Sixtieth Anniversary of the Goethe-Institut
Telling It Like It Is

Klaus-Dieter Lehmann talks to artist Ünsal İçöz.
Klaus-Dieter Lehmann talks to artist Ünsal İçöz. | Photo: Mert Öner

German-Turkish relations are currently under stress. In his speech for the 60th anniversary of the Goethe-Institut in Ankara, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, the president of the Goethe-Institut, stressed that it is all the more important to maintain the dialogue and stand up as a guarantor of freedom of expression. “There could be better times for a jubilee celebration, but certainly no more necessary time than now,” he said.

Opened in 1957, the Goethe-Institut Ankara is one of the oldest worldwide. Thanks to intense cultural and educational policy collaboration it is a fixture in the artistic and cultural scene. In the face of current circumstances, however, the working conditions there have deteriorated: scholarship recipients are being recalled to Turkey and because of the security situation and political repression, ever fewer scientists and artists are travelling to Turkey.

A dancer at the opening. A dancer at the opening. | Photo: Mert Öner

Dispelling clichés and creating trust

Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, president of the Goethe-Institut, went on to remark that it is in such times in particular that it is important to dispel clichés and create trust. “The changeable history in Turkey and Germany has repeatedly shown how important an open and discursive debate is for the development of a society. Art, culture and science are neither the playing field for intellectuals and artists, nor the propaganda instrument of the state; they are an essential component of society itself.” Lehmann referred to many examples of successful cooperation such as SinemaDans Ankara, with which the Goethe-Institut in Ankara created Turkey's largest dance film platform, or the many years of support for German-Turkish theatrical productions between the Ankara State Theatre and the Theater an der Ruhr. To convey the German language and literature, numerous touring exhibitions have been organized in and around Ankara with a cultural fringe programme such as the successful book exhibition series Books Overcome Borders for children and teens.

The opening-act of the festivities. The opening-act of the festivities. | Photo: Mert Öner

Keeping pace with the times

These examples show the range and proximity to central social issues, said Lehmann. The Goethe-Institut in Ankara keeps pace with the times. “We intend to celebrate further anniversaries in Ankara and continue to tell it like it is.”