I officially received the Goethe Medal on Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe’s birthday, August 28, 2020.
The Goethe Medal was first awarded by the Goethe Institute in 1954 and recognized by the Federal Republic of Germany as an official badge of honour in 1975. Over 354 personalities from 67 countries have been conferred the honour, including Sofia Gubaidulina, Yoko Tawada, Ágnes Heller, Irena Veisaitė, David Cornwell alias John le Carré, and Helen Wolff.
I was announced one of the winners of the 2020 medals alongside Bolivian artist and museum director Elvira Espejo Ayca; and the British writer Ian McEwan. Below is a feature on Deutsche Welle (DW) TV;
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we were given our awards remotely in a ceremony hosted by the Goethe-Institut, in collaboration with broadcaster Deutsche Welle, this past Friday. Three renowned commentators gave laudatory speeches for each one of us. I was honoured to have writer Zoë Beck a writer, translator, and publisher that I greatly admire, do mine.
As everything was virtual, some things were edited out and among these, were our ‘thank you’ quotes. I think it’s fitting that I share my quote here immediately after Zoe’s laudatory speech.
In a world that sometimes chooses to ignore the labour of women in the arts, and of black women in particular, I am immensely honoured to have received this recognition from the Goethe Medaille committee. This award is not just for me, but for every one of us across the seven continents – those before me, those who have built bridges for me to cross, and those to come. Your work. Your narrative. You…matter. Enkosi. Tatenda. Asante. Oshe. Danke.
I was also absolutely chuffed that Luka Mukavele composed a song entitled Africa Unite which he played with Kamai Freire, and Jordan White. My love for the continent is no secret but what made the composition warm the cockles of my heart was that the main instrument of the song is the mbira, a deeply spiritual musical instrument to my mother’s people in Zimbabwe. I wished then that my late friend Chiwoniso who was a genius with that instrument could have been around to share the moment. Or maybe she was. I started playing her music immediately after the ceremony and did so for most of the weekend.
A discussion amongst us with the President of the Goethe-Institut Prof Klaus-Dieter Lehman.
The ceremony was hosted by Deutsche Welle presenter Karin Helmstaedt.
Watch the whole ceremony below;