The Colombian theatre-makers Heidi and Rolf Abderhalden from the Mapa Teatro collective, the Swiss-Brazilian documentary photographer and human rights activist Claudia Andujar and the Hungarian composer and conductor Peter Eötvös were awarded the Goethe Medal on 28 August. Every year the Goethe-Institut confers the official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany to persons who have made a special contribution to international cultural dialogue. The president of the Goethe-Institut, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, lauded the four awardees for their special dedication to making a new start after “catastrophe.” The conferment of the Goethe Medals at the Residenzschloss in Weimar was attended by Michelle Müntefering, the Minister of State for International Cultural Policy, Benjamin-Immanuel Hoff, the Thuringian Minister for Culture, Federal and European Affairs and Head of the State Chancellery, and the Mayor of the City of Weimar, Peter Kleine.

The Awardees 2018 f.l.t.r.: Rolf Abderhalden (Mapa Teatro), Claudia Andujar, Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, Heidi Abderhalden (Mapa Teatro), Ann-yi Bingöl (daughter of Péter Eötvös) | © Maik Schuck In his opening speech, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann emphasised the ideas, the work and the artistic talents of the awardees, who have always been resolutely committed to emancipatory movements and positions and rebelled against repression and social injustice. He noted, “All four awardees see artistic expressiveness as an essential element of human coexistence and participation. Without cultural understanding, without dialogue, our world becomes ever less understandable. It needs people who are actively committed to cultural mediation, who also have the ability to deal with cultural differences, whether in South America, Africa, or Europe.” The first Vice President of the Goethe-Institut and Chair of the Goethe Medal Conferment Commission Christina von Braun underscored, “Our three awardees proved courage in situations of civil war and displacement while also demonstrating that culture and language can have an effect against violence.”
Playwright Deniz Utlu highlighted the courage of the siblings Heidi and Rolf Abderhalden to repeatedly take a strong position, saying, “In the face of irresolvable contradictions, Heidi and Rolf Abderhalden not only repeatedly dared to conduct the experiment with their collective, but made it an essential part of their work. This excluded any clear answers. But they didn’t use that as an excuse to not take a position. On the contrary, the questions they ask are always the search for a position in the face of irresolvable contradictions. For their work, which originates from a cosmopolitan spirit and in which the transcendence of boundaries becomes method, for the precision of their local view, which also shakes our centrism here on the other side of the Atlantic, they are being honoured today with the Goethe Medal.”
Anthropologist Stephen Corry praised the work of the artist and activist Claudia Andujar, stating, “For 50 years she has photographed an Amazon tribe, the Yanomami […].The Yanomami were already famous. Claudia shows a people preoccupied by their place in the world, who accept full responsibility for the physical and spiritual health of their wider surroundings, both the visible and what is unseen. No Amazon tribe has been portrayed with deeper understanding.” He continued, “Claudia’s work, seen by millions, remains a unique legacy for all humanity.” Claudia Andujar announced in her acceptance speech that she intended to share the medal with the speaker of the Yanomami, Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, who was also in attendance at the ceremony.
In his laudatory speech for Péter Eötvös, the writer and playwright Albert Ostermaier spoke about the composer’s ability to make the invisible visible with his music, saying, “Atlantis, as one of his early opuses is called, this Atlantis: it could also be submerged below-stage, or his piece Levitation right here below the shuddering floorboards. Every place is a place of the ears. With him the eyes learn to hear, the ears to see. And much more: He reveals the mechanics of the invisible. He is a linguistic acrobat: His music speaks all languages and every piece speaks a new one. He is a voice acrobat: he learns the languages by listening to the voices, but his voices do not create a Babel, but multiply, overlay, contradict, somersault, merge into a single, universal language that everyone understands and makes everything that we think we do not understand comprehensible in the hearing. His music frees us.”

Mapa Teatro

The Colombian theatrical collective Mapa Teatro around the Swiss-Colombian siblings Heidi and Rolf Abderhalden has been unique in its form since its founding in 1984. The “experimental laboratory” includes visual and music and video performing artists, who can be seen in its innovative plays at theatre festivals worldwide. In its social documentary projects, the collective devotes itself to regional as well as global issues and, using radical and multimedia means, investigates the interweaving of politics, society, festive culture, violence and revolution in Colombian society. Thus, Mapa Teatro makes an important contribution not only to contemporary Colombian theatre, but also to the country’s reconciliation processes. Since the collective’s foundation, their plays have always reflected the situation of Colombia and the continent. In Testigo de las Ruinas (2005) they deal with the evacuation and dissolution of a neighbourhood. In Los Incontados (2014), they look at different parties to the civil war and their use of violence. Even their venues – above all the republican building that houses the collective and which was saved from certain decay by their moving into it in the 1980s – testify to this. From the point of view of the collective, over 50 years of armed conflict in the country and the resulting violence, displacement and unresolved questions of guilt require constant exploration. Mapa Teatro does this with bold and new formats.

