French cartoonist Plantu and Portuguese philosopher Eduardo Lourenço win Helena Vaz Da Silva European Award 2016

The renowned French editorial cartoonist Jean Plantureux, known as Plantu, and the Portuguese philosopher Eduardo Lourenço are the two winners ex aequo of the Helena Vaz da Silva European Award for Raising Public Awareness on Cultural Heritage 2016. The Award pays tribute to the chief cartoonist of France’s daily newspaper Le Monde for his unique contribution to promoting European values, tolerance and peace through his powerful drawings. Eduardo Lourenço is recognised for his outstanding contribution to raising public awareness about Portugal’s cultural history in the European context. The presentation ceremony will take place in October at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon.

Plantu and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, holding the cartoon ‘Europe: Today everything is possible’, 18 November 2015, Brussels. Photo: Courtesy of Plantu

Plantu and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, holding the cartoon ‘Europe: Today everything is possible’, 18 November 2015, Brussels. Photo: Courtesy of Plantu

The Award, established in 2013 by Centro Nacional de Cultura in cooperation with the leading European heritage organisation Europa Nostra and Clube Português de Imprensa, acknowledges exceptional contributions by individuals to the protection and promotion of cultural heritage and European values. It has the support of the Portuguese Secretariat of State for Culture, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Turismo de Portugal.

Reacting to the news, Plantu stated: “I am very proud to receive the Helena Vaz da Silva European Award. At this time, when in Europe there are many who tend to close in on themselves, we need to revisit, relearn and explain everything again calmly, and drawing is a good medium for this, utilising humour and pedagogy, to address the issues shaking our fragile Europe. Intolerance, nationalism and racism are on the increase: cartoonists can help meet these challenges. About Helena Vaz da Silva, Edgar Morin said that she embodied a ‘stubborn intellectual resistance’. We can apply this formula to overcome the challenges that will allow the 28, forgive me, the 27 Member States of the European Union to rebuild resistance, tolerance and peace. ‘Living together’ is a lesson for the coming years.”

In his response to the award, Eduardo Lourenço affirmed:

“At a moment when our millennial Europe faces a serious crisis, I got the unexpected news that I won the Helena Vaz da Silva European Award. Helena was a fervent supporter of the cause of Europe. This Award is therefore a great consolation to me at this difficult time and a small light at the end of the tunnel of our European adventure.”

Using different languages and means, both winners have demonstrated over the last decades a deep commitment to shedding light on pressing European issues and promoting our shared values, culture and heritage.

Owner of a provocative and enlightened pen, Plantu (1951, Paris) has drawn the most important moments from the international scene on the pages of France’s leading daily newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique since 1972, creating more than 20,000 cartoons. Throughout his career, he has used the power of drawing to promote European values and ideals – a Europe of peace, unity and hope. Employing humor, irony or criticism, his cartoons have provided new perspectives on the crises that Europe has experienced in recent years, encouraging the debate on current issues – such as nationalism, terrorism or refugees – and defending the ‘unity in diversity’ that is at the heart of the European project.

In September 2005, when Danish cartoonists transgressed the Islamic prohibition of portraying the prophet Muhammad, sparking a chorus of protest from the Muslim community, Plantu advised: “Art transcends all taboos but we must be respectful within the disrespect.”

In October 2006, Plantu and Kofi Annan, then Secretary General of the United Nations and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2001, organised a conference on the theme ‘Unlearning Intolerance!’, which gathered 12 of the world’s greatest press cartoonists at the UN headquarters in New York.

In the same year, the Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace was established in Geneva, and in 2008 the French Association Cartooning for Peace was set up in Paris, both under the presidency of Plantu. Promoting understanding and mutual respect between people from different cultures and creeds, using cartoons as a universal language, and giving protection and legal assistance to cartoonists working in hostile environments are the main aims of the Cartooning for Peace initiative, which currently brings together 145 cartoonists.

