By J C Suresh

NEW YORK (IDN) - The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization has welcomed the commutation of the prison sentence of Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López Rivera, the world's longest-serving political prisoner confined in a U.S. federal penitentiary since 1981.

Puerto Rico – Spanish for 'Rich Port' – is an "unincorporated territory" of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, with a population of about 3.4 million and San Juan as most populous city.

Rich history, tropical climate, diverse natural scenery, renowned traditional cuisine, and attractive tax incentives make the main island of Puerto Rico – and a number of smaller ones such as Mona, Culebra, and Vieques – a popular destination for travellers from around the world.

- Photo: 2021

Corona May Shutter South Africa’s Beloved Heritage Museums

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — Popular exhibits at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and other legacy museums are barely surviving and may close over funding shortfalls due to COVID-19.

A pair of boxing gloves worn by Nelson Mandela at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, one of the most popular exhibits, is now covered with dust in a darkened room, according to Mfuneko Toyana, writing for Reuters.

“We had to let go of all of the staff. About 30 people. There’s no one here to turn the lights on and off,” the museum’s director, Christopher Till, said.

By March 2020, most cultural institutions across the world were indefinitely closed (or at least with their services radically curtailed), and in-person exhibitions, events, and performances were cancelled or postponed.

Among these were all museums in Morocco as of March 15 until further notice and cancellation of Mawazine—the world’s second-largest music festival—scheduled for mid-June.

In response, there were intensive efforts to provide alternative or additional services through digital platforms, to maintain essential activities with minimal resources, and to document the events themselves through new acquisitions, including new creative works inspired by the pandemic.

Hundreds of artworks and artefacts illustrating the history of the long struggle against white minority rule could become inaccessible to the public but “we can’t afford to lose this place,” Till said.

Over 1,000 visitors viewed the historic exhibits before the pandemic. Like other cultural institutions, it had to close its doors in March 2020 when South Africa imposed its first COVID-19 lockdown.

The museum reopened in January 2021, Toyana reported, but having sold no tickets for 10 months and with visitor numbers very low due to the ongoing outbreak, it was too cash-strapped to operate and shut down again in March.

The Fugard Theatre is also permanently closed as a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Cape Town. “We are not persuaded that the theatre will be Covid safe or financially viable to reopen as a theatre in the foreseeable future,” wrote theatre founder Eric Abraham.

“The theatre will be handed back to the owner of the freehold of the building as a working theatre and we hope they will be able to use it for the benefit of the Museum and the community.”

Other institutions facing permanent shutdown are the Johannesburg Art Gallery and Mandela’s house in the township of Soweto. [IDN-InDepthNews – 11 May 2021]

Photo: Nelson Mandela’s former house, now Mandela Family Museum, Soweto, Johannesburg. CC BY-SA 3.0

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