Claudia Andujar

Claudia Andujar is one of the most significant representatives of artistic documentary photography in South America. After fleeing National Socialism, she decided to pursue a career as a photojournalist with which she joined the fight against dictatorship and violence in her new homeland. Since the 1970s she has produced more than 60,000 photographs in her efforts to protect the Yanomami, Brazil’s largest indigenous population. Her impressive series of images are both artistic and political, creating a panorama of Brazil that moves between the city and nature. Her encounter with the Yanomami, whose existence is threatened by the destruction of their living space driven by economic interests, has had the greatest impact on her life and her artistic work. In 1971 she travelled to the Brazilian Amazon for the first time as part of a photography commission for Realidade magazine and was fascinated by the Yanomami way of life. She increasingly turned away from photojournalism to devote herself to her life’s project: protecting the Yanomami. From 1971 to 1978 she lived with them in the Amazon until the military government drove her out. Then, with the missionary Carlo Zacquini, anthropologist Bruce Albert and other activists, she founded the Comissão Pró-Yanomami, an NGO campaigning for the establishment of a park to protect the Yanomami and their natural environment. Not least through this commitment, this habitat in the Amazon region was declared a protected area in 1992. The photographer also captured the community life of the Yanomami in her most important 1980s series, Marcados (The Marked). The black-and-white portraits of the Yanomami were produced as part of a vaccination campaign aimed at improving their health. At 87, Andujar is still an important voice in South America as an artist and activist – not least because the circumstances in Brazil give her no peace of mind.

Péter Eötvös

For the Hungarian composer, conductor and professor Peter Eötvös, music is intense communication between composer, performer and audience. Born in Transylvania in 1944 – a place of longing that would shape his compositions – he sought early contact with contemporary European music cultures. In the 1960s, he forged connections with the Cologne musical avant-garde and in 1978, at the invitation of Pierre Boulez, conducted the opening concert of the Institute de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique in Paris. Peter Eötvös is one of the most successful opera composers of our time – his extraordinary sound compositions incessantly pose existential questions for which the composer invents musically powerful, often overwhelming responses. With the International Peter Eötvös Institute for young conductors and composers, founded in 1991, he created a platform to pass on knowledge and lived experience to the next generation. From 1992, Peter Eötvös taught at the University of Music in Karlsruhe, took on a professorship at the Cologne Musikhochschule in 1998, to return to Karlsruhe in 2002 for another five years. Since the 1990s, Peter Eötvös has increasingly devoted himself to the composition of concert works and operas. He achieved his breakthrough in 1998 with the opera Trois soeurs, after Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, which premiered at the Opéra de Lyon as a sensational success. From then on, he has divided his time between conducting and composing, devoting himself to political topics such as in the musical Golden Dragon, commissioned by the Ensemble Modern, which deals with globalisation and migration policies and premiered in 2014 at the Oper Frankfurt.

About the Goethe Medal

The Goethe Medal was established by the Executive Committee of the Goethe-Institut in 1954 and acknowledged as an official decoration by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1975. The Goethe Medal is conferred on 28 August, the birthday of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Since it was first awarded in 1955, a total of 348 people from 65 countries have been honoured. The awardees have included Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Bourdieu, David Cornwell AKA John le Carré, Sir Ernst Gombrich, Lars Gustafsson, Ágnes Heller, Petros Markaris, Sir Karl Raimund Popper, Jorge Semprún, Robert Wilson, Neil MacGregor, Helen Wolff, Yurii Andrukhovych and Irina Shcherbakova.
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You can also find extensive information about the Goethe Medal as well as a list of all previous awardees at:
The awarding of the 2018 Goethe Medals is organised in close partnership with the Klassik Stiftung Weimar and the City of Weimar. The conversation with Claudia Andujar was held in cooperation with Kunstfest Weimar with kind support from the City of Weimar. The conversation with the siblings Heidi and Rolf Abderhalden was held in close cooperation with Kunstfest Weimar with support from the Klassik Stiftung Weimar.