Tuesday. 26/10/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fiona Wilson

Marriage rows

A royal wedding in Japan would usually be cause for celebration but the nuptials today of Princess Mako (pictured), the niece of Emperor Naruhito, and her fiancé Kei Komuro have turned into anything but. Instead of the ancient Shinto rituals and elaborate costumes, this wedding, delayed by three years, will be a less romantic matter of submitting marriage-registration papers, followed by a press conference before the couple hightails it to the US for a fresh start.

It all started so well for the university sweethearts, whose engagement was announced to general enthusiasm in 2017. When it subsequently emerged that Komuro’s mother had an unresolved financial dispute with a former fiancé, the public mood soured and the scrutiny began. The wedding was put on hold and Komuro later left for New York, where he is starting out as a junior lawyer. When he reappeared in Japan last month, the media tracked his every move. The ponytail he now sported was mocked and his refusal to engage with waiting journalists was read as further sign of his unsuitability. Princess Mako, 30 this week, will leave the royal family once she marries a commoner, as the rules dictate. She refused a customary one-off payment to start her new life but that hasn’t been enough to silence the critics.

It has been a testing few years: the princess now apparently suffers from PTSD and the once smiley Komuro is being cast in the role of shady gold digger. Arch royalists have even been out on the streets waving placards bearing scurrilous slogans and calling on the princess not to marry Komuro. Many people do feel sympathy and ask whether it should still be the case that royal women who marry commoners have to be ejected from the family. Either way, a new life beckons for the newlyweds; you can imagine them breathing a sigh of relief once the wheels lift off the tarmac.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Turkey

Spat race

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked a diplomatic crisis over the weekend by threatening to expel 10 ambassadors over Western calls for the release of activist Osman Kavala. By yesterday afternoon Erdoğan (pictured) appeared to have backed down again after the envoys assured that they wouldn’t interfere in domestic affairs. So was it all just a pretext? “It’s all about domestic politics at this point,” Hannah Lucinda Smith, author of Erdogan Rising: The Battle for the Soul of Turkey, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. Elections are scheduled for 2023 but could be called earlier, before the country’s economic crisis gets any worse. Still, that doesn’t mean the president’s ploy will work. “Stirring foreign crises or arguments has always worked well for Erdoğan – but [the technique has] seen diminishing returns over the past couple of years,” said Smith. “Now the things that people hold against him far outweigh the small and temporary rise in the polling that he can get from these kinds of crises.”

Image: Getty Images

Migration / Mexico

Home front

This weekend saw a few thousand Central American migrants break through a police blockade in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, where they had been held pending the processing of asylum claims. And while the numbers of these “caravans” attempting to cross Mexico and head north for the US border remain far lower than in 2018 and 2019, they do indicate that the problem has not gone away during the Biden administration; in fact, arrests of undocumented immigrants by US border patrol agents are at their highest level.

There is another shift: many migrants are actually heading to Mexico City, putting pressure on both the Mexican and US governments to do more for asylum seekers, many of whom have been held in Tapachula for the past year. In other words, this isn’t just a matter for Washington; Mexico and the US need to work better together to find a viable solution that suits all comers.

Image: Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Art / Germany

Gift tokens

Frankfurt’s Städel Museum has been gifted a lucrative trove of 90 modern artworks by the estate of Ulrike Crespo, a former patron and prominent German photographer. The bequest, which the museum has hailed as one of the most important donations in recent decades, includes paintings and works on paper by Wassily Kandinsky (pictured), Otto Dix, Max Ernst and Paul Klee. A selection of works from the collection will go on show next month as part of the museum’s forthcoming exhibition Tokens of Friendship. Germany’s oldest museum foundation, the Städel showcases 700 years of art, from the early Renaissance to the present day. The new additions will cement the museum’s reputation as an institution that is devoted to the best of European art – and work from the postwar period in particular.

Image: Ulrike Ottinger

Cinema / Portugal

Reality bites

Doclisboa, Portugal’s only competitive festival dedicated entirely to documentaries, opened last week and runs until the end of this month. Showing 250 non-fiction works from around the world, it features major retrospectives of works by German film-maker Ulrike Ottinger (pictured) and Italy’s Cecilia Mangin, as well as new work by Ukrainian director Eva Neymann. Here are three other highlights.

‘Short Journeys into the Night’: Brazilian director Thiago B Mendonça tells the story of six São Paulo musicians waiting for their big break, dividing their time between day jobs and nights playing music. The film examines what it’s like to be an artist at the margins.

‘Public Library’: In this homage to public libraries, director Clément Abbey follows a range of characters, from students and regulars to everyday passers-by, as they seek refuge at the Bibliothèque Publique d’Information in the heart of Paris.

‘The Story of Looking’: This documentary follows film-maker and critic Mark Cousins as he prepares for surgery to restore his vision, examining the role that the visual world plays in everyday life and culture. By reflecting on his experiences, Cousins reveals how, for better or worse, our sight makes us who we are.

Image: Getty Images

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Thomas Sankara and pan-Africanism

A landmark trial is taking place in Burkina Faso over the assassination, 34 years ago, of Thomas Sankara, the country’s then-president. Today, Sankara remains something of an icon for his interpretation of the philosophy of pan-Africanism. Who was Thomas Sankara? What did he stand for? And what does pan-Africanism mean today? Andrew Mueller speaks to Sam Mednick, Oumar Zombre and Reiland Rabaka.

Monocle Films / Global

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