German Goethe Medals Reward Artists Across Borders | Culture | Reports on the arts, music and lifestyle of Germany | DW

The Goethe Medals recognize outstanding service and achievement in the promotion of the German language and cultural exchange. Candidates for the Goethe Medal are nominated annually by the German Goethe-Cultural Institutes abroad, in close cooperation with German diplomatic representations. They are an official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The theme for this year’s awards is “Culture is a very special fluid – in the network of the global community”. Upon the announcement of this year’s winners, Christina von Braun, vice-president of the Goethe-Institut and chair of the Goethe Medal Commission, said in a statement that: [German poet Johann Wolfgang] Goethe, blood and ink were indistinguishable substances. The flow of these two “fluids” makes life and community possible. This year’s Goethe Medal winners are outstanding representatives of this imagery. Their art connects cultures, at home and abroad. It makes the connection between the sexes and connects the past and the future. “

Pandemic parameters

Emphasizing the challenges of the global pandemic, Carola Lentz, President of the Goethe-Institut, said: “In times of pandemic, international cultural exchanges face particular challenges. Digital communication offers new opportunities, but at the same time existing inequalities are widening. , for example with regard to access to cultural activities and education or gender equality. “

Further, she said, “The legacy of colonial power relations and restrictions on liberty in illiberal postcolonial regimes becomes even more palpable. This year’s laureates do not shy away from these challenges. With their cultural and civil society engagement in three very different countries, they courageously lead the way and defend their art for an open, democratic and egalitarian society – also across national borders. “

A range of achievements

Laureate 2021, Princess Douala Manga Bell is a Cameroonian social economist and president of the cultural organization Doual’art. In selecting her, the Goethe-Institut underlined that she “is firmly committed to the reassessment of German colonial history in Cameroon and to a constructive dialogue on the effects of colonialism up to the present day”. More precisely, “she sees the particular potential of the visual arts to initiate social change and strengthen freedom of expression, and thus advocates a broad encouragement of artistic activity”. This is reflected in the contemporary cultural center doual’art in the Cameroonian port city of Douala, which she co-founded.

Combines Traditional Japanese and Modern Western Instruments: Composer Toshio Hosokawa

Another laureate, composer Toshio Hosokawa, was born in Hiroshima in 1955 and came to Germany in 1976. He is considered one of Japan’s best-known living composers and an outstanding representative of German-Japanese cultural relations. His works include operas, orchestral and solo works, chamber and film music, and works for traditional Japanese instruments. Its musical language incorporates the symbolic Zen Buddhist interpretation of nature, as well as the tension between the Western avant-garde and traditional Japanese culture.

“With his compositions, Hosokawa opens up spaces and connects people around the world. The unique sound of his music transcends and transforms the concert hall into a global meeting place,” the jury wrote.

In the United States, in Germany and back to Beijing

The third 2021 laureate is Wen Hui, dancer, choreographer, documentary maker and installation artist, born in Yunnan, China in 1960. A pioneer of dance theater in China, she is co-founder of Living Dance Studio, the first independent dance of the country. theater Company. “Wen Hui represents the independent and highly creative arts scene in China, embodying cultural diversity and the wide range of everyday stories beyond official narratives,” the jury wrote. “She tells ‘her’ stories of China through her sensitive and closely observed dance plays, which pleasantly combine different media, documentary elements and poetic power.”

Wen Hui holding his arms standing in front of a brick wall.

Chinese dancer and choreographer Wen Hui studied at the famous Pina Bausch Theater in Wuppertal, Germany

She attended the choreography department of the Beijing Dance Academy in the 1980s, then was a choreographer in the Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble of China. In the 1990s, she studied modern dance in the United States and Europe, including at Folkwang University in Essen and with Pina Bausch’s world-renowned dance company in Wuppertal, Germany. She currently lives in Beijing.

Internationally renowned recipients

Since it was first awarded in 1955, a total of 348 people from 65 countries have been awarded the Goethe Medal. Among the winners were conductor Daniel Barenboim, British author John le Carré, Hungarian philosopher Agnes Heller, American theater director Robert Wilson, Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat, French director Ariane Mnouchkine and Japanese writer Yoko Tawada.

The ceremony celebrating the 2021 Goethe Medal winners (in cooperation with Deutsche Welle) will take place via digital stream on August 28, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s birthday. Germany’s most famous poet – and namesake of the Goethe Institutes abroad offering German language and culture courses – lived from 1749 to 1832.


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