Goethe Medals

Princess Marilyn Douala Manga Bell Is Among the Honorees of the 2021 Goethe Medals

Goethe-Institut acknowledges the work of social economist and president of the cultural organisation doual’art Princess Marilyn Douala Manga Bell, the composer Toshio Hosokawa and the dancer and choreographer Wen Hui.

Marilyn Douala Manga Bell, at Press Conference

Marilyn Douala Manga Bell, at Press Conference "Burden of Memory". Photo: Y. Aboueme

The Goethe-Institut confers the official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany to honour individuals who have performed outstanding service for international cultural dialogue. The ceremony celebrating the awardees of the 2021 Goethe Medal will take place as a digital live stream on 28 August, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s birthday.

The theme of this year’s awarding is “Culture is a very special fluid – in the network of the global community.” Christina von Braun, vice president of the Goethe-Institut and chair of the Goethe Medal Conferment Commission, says, “For Goethe, blood and ink were indistinguishable substances. The flow of these two ‘fluids’ makes life and community possible. This year’s awardees of the Goethe Medal are outstanding representatives of this imagery. Their art connects cultures, home and abroad. It bridges genders, and links past and future.”

The 2021 Goethe Medals go to the social economist and president of the cultural organisation doual’art Princess Marilyn Douala Manga Bell of Cameroon, to the composer Toshio Hosokawa of Japan and to the dancer and choreographer Wen Hui of China.

Princess Marilyn Douala Manga Bell was born in Cameroon in 1957. One of the aims of her work is to honour the historical role of her great-grandfather Rudolf Manga Bell (1873-1914), the leader of an important resistance movement against the German colonial power. In doing so, she aims at contributing to ongoing debates on the politics of memory in Cameroon and beyond. She studied development economics in Paris and has been working as a development expert since 1994, among others for the World Bank and the European Commission. She is co-founder of the doual’art Contemporary Art Center in Douala, which opened in 1991, and is committed to the future of African museums and the restitution of cultural artefacts from colonial contexts. In 2016, she took part, as African expert, in the conference held by the Goethe-Institut Johannesburg on the conception of the Humboldt Forum. In 2019, she co-curated the project Burden of Memory at the Goethe-Institut Yaoundé, which brought together artistic explorations of German colonial rule in Africa from various African countries. Her most recent initiatives include the exhibition project Kamerunstaat, which tours schools in Cameroon with an accompanying educational programme. She also curated the exhibition Hey Hamburg! Do you know Duala Manga Bell? (running until 31 December 2022) at the Hamburg Museum am Rothenbaum Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK), which opened in April. Princess Marilyn Douala Manga Bell lives in Douala.

Toshio Hosokawa, who was born in Hiroshima in 1955, came to Germany in 1976, where he studied composition with Isang Yun and Klaus Huber. His reputation in the international contemporary music scene grew rapidly and he received numerous commissions. He achieved resounding success in 2001 with the premiere of the oratorio Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima. A series of large orchestral works followed, including Circulating Ocean (Vienna Philharmonic, Salzburg Festival 2005) and Woven Dreams (Cleveland Orchestra, Lucerne Festival 2010). In 2013, Toshio Hosokawa was a guest in Salzburg with the world premiere of Klage for soprano and orchestra based on a poem by Georg Trakl. He has also been successively composing the series Voyages for solo instrument and ensemble. Voyage X remarkably combines the Japanese shakuhachi bamboo flute and western instruments. Toshio Hosokawa has been artistic director of the Takefu International Music Festival in Fukui since 2001 and visiting professor at the Tokyo College of Music since 2004. His most recent works include the violin concerto Genesis, which was premiered by the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra under Kent Nagano in the Elbphilharmonie in May this year. Toshio Hosokawa has received numerous awards, including first prize in the composition competition for the centenary of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Young Generation Composition Prize in Europe, the Kyoto Music Prize and the Rheingau Music Prize. Toshio Hosokawa lives in Yokohama.

Wen Hui, born in Yunnan in 1960, is a dancer, choreographer, documentary filmmaker and installation artist from China. Originally trained as a folk dancer, she attended the Choreography Department of the Beijing Dance Academy from 1985 to 1989 and was then a choreographer in the Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble of China (Dongfang gewutuan). In the 1990s, she studied modern dance in the United States and Europe, including at the Folkwang University in Essen and with Pina Bausch