THERE is a rich seam of humour to be mined in bad parenting, especially bad mothering: witness the brilliant BBC TV series Motherland. This is the topic that preoccupies the comedy duo Scummy Mummies, whose subversive take on the cliché “yummy mummy” finds them celebrating those rare occasions when their child wears matching socks.
Dear Daughter (World Service, Saturday) gave the duo — Helen Thorn and Ellie Gibson — a chance to redeem themselves. The format of the show, presented by Namulanta Kombo, is that guests write letters of advice to their daughters on such essential social skills as making friends. It is an attractive concept, not least because, while purporting to be all about the child, the missives provide the perfect excuse for self-reflection. On this occasion, our writers did manage to demonstrate a touching level of responsibility and maturity, although one cannot imagine a child actually ever listening to this advice — except, perhaps, the line about not perming your hair.
Who would be a museum curator at the moment? If you’re not trying to hold on to sponsorship from compromised sources, you’re trying to hold on to collections of controversial provenance. In HardTalk (World Service, Wednesday of last week), Stephen Sackur spoke to Dr Hartmut Dorgerloh, the director of Germany’s most esteemed museum of international artefacts, the Humboldt Forum.
It was not clear whether Dr Dorgerloh was aware, at the time of the interview, of the news coming out of Nigeria suggesting that the Benin Bronzes, recently repatriated from Germany, were not being kept under government control; but, in any case, on the basis of this impressive interview, one would not expect anything other than exquisitely diplomatic language to escape Dr Dorgerloh’s lips.
The challenges for the Humboldt and the British Museum are the same and different: to defend their existence against claims of colonial looting, racism, and cultural imperialism; and the latter has, so far, proved more tenacious in defending itself. On the other hand, it is clear that Dr Dorgerloh and his colleagues have no appetite for supporting new institutions of their type in places such as Abu Dhabi and Singapore. The museum might be a culturally insensitive anachronism, but it is the West’s culturally insensitive anachronism.
And, finally, a third offering from the BBC World Service: the latest edition of the network’s excellent Heart and Soul strand (last Friday), which profiled the support that is provided to political activists from Hong Kong by the Chè-lâm Presbyterian Church in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. The Taiwanese know something about the cost of political dissent; and, since July 2019, they have received protesters from across the water.
The sense of inevitability surounding China’s creeping repression makes this a dispiriting business. As one protester admits, in defence of the protesters’ provocative tactics: it was going to happen sooner or later, so why not now?