New Zealand Arts Council calls Shakespeare ‘imperialist’

Shakespeare and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Shakespeare’s relevance has been questioned in New Zealand – but the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern thinks children should still study the bard (Images: Getty Images/PA)

Shakespeare has been canceled by the New Zealand Arts Council – because of alleged imperialism.

It turned down an application for £14,800 annual funding for the Shakespeare In Schools programme, which has brought the bard’s work closer to 4,600 pupils a year at festivals across the country for 30 years.

A reviewer for Creative New Zealand questioned “the continued relevance of Shakespeare” and whether “a unique focus on an Elizabethan playwright is most relevant to the decolonization of Aotearoa (the Indigenous name for New Zealand) in the 2020s and beyond”.

They added that the world-renowned 16th-century British playwright and poet relied on a genre “set in a canon of imperialism.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – who attended Shakespeare In Schools as a teenager – said she could not overrule the independent body.

But she added: “I thought it was a great program. And that’s why I’d like to continue to see other kids have those opportunities.

The organization’s chief executive, Dawn Sanders, said she was “stunned and disgusted” by the decision.

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Justin Scacco

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