Bolat Atabayev: Kazakh Theatre Director Freed
Director Atabayev: Free again after two weeks detainment (Photo: Barbara Fraenkel-Thonet/Goethe-Institut)
4 July 2012
Bolat Atabayev is free. Over the past weeks, many cultural professionals and politicians in Germany called for his release. The Goethe-Institut protested the arrest of the Kazakh theatre director, who will be awarded the Goethe Medal in August, with particular forcefulness.
“We are very relieved that Bolat Atabayev is free. We are also grateful for the great deal of concern and support that he received over recent weeks from the arts and politics,” said Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, President of the Goethe-Institut, of the release.
In addition to Klaus-Dieter Lehmann and the executive committee, the general meeting of the Goethe-Institut also emphatically called for the immediate release of Atabayev. The theatre figure was placed under detention on 15 June for “incitement of social enmity.” In late 2011 he publicly took sides with the striking petroleum workers in the town of Zhanaozen.
Many voices were raised in the arts sector and politics over the past two weeks demanding the release of Bolat Atabayev including that of Roberto Ciulli, the artistic director of the Theater an der Ruhr in Mülheim. The two directors have been friends for many years. Ciulli and film director Volker Schlöndorff wrote an open letter to the responsible judges. The young dramaturge and theatre director Volker Schmidt caused a sensation in Berlin with a performance in front of the Kazakh Embassy.
Director Bolat Atabayev has close ties to the Goethe-Institut. On 28 August he will be awarded a Goethe Medal in Weimar for his merits promoting Kazakh-German cultural dialogue. With his unconventional theatrical work and his uninhibited style, he demonstrates the courage to create something new, according to the statement by the conferment commission.
With him and the other two awardees of the Goethe Medal this year – Irena Veisaitė from Lithuania and Dževad Karahasan from Bosnia and Herzegovina – the Goethe-Institut is honouring public figures who In their cultural work advocate an open coming to terms with national trauma and also broach issues of current social difficulties.
Bolat Atabayev, 60, studied German in Leipzig and taught German phonetics at the University of World Languages in Almaty. As the artistic director of the German Theatre in Almaty he brought German plays and directors to Kazakhstan thus fulfilling an important function as a bridge for German-Kazakh theatre relations. A few years ago, Atabayev founded his own theatre, Aksarai, which enriches the theatrical landscape of central Asia with new artistic means of expression.