Al-Duwaish said.

By Gazette staff

CAIRO, August 29, 2018 - Minister of Culture Enas Abdel Dayem met on Wednesday Uzbekistan's Ambassador to Egypt, Oipek Aref Othmanov, to discuss ways of boosting co-operation by the two countries.

The ministry reported that during the meeting, Minister Abdel Dayem praised the strong Egypt-Uzbekistan ties and welcomed Uzbekistan's readiness to host various cultural events. She also referred to the successful Uzbek events held in Egypt.

The meeting dealt with the possibility of launching joint cultural projects with the aim of strengthening bilateral ties.

Ambassador Othmanov said that Egyptian civilisation was rich in arts and, therefore, Uzbekistan was keen on expanding the scope of co-operation with Egypt through participating in more events in the country.

SINGAPORE, Aug 20, 2018 (News Wires) — The Republic’s hawker culture could soon be recognised alongside South Korea’s kimchi-making, Indonesia’s Batik, China’s use of the abacus and India’s yoga practice as part of the world’s intangible heritage.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced yesterday that Singapore would be nominating its hawker culture for Unesco’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a first for the country.

During his Mandarin speech at the National Day Rally held at the Institute of Technical Education College Central in Ang Mo Kio, Mr Lee said Singapore now wants its second Unesco inscription after the Singapore Botanic Gardens was recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2015.

Hawker centres are important in keeping the cost of living low with its affordable options, and are “community dining rooms” for Singaporeans of all races to eat together, said Mr Lee.

“The Unesco inscription will help to safeguard and promote this unique culture for future generations. It will also let the world know about our local food and multicultural heritage,” he added.

An intangible cultural heritage includes practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills that communities recognise as part of their cultural heritage. Under this Unesco definition, languages and religions are excluded.

There are currently 399 elements on the representative list, with the Dutch craft of the miller operating windmills and watermills, and Kyrgyzstan’s traditional horse game, kok boru, among those added last year.

The decision to nominate Singapore’s hawker culture was made after a series of public engagement efforts, said the National Heritage Board (NHB), National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Federation of Merchants’ Associations (FMAS), Singapore in a joint press release.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu first announced that Singapore was looking at the possible listing of an intangible cultural heritage element in March this year.

As the nomination aims to raise awareness of Singapore’s intangible cultural heritage, spokespersons for NHB and NEA said: “An important tangible outcome of this nomination would be the increased pride Singaporeans will feel should we be successful in putting our hawker culture on the international stage, and fly the Singapore flag high.”

This would also add to the tourism appeal of Singapore, and may become the next must-have experience for tourists when they visit Singapore, added a NHB spokesperson.

Supporting the nomination, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said: “Our hawkers, past and present, have worked hard to create this unique Singaporean culture.”

In a poll of more than 3,000 Singaporeans conducted from January to February this year, 27 per cent felt that “food heritage” was the most important form of intangible cultural heritage. This was followed by social practices and festivals (18 per cent), traditional performing arts (18 per cent) and traditional trades and crafts (17 per cent).

Hawker culture later emerged as a “firm favourite” among more than 140 participants of focus group discussions held from April to July. Other suggestions included the Peranakan, Eurasian cultures and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) experiences.

The Republic’s first hawker centres were built in the 1970s to resettle street hawkers and improve hygiene levels by providing access to amenities such as clean water and proper waste disposal. A 2016 NEA survey found that three in four respondents visit a hawker centre as least once a week.

The participants from the discussions felt it best represents Singapore’s multicultural heritage, given how dishes from all ethnic groups can be found under one roof.

Recognition and appreciation of the hawker culture here will hopefully ensure that hawkers’ knowledge, culinary techniques and values are passed on to the next generation, said the participants. There are about 6,000 cooked food stalls across more than 100 hawker centres today.

While there are similar hawker centres in neighbouring countries, a NHB spokesperson said the nomination effort was not to establish the origins or ownership of the various hawker dishes, or determine the similarities or differences between countries. That is not the intent of the Unesco Representative List.

“Although similar hawker food and food centres can be found in neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, their modes of operation and function vary from the hawker culture experience in Singapore,” said the spokesperson.

The nomination will also focus on the hawker culture in the Singapore context, she added.

Singapore aims to submit its nomination documents to Unesco in March next year, and the results are expected to be announced at the end of 2020.

A nomination committee, overseen by the NHB, NEA and FMAS, will be formed to provide expertise and advice on the nomination details. The committee will include people from the public, private sectors and from academia.

When assessing the nomination, the panel of experts appointed by the international organisation will look at current and future safeguarding measures, if there was the widest-possible participation of the community, among other criteria.

As a strong community support for the nomination is necessary for it to be successful, the agencies are encouraging Singaporeans to pledge their support via www.oursgheritage.sg. From October, there will also be other outreach efforts, such as a travelling exhibition, to garner Singaporeans’ support offline.

Calling on Singaporeans to support the move, Minister Grace Fu said: “Let us all come together so we can showcase our pride in our hawker culture to the world!”

