Writer, publisher, and curator Zukiswa Wanner became the first African woman to win the Goethe Medal when awardees were announced on April 28, 2020.
The Goethe Medal was donated by the board of the Goethe Institute in 1954 and recognized by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1975 as an official badge of honour. Since the first award in 1955, a total of 354 personalities from 67 countries have been honoured, including Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Bourdieu, David Cornwell alias John le Carré, Sir Ernst Gombrich, Lars Gustafsson, Ágnes Heller, Petros Markaris, Sir Karl Raimund Popper, Jorge Semprún, Robert Wilson, Neil MacGregor, and Helen Wolff.
The winners of the 2020 medals, announced on Tuesday, are South African writer, publisher, and curator Zukiswa Wanner; Bolivian artist and museum director Elvira Espejo Ayca; and the British writer Ian McEwan.
Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, President of the Goethe-Institut, said: “The subject of enduring opposition – the result of contradiction” is a plea for dealing with ambivalences even under difficult conditions. It is precisely from contradictions that fruitful forces can arise, which enable diversity and stimulate reflection and new knowledge. Contrary to the growing populist tendencies worldwide, functioning democracy is based on critical discourses. The winners of the Goethe Medal 2020 give outstanding examples of the power of critically reflective art and the open international cultural exchange that is not afraid of contradictions but recognizes them as opportunities. ”
“Your self-image as an ‘African writer’ means writing beyond national borders and at the same time allowing the diversity of African cultures to flow into your artistic work. Her detailed knowledge of South African literature as well as her differentiated understanding of regional discourses and African female identity make her an internationally sought-after expert and a role model for an entire generation of African writers,” said the jury on Zukiswa Wanner’s selection.
The award ceremony will take place on August 28, Goethe’s birthday, in Weimar, Germany,