The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part thirteen in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.
Bangladesh is developing its first cultural policy. The National Cultural Committee submitted its draft text to the government for approval in July 2005. The new cultural policy, intended to give the fragmented world of culture in Bangladesh more cohesion, was compiled based on the Unesco culture conventions. The committee members were also inspired by the cultural policies of Malaysia, Norway and the United States.
The importance of language, art, cultural expressions and maintaining cultural heritage was already recognised in Bangladesh’s 1972 constitution, as direct response to the harsh oppression of the indigenous language and culture during the period of British and Pakistani rule. Since the country's independence in 1971 the government has also established a network of cultural institutions. Some of these are the direct responsibility of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, including the Department for Archeology and Museums and the Bangladesh National Archives. Others are independent, albeit that a government-appointed committee is responsible for their daily operation and these institutions receive government subsidies.
An important, autonomous institution is the Bangladesh Shipakala Academy established in 1974. The tasks of the academy, with 69 local departments throughout the country, vary from promoting national art, publishing and setting up art galleries to providing subsidies to artists and cultural organisations. The Shipkala Academy is organising the Asian Art Biennial in the capital city Dhaka for the twelfth time in late March 2006.
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1931, Rabindranath Tagore - the first Asian to receive the prize – is the icon of Bengalese literature. Artists Ainul Abedin and Quamrul Hasan, who were involved in the establishment of the Arts and Crafts Institute in the 1940s, also acquired international fame. Today, photography institute DRIK plays an important part in the Bengalese art world.
Bangladesh has entered into cultural agreements with forty countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.