Exhibitions, conferences and a broad educational and training project have been carried out in several countries with the participation of “soldiers of democracy” from all over the world. ‘Cartoonists – Foot Soldiers of Democracy’ is precisely the title of a documentary about 12 international editorial cartoonists, including Plantu, who share what they think, how they work and how they defend freedom of expression, made by French filmmaker Stéphanie Valloatto in 2014.

Plantu has been invited by the European Commission to participate in several debates about topics related to the European project. In December 2015, 28 cartoonists, each representing a Member State, took part in a series of events dedicated to ‘Cartooning for Human Rights’ held at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Speaking about this initiative, Plantu stated, in an interview to Euronews: “We have to tease European leaders. We have lots to say about the why, how and how much we love Europe despite it all”.

In addition to numerous conferences focusing on pressing European issues, Plantu recently organised an exhibition entitled ‘This is not Europe’. The exhibition, which was on display at the Mons Memorial Museum in Belgium from February to June 2016, is a constructive criticism of today’s Europe.

Among the many prestigious awards received by the President of the Cartooning for Peace Association are the Prix Henri La Fontaine 2014 for outstanding contribution to the promotion of minority rights, humanism, pacifism and tolerance in Europe and the world; and the European Citizen’s Initiative Prize, for action in favor of Europe, awarded by the European Press Club with the support of the European Parliament and the House of Europe in Paris.

Eduardo Lourenço (1923, Almeida) is a prominent Portuguese historian, philosopher, essayist, writer and professor, whose work has been published in dozens of languages and who has given lectures at universities in various European countries. Throughout his career, Lourenço has championed the role of culture in building bridges between countries and peoples. He has dedicated a great deal of attention to the path of Portuguese cultural history in relation to the rest of Europe and to the building of the European project. These are the central themes of two of his major books, entitled ‘We and Europe, or the Two Reasons’ (1988), awarded the Charles Veillon European Essay Prize, and ‘Europe Disenchanted – For a European Mythology (1994), as well as numerous other writings.

“Whereas in the past, we thought of Europe as having a certain coherence, which was simultaneously religious, social, political, etc., today this Europe does not exist except as an aspiration towards continual renewal, particularly in the cultural order. We are in a new cycle of renewal, as we have identified others in the past, but this time we live in a precocious age and we are already weary of this relative weakness. In any case, we may always seek to renew ourselves, as this is the continent of Plato, of St. Thomas Aquinas, of cathedrals and of Galileo,” wrote Eduardo Lourenço in a recent article entitled ‘Europe – A Continent of the Past?’.

A European jury comprised of eminent experts in the fields of culture, heritage and communication met on 22 June in Lisbon to consider the nominations. The jury consisted of eight members: from Belgium, Piet Jaspaert, Vice-president of Europa Nostra; from Portugal, Maria Calado, President of the Centro Nacional de Cultura, João David Nunes, Board Member of the Clube Português de Imprensa, Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins, Administrator of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and Francisco Pinto Balsemão, Chairman of the media group Impresa Publishing; from Spain, José-María Ballester, former Director of Cultural Heritage at the Council of Europe and Council Member of Europa Nostra; from Serbia, Irina Subotić, Vice-president of Europa Nostra; and from Norway, and Marianne Ytterdal, Board Member of Europa Nostra.

The European Award for Raising Public Awareness on Cultural Heritage is named after Helena Vaz da Silva (1939-2002), Portuguese journalist, writer, cultural activist and politician, in memory and recognition of her remarkable contribution to the promotion of cultural heritage and European ideals. It is presented annually to a European citizen whose career has been distinguished by activities that disseminate, defend and promote Europe’s cultural heritage, in particular through literary or musical works, news items, articles, chronicles, photographs, cartoons, documentary features, films, and radio and/or television programmes. The previous laureates of this award are the Italian writer Claudio Magris (2013), the Turkish writer and Nobel Prize laureate Orhan Pamuk (2014) and Maestro Jordi Savall, musician and conductor from Catalonia, Spain (2015).

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