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A letter to the Danish Minister for Culture

By Pernille Nederland, author & part of the theatre for young audiences community.

Dear Joy Mogensen

Why did prehistoric humans make cave paintings? We can only speculate. They painted hunters and they painted animals. Our suggestion is that they were painting a future full of hope. Hope for plenty of food for everyone.

Did the cave painters fulfil a function in their wider culture? For one thing, they bear witness to the kinds of things that occupied the people most of their time. Moreover, they may have been the ones who gave hope to the rest of the community. Perhaps they had a connection to the god of hunting, to whom they communicated specific information through the cave paintings.

Joy Mogensen – you are Minister for Cave Paintings and for Hope for the Future. You are Minister for The Art of Creating Identity. You are Minister for The Art of Dreaming the Impossible.

You have said that culture cannot be put into a spreadsheet. And yet you seem to struggle a bit with definitions.

The RETURN ON INVESTMENT in culture cannot be put into a spreadsheet. What is the cost of hope for the future? Probably many millions, if you ask me. But what does it cost TO CREATE hope for the future? It costs money. It costs funding for theatres, for education of artists. It costs printed song sheets for community singing. And much more.

Recently, you said that investment in society had to go before investment in culture. Allow me to take another look back at our prehistory. There is probably a good reason why we talk about not the Ertebølle Society, but the Ertebølle Culture. Because it was a culture. Danish society IS culture.

The money we spend on culture is an investment in children and young people who know where they have come from. Who can one day remind a wavering Minister for Culture that during the Corona crisis of 2020, we had a strong community culture. Money for culture is money spent on the creation of identity. It is an investment in public mental health. Why do we want to listen to the same stories over and over again, told by new directors, new producers, new grandparents? Because it makes sense to reinterpret them in the light of our current culture – because we, in every age, are people who need to reflect ourselves both in the light of eternity, in the glow of now, and in the future’s laser beam.

We need a Minister for Culture who is as strong as the Prime Minister, the Minister for Industry and Business, and all the other ministers. We need people who create narratives that become the ships on which we sail into the future. Sturdy shipwrights for our dreams. With workshop drawings as old as the cave paintings. And visions strong enough to sail us safely through the crisis and into the future.

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