Josine Backus
Advisor - Focal Countries | Brazil
j.backus [at] dutchculture.nl

Minke van Schaik, DutchCulture
Minke van Schaik
Advisor - Focal Countries
m.vanschaik [at] dutchculture.nl

Cultural cooperation India-Netherlands 2021-2024

Cultural cooperation India-Netherlands 2021-2024

For Dutch artists and cultural organisations, working with India can be hugely rewarding and enriching, but for projects or activities there has to be a clear interest or demand from the Indian partner and/or audience. Productive partnerships are developed in dialogue. Projects or activities connected to cultural trends in India, connecting cultures (for example with an exhibition of both Indian and Dutch artists), or linked to sustainability (e.g. with a demand for Dutch expertise) are particularly eligible to receive Dutch support.


India is a country of festivals, not least as a result of all its cultural and religious traditions. There are festivals big and small, in every region, in every imaginable cultural field, ranging from films and music to literature and fashion. These festivals are usually well attended and establish a direct link with the Indian audience. During the current COVID-pandemic, many festivals are taking place online, which lowers the threshold for participation by artists based in the Netherlands. There is much interest among Indian festival organisers to invite Dutch participants. Dutch artists aspiring to become active in India are advised to consider participating in suitable Indian festivals, which provides a good entry into the Indian market.


  • Fashion and textile design: India is not only one of the largest textile manufacturers in the world, but also leads the way in making a green transition in fashion industry. Fashion designers can obtain creative inspiration in India, both from its traditional fashion industry and its green fashion transition. Also for other design disciplines, it is worthwhile visiting or monitoring the various yearly design festivals in Pune, Hyderabad and New Delhi, among others, and/or to connect with the Confederation of Indian Industry for cooperation.
  • Handicraft and furniture design: as the second-largest employer after agriculture, craftsmanship is a large industry in India, based on a strong craft tradition. The Indian crafts industry is unique for preserving craft traditions which in Europe are no longer used or have been forgotten. It therefore offers much potential for cooperation and can moreover be linked with local community development. For example, in West Bengal, UNESCO supports Development of Rural Craft and Cultural Hubs as part of its Intangible Heritage Programme.
  • Urban planning and landscape design: India is home to the largest agglomerations in the world: New Delhi alone has more inhabitants than the whole of the Netherlands. This rapid urbanisation presents unique challenges, and Dutch designers and architects can play an important role in meeting those challenges. There is much interest in the expertise of Dutch architects, urban planners and designers, spatial planners, landscape architects etc. in the development of cities all over India to make them liveable. A link can be made with UNESCO’s Creative Cities-programme in India, with cities focusing on a particular creative sector as a source of sustainable urban development.

Performing arts

European music and dance performances may find an enthusiastic reception in India, especially if it includes an element of collaboration with Indian performers. Performing at one of the many festivals held in India often means exposure to large audiences. Some Dutch DJs are now especially popular among young urban professionals in India, where they perform in the club scene in Bengaluru and other cosmopolitan cities. Codarts in Rotterdam is one of the few conservatories in Europe offering a full-fledged academic programme in Indian music.

Heritage cooperation

  • Museum cooperation: Dutch museums are world leaders in innovative museum concepts and exhibition design, and have much expertise to share with Indian museums. Moreover, some Dutch museums have unique collections of Indian art, and are interested in joint research with Indian museums and art historians on the background, provenance and context of the artefacts in their collections. There is also interest in joint exhibitions on shared themes, such as mutual influences through art or migration, in view of the large community of Indian descent in the Netherlands. In 2019, an exhibition was held at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum in Mumbai, in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, showing how art from Mughal India inspired Rembrandt and other painters of that time.
  • Dutch-Indian cultural heritage: India has numerous monuments all over the country dating from many different eras, which strengthen a sense of identity and community. As a result of the activities of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the 17th-18th century, there is a substantial amount of Dutch historical heritage all over India as well, in the form of forts, palaces, trading houses, churches, cemeteries and archives. Most of them are in Kerala. There is considerable interest from the Indian side to preserve and make these monuments accessible to Indians today in order to connect with their past.

In previous years, various cooperation projects have taken place. Dutch historical heritage is less controversial in India than in some other countries since the Dutch mostly engaged in trade rather than in territorial conquest. The Dutch approach is that monuments should be preserved as an integral part of local community development. Experts from the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) and other institutions can provide assistance and expertise in developing strategies using a community-based approach.

  • Intangible cultural heritage: the Netherlands wishes to cooperate not only regarding tangible but also intangible cultural heritage, which is of great social importance for both the Netherlands and India. As of 2020, India has 13 items on the UNESCO Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage, ranging from traditional folk songs, dance, performances and theatre to yoga. The Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage (KIEN) develops and exchanges knowledge about safeguarding intangible cultural heritage and passing it on to new generations.

Other potential cooperation fields

  • Cinematography: India is not only a large market for foreign films, it is also a world-leading producer of films whose films reach a global audience and are a source of considerable soft power for India. Various international film festivals are held, including in Goa, Mumbai and Kolkata. The Netherlands regularly participates in the European Film Festival. Additionally in 2020, the Netherlands held its own online Dutch film festival which was well received. Dutch films and documentaries have also been shown on special occasions, such as International Human Rights Day. More interaction with Indian audiences, e.g. through online debates with directors and filmmakers and partnerships between Indian and Dutch documentary filmmakers to address societal issues will be promoted.
  • Literature: There is a strong interest in world literature in India, and various literary festivals are held annually in India. The Jaipur Literary Festival is the largest literature festival in the world. The 2021 edition was held online and reached a significant audience of up to 1 million visitors. Dutch authors, apart from Anne Frank, are not yet very well known in India, but authors and poets who touch on issues of relevance to India, such as women’s rights, gender identities, struggle between tradition and modernity, or the relationship with nature may find a receptive audience in India.

Main cooperation partners (not exhaustive):

  • In India: museums, festivals
  • In the Netherlands: Netherlands Film Fund, Creative Industries Fund NL, Performing Arts Fund, EYE, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, National Archives, Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage, DutchCulture

Information & advice