WHERE now for culture? My culture. OK, yours too – following on from the Sunday National article “McCarthyism 2.0”, the definition of “culture” is contentious to say the least. I mean, tell a dedicated Scottish football fan that her love of the game, following her team, buying the kit, isn’t part of her “culture” and you’ll probably have a rammy on your hands. So take your pick from all or some of “values, beliefs, norms, symbols, language and rituals”.

And then we in our groups, communities, countries pick ‘n’ choose and identify, even claim, certain components as “our” culture. That “culture” then becomes part of the structures within which we live and operate. Move away and you might lose some aspects of your “culture”. But if a society is open and willing, there’s acknowledgement that folks can arrive somewhere, settle, adapt, merge into and enhance their new environment with its specific “cultural norms” whilst retaining and sharing the cultural heritage they bring with them.

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Culture needs both defending and sustaining if it is to survive, thrive and develop. I mean there were differing forms of response and levels of anger when Scotland’s current victories in curling were ignored by the state broadcaster. It was almost “not again”, snub after snub, after denigration and devaluing of our culture and identity. Move on and we openly see funding weaponised by the government agin artists that don’t dance to their acceptable tune. And that power nurtures fear when you’re dependent on funding streams.

Artist-curator Georgina Porteous had art work from Palestinian, Israeli, and UK artists due to be displayed in an exhibition, The Opening Of The Fragile Pot, at the Moray School of Art gallery in Elgin. With just a week’s notice the event was cancelled by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), with the reasoning from a spokesperson that hosting the exhibition could be seen as “endorsing” a particular viewpoint about the Hamas-Israel war without any balance.

Yes, the UHI is a registered charity, with all the potential constrictions that impact all charities when filling out grant applications. Paying the piper and all that. So where is the impartiality in funding the arts, and if there is a lack of impartiality being replaced with government control and diktat, what to do? The actor Lupita Nyong’o, unforgettable in 10 Years a Slave, hit the mark when she said that “what colonialism does is cause an identity crisis about one’s own culture”.

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British India (that was the name pre-independence) in the 1920s onwards saw the introduction of more draconian legislation that effectively censored the burgeoning new mass media art form, Bollywood. The British knew the danger hitting the screens in cities, towns and villages. The language of the masses, tales and characters openly recreating past glories and heroes reminding everyone of their history and culture. Or worse, fiction of its time that showed the weak, poor, downtrodden suffering under a ruling class, often undefined “foreign”, finding a 90-minute hero who looked like them, spoke like them, worked with them so that change was possible.

Maybe it’s time then for agitprop, songs, literature, whatever’s your culture, mine, ours, to open up, to create an atmosphere of talking, seeing, hearing independence. Let’s not leave it to the entrenched politicians, doom and gloom. Let’s make that cultural space a normal, everyday expression of the future state of independence. I wept over Sunday’s Long Letter from Hafid Boutaleb about the future for Palestine ten years hence.

Lesley Riddoch closes Thrive: The Freedom to Flourish with a view from the Forth Bridge ten years after indy. It’s time.

Selma Rahman