Goethe Medal honors artists who've made radical new starts

The motto of the 2018 Goethe Medal, awarded on Tuesday, is “Life after Catastrophe.”

Swiss-Brazilian photographer and human rights activist Claudia Andujar, siblings Rolf and Heidi Abderhalden – the founders and directors of Colombian theater collective Mapa Teatro – and Hungarian composer, conductor and teacher Peter Eötvös are the recipients of this year’s official accolade handed out by the Goethe-Institut.

The four individuals “exemplify a healing approach to breaches and life-threatening turning points in personal and societal life,” said the Goethe-Institut in a statement. “They all fought to make new starts after ‘catastrophes’ — whether after a war, political collapse or environmental destruction.”

Advocate for the indigenous Yanomami in the Amazon

Photographer and human rights activist Claudia Andujar

Claudia Andujar became world famous for her black-and-white photos of the Yanomami people in northern Brazil.

Her work was used in campaigns in support of the indigenous people, which led to the establishment of a protected area, the Yanomami Indigenous Territory, in 1992.

Andujar was born Claudine Haas in Neuchatel, Switzerland, in 1931. Her Hungarian Jewish father was killed during the Holocaust.

She moved to Brazil in the 1950s, where she started her career in photojournalism. After the military coup in 1964, she worked as a photographer for dissident publications. In the late 1970s, her work was censored by the military; during that period, she began touring the Amazon region and documenting the life of indigenous peoples.

Dealing with the consequences of violence in the Colombian Civil War

Heidi and Rolf Abderhalden, directors of the Mapa Teatro collective (Imago/ZUMA Press)

Heidi and Rolf Abderhalden, directors of the Mapa Teatro collective

Mapa Teatro is one of the most innovative artistic companies in Colombia.

Founded by Rolf and Heidi Abderhalden, their “experimental laboratory” has produced radical social documentary plays that investigate how politics, society, festive culture, violence and revolution intertwine in Colombia. 

Advancing a common European musical culture

Hungarian composer, conductor and teacher Peter Eötvös has established his reputation as one of the most successful opera composers of our time.

Peter Eötvös (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Roessler)

Composer Peter Eötvös

He started establishing strong connections with the musical avant-garde during the Cold War in the 1960s, collaborating with the Stockhausen Ensemble and later with French composer Pierre Boulez.

As well as integrating his own ideas or elements from historic world literature, his compositions also draw on present-day political issues like globalization or immigration policy.

The Goethe Medal, an official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany, has been awarded by the Goethe-Institut since 1955. It honors individuals who have performed outstanding service for the German language and for international cultural relations. The yearly award ceremony is held on August 28, Goethe’s birthday, in Weimar.

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