Hawker Loh Teck Seng, 62, said a successful nomination can raise hawkers’ reputation. Mr Loh has been selling soya bean milk at Tiong Bahru Market since 1985, when he took over from his father.

“We will feel more honoured working as hawkers. Tourists might start visiting us and our business will improve too,” he said in Mandarin.

FMAS vice-president Lim Gek Meng said some hawkers might initially question why they should support the nomination process.

“But if the message is communicated properly, they will be willing to show their support. Some moved into hawker centres after their earlier days of street hawking, so now that there’s a platform that recognises their culture, I think it’s a form of recognition for them too,” he said.

Mr Daniel Chia, founding president of non-profit organisation Slow Food (Singapore) said there could be detractors who argue that there are already elements of gentrification when “hipster foods” — such as craft beers and Japanese rice bowls — are sold in the centres, among other things.

While hawker centres top many lists of places to eat in Singapore, its culture is also becoming less relevant to the youths as hawker centres are not their choice of venue when eating out, he noted.

Mr Chia added: “I hope to see more young people taking up the hawker business as a vocation and helping to preserve Singapore’s culinary heritage. However, in order for this to happen, this business of being a hawker has to be economically sustainable before it can be attractive, as it is very hard work.”

A sense of fear and valour

By Ramadan A. Kader

In 1969, Egypt’s state censors blocked the showing of “Shai Min Al Khouf” (Something of Fear), a local film dealing with despotism and oppression. The ban came amid reports that the film, based on the story of the same name by writer Tharwat Abaza, has unfavourable overtones against then president Gamal Abdul Nasser and his government.

The star-studded film was made two years after Egypt’s military defeat by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War, a rout that dealt a harsh blow to Nasser’s pan-Arab dreams and deeply traumatized Egyptians. To many Arabs, the defeat is known as naksa or a setback.

“Shai Min Al Khouf” is set in an Egyptian village terrorised by a gang and its ruthless chief, portrayed by great actor Mahmoud Morsi.

Nasser learnt about the row over the film and reportedly saw it twice before he ordered its release.

“Are we a gang? If I act like Atrees [the chief gangster in the film], then I deserve everything bad,” Nasser was quoted as saying after watching the film. “If I were so brutal like Atrees, the people would have killed me,” the iconic leader added before giving the go-ahead for its public showing.

At the time, Nasser also intervened and ordered the showing of several other films and stage works, including a film based on Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s novel “Miramar” after censors had banned them due to their varying political messages.

Nasser’s aide, Sami Sharaf, recalls the presidential intervention. “After the 1967 naksa, President Abdul Nasser sensed what people felt that freedoms were incomplete. He was overwhelmed by a desire to allow more freedom in literary works,” said Sharaf, who
served as director of Nasser’s office.

Sharaf added that “Shai Min Al Khuf” was one of a long list of cinematic works that Nasser approved.

“Shai Min Al Khouf” was screened and proved one of the greatest film productions in the history of the Egyptian cinema. It has claimed several prizes at home and abroad since it was premiered in February 1969.

The cast includes big names of the time. Besides Morsi, it features versatile singer- actress Shadia and accomplished actor Yehia Chaheen. Shadia presented in it one of her most memorable roles as an actress.

She plays Fuada, a female villager whom Atress has loved since early childhood. She stops reciprocating his love after he succeeds his grandfather in terrorising villagers, and looting their limited properties.

In a powerful scene, Fuada defies Atress the Jr after he cuts off water supplies to the village in a punitive step over the killing of one of his henchmen.

In the lead-up to the act of defiance, eerie gloom permeates the scene. Fear-stricken faces are featured as the land appears parched and plants shriveled as a result of the punishment, the most dreadful for villagers who earn their living by working as peasants.

Fuada daringly open the sluice gate, letting the water flow into the barren farmland amid traditional joy cries from the village’s women.

When Atrees proposes to Fuada, she spurns his offer. He marries her under duress. The act draws public condemnation from the local mosque preacher depicted by Chahin.

“Atrees’ marriage to Fuada is void” is the sheikh’s protest cry against the oppressor, who tries to silence him by killing his son at his wedding ceremony.

Undaunted, the aggrieved father roams the village, chanting the slogan that gradually rallies support from the villagers as they break down the barrier of fear.

In the final scene, the angry villagers, holding torches, march on to Atrees’ residence where he has held Fuada against her will. She is freed while he is left to face his doomed fate.

The film’s timeless message is enhanced with expressive music score composed by celebrated musician Baleegh Hamdy and a chorus voiceover based on lyrics by veteran vernacular poet Abdul Rahman Al Abanudi, who also wrote the dialogue.

“Shai Min Al Khouf” is also a strong statement on women’s empowerment through its female protagonist Fuada, seen as representing a strong-willed and indefatigable Egypt. Images of Fuada were painted on the nation’s walls during the 2011 uprising against the Mubarak regime.

The film’s iconic slogan, about the invalidity of the Atrees-Fuada marriage, was also revived and reverberated in Tahrir Square during the anti-Mubarak protests.

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