Architecture... Jirí Seifert... and Burma

Ten Centuries of Architecture

Prague Castle is one of the Czech Republic's finest and most popular tourist attraction, and it is here that one of the country's biggest exhibitions was opened to the public on Friday. It's called "Ten Centuries of Architecture" and allows visitors to stroll through six unique exhibition areas housed in the Castle's rooms. Prague Castle itself has lived through many of the styles covered in the exhibition, and bears traces of each of them. The exhibition's chief curator, Miroslav Repka, says nowhere in Prague would there be a better venue for the project than Prague Castle:

Eglise en Blatna (1414-1444)Eglise en Blatna (1414-1444) "We're in a place that gives us the chance of displaying all the exhibits in an authentic environment - from the Romanesque period up to the 20th century - so we can show architecture within architecture if you like. I think this is definitely something that other countries can envy us for."

The last ten centuries have seen six main architectural styles - Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, 19th century and 20th century - hence the six exhibition areas. Each space displays paintings, photographs and models of period architecture in the Czech lands, most of which can still be found in the Czech Republic today. But, although it centers around architecture, the exhibition has much more to offer - as its goal is to have visitors not only see but also feel the period. Miroslav Repka:

"The exhibition was designed to make the visitor feel he was experiencing something new, seeing the exhibits in an environment he'd never encountered before. In the Romanesque and Gothic areas, for example, we focused on the lighting, so that the visitor sees all the fragments - headless warriors, beautiful frescoes - differently - in a reconstruction of their original setting".

Although the majority of rooms in Prague castle did not need much re-construction to make them look and feel authentic, the 19th century area, located in the Imperial Stables, was an exception. It was transformed into a huge greenhouse - characteristic of the period's architecture. Out of all the six areas, it's probably the most lively, with a fountain and even a parrot. However it in no way overshadows the other five areas, each of which boast their own uniqueness. Visitors to the exhibition can also enjoy six documentaries, and some music, representative of the period:

"A number of exhibits will also be accompanied by music. In the Romanesque and Gothic areas, we have some beautiful Gregorian pieces. We haven't forgotten about music for the Renaissance area, and some Strauss will add to the atmosphere of the 19th century. We said from the very start that this exhibition would be different, not boring, and something that everyone would be looking forward to."

... "Ten Centuries of Architecture" will be open until October 31st, this year. As it's truly a massive exhibition, visitors can purchase one ticket and have two months to view all of the six areas.

Jirí Seifert exhibition

Thanks to Bill Bathurst's "Readings from Czech Literature" many of you have heard of the Czech writer Jaroslav Seifert... but do you know who Jiri Seifert was? Well, The Dum U Cerne Matky Bozi or the House of the Black Madonna is currently exhibiting his work. Radio Prague was at the opening and spoke to Richard Drewery, one of the co-curators of the exhibition, who told us a little about Jiri Seifert, a man who is mainly known for his sculpture and furniture:

"Seifert belongs to a generation that grew up in the cultural thaw of the 1950's, enjoyed the cultural flourish in the 1960's and then when the curtain came down again in the 1970's, he was left literally in his own back garden with nowhere to show his work and no outward direction to his career. When he was able to travel to international symposia it made an impact on his work in simple sculptures, with simple forms in which you can sense the human presence. I think he really sums up not only the fate of his generation in this country but has a lot to say in very broad, universal terms".

Before this exhibition, the museum had displayed Jiri Seifert's work only as a part of group shows or in shows with a broader theme. We asked Mr. Drewery why it had taken so long to open an exhibition, which exhibits Jiri Seifert's work as the main attraction:

"It really has a lot to do with the actual difficulty of the material itself.Because he was a sculptor who worked with traditional materials such as wood, in the 1970's, with sandstone in the 1960's and then from the 1970's onwards, in marble, alabaster, and other such sort of hard and heavy stones. To put a show together like this, after the death of a sculptor is very difficult because works needed to be restored, we needed to plan the maximum impact with relative minimum of effort."

...and if you live in Prague or will be visiting the city some time soon, you can visit the exhibition at the Dum U Cerne Matky Bozi until May 13th this year.

Exhibition of photographs: "Burma - From Suffering to Hope"

"In my view, democracy is not a peaceful thing, it is a turbulent thing. It's not calm, many voices are heard and many of them conflict and that's one definition of freedom. Where only one voice can be heard and all others are silent then there is no freedom. So it's in the nature of a free society that people will strongly disagree and will express opinions which other people strongly take exception to sometimes. And that has to be alright because if that is not alright then you are not living in a free society, in that case".

Salman Rushdie, talking to journalists during the 11th Prague Writer's Festival, about the value of the freedom of speech. One nation which doesn't enjoy that privilege are the people of Burma, now known as Myanamar. The country is now ruled by a military regime, which punishes any form of opposition with jail sentences, torture, and sometimes even death. As part of the One World Festival, Amnesty International has started a campaign which is to highlight the plight of the Burmese people. A photo exhibition called "Burma - from suffering to hope" is currently on show at Prague Castle until April 16th. Bo Kyi, a former prisoner and the secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners of Burma, was at the exhibition's opening ceremony:

"Today is a day when the people of the Czech Republic show the remembrance of Min Ko Naing and his children and the people in Burma. Even if we are in prison, we always listen what is happening to the war because it is very important for our life. Min Ko Naing, our student hero, when he met with his family at the time, he told his family - don't bring food but information".

Mr Bo Kyi was a student activist and was sentenced to seven years in prison. At the One World Festival, He was presented with the International Humanitarian Award - the Homo Homini Award. Mr. Kyi accepted the award on behalf of the Chairman of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, Min Ko Naing. Mr. Min Ko Naing is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence in Burma for speaking out against the suppression of human rights. The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, who was proud to be the host of the exhibition, noted that for the sake of human rights, it was imperative, not to turn a blind eye to the plight of the Burmese:

"The countries in today's world are connected, and therefore responsibility cannot be divided. We have to be interested in events around the world and we need to try and do everything we can to improve the conditions of those around us in order to uphold human rights and human dignity. That is why I've always been interested in Burma. The country's situation is not very well known and not very well documented. I'm therefore very happy that this exhibition about the situation in Burma is being held here at Prague Castle".