Monday. 10/2/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

Moving experience

London, already renowned for its museums, will this week gain a novel addition to its culture scene. Opening in a new, larger space on 14 February, the Migration Museum is dedicated to exploring how the movement of people both to and from the country has helped shape it over the centuries.

With the UK seeking to redefine its place in the world and its relationships with neighbours near and far, this launch couldn’t be more timely. Exhibitions planned for this year include Room to Breathe, which will bring to life the stories of migrants coming to the country, and Departures, which will look at 400 years of emigration stories to coincide with the anniversary of the Mayflower setting sail to North America. As debates grow about who should be allowed to come to the country and who should be kept out, it’s useful to remember that migration is an essential part of human history.

And there’s another interesting aspect to the Migration Museum’s new home – it’s in south London’s busy Lewisham Shopping Centre. It’s an unusual choice of location but a considered one. This is about being “accessible, breaking down barriers and reaching wider audiences,” says museum director Sophie Henderson. It’s also a smart move from the perspective of the shopping centre. As high-street retailers and malls increasingly struggle, a genuine cultural attraction might be just the ticket to get more people moving in their direction.

Diplomacy / Angola

Power trips

Angola is having a moment. German chancellor Angela Merkel visited the country on Friday and later this week it will be the turn of US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, as part of a three-country tour of sub-Saharan Africa. The visitors’ interests concern trade and economic ties but the timing of such high-profile trips suggests a show of support for Angola’s president, João Lourenço (pictured), who has surprised many by taking on Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman; he has frozen her assets and is charging her with a host of economic crimes. Lourenço was once an ally of José Eduardo dos Santos, Isabel’s father, who stepped down as president in 2017 after nearly four decades in power. “We were all part of the system,” Lourenço told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle last week. Merkel and Pompeo seem to be betting that the current president is making a clean break with the past, rather than consolidating power for himself.

Design / Canada

Big fixer-upper

Canada is launching a design competition to reimagine one of the most prominent sites in the country: an entire city block opposite Ottawa’s parliament buildings. Block B currently houses 11 buildings. Most are in need of major renovations but only two are heritage protected. The goal of the new competition is to transform the block from a mishmash of buildings into a more coherent complex that, while containing offices for the House of Commons and Senate, better serves both the city and government.

Those hoping to participate have until 21 February to register but, unfortunately, this architecture “competition” isn't the type of open contest more common in Europe. “The process begins with a ‘request for qualifications’ that will exclude many innovative design professionals, both Canadian and foreign,” says Alex Bozikovic, architecture critic at The Globe and Mail. “This sort of process is sadly too common in Canada: it excludes emerging firms and those who might bring novel perspectives to the city.”

Culture / Asia

Art disease

At the end of last week, the news that the art world had been anticipating for some days finally arrived: Art Basel Hong Kong has been cancelled because of the coronavirus. As with the human impact, the cultural fallout of the coronavirus outbreak has yet to be measured but there’s no question that the emerging cultural soft power of mainland China and the surrounding regions has taken a hit. In the long term at least, East Asian collectors should take heart. “People have already invested a lot of time and effort into China,” says Ossian Ward, content director at London’s Lisson Gallery. “They won’t stay away.” In the meantime, Chinese officials are encouraging galleries to take their shows to more hygienic (read: online) spaces to satisfy the culturally curious. “It’s an unfortunate turn of events,” says Ward. “But hopefully it’s only temporary.”

Cities / Abu Dhabi

Talk of the town

The biennial World Urban Forum, organised by the UN, opened in Abu Dhabi at the weekend and runs until Thursday. Since the first conference in 2001, the proportion of people living in cities has risen from 47 per cent to 55 per cent in 2018, with that figure expected to swell to 68 per cent by 2050. According to one speaker, Nasser Yassin of the American University of Beirut, the shift is due in large part to the increase in international mobility, although the changing mood towards immigration in much of the northern hemisphere is also having an impact. “There is a policy response to slow down the movement of people, meaning that cities in the Global South are growing at a much faster rate,” he says. The forum will be doing its best to challenge the anti-immigration trend; its focus is on how to counter segregation and better deal with multiculturalism in our cities.

M24 / Meet The Writers

Liz Moore

Liz Moore started out as a musician in New York but quickly realised that writing was her true calling. Her fourth novel, ‘Long Bright River’, which explores addiction, family and morality on the streets of Philadelphia, has debuted at number 6 on The New York Times Best Seller list.

Monocle Films / Netherlands

All around the table: hideaway in the Netherlands

Nestled in a national park near Dalfsen, Lemelerberg Lodge is the place to slow down from a busy lifestyle. Co-founders Marianne Maat and Lucienne Dunnewijk show us how to create a sense of welcome with soft lighting, natural materials and their handmade wares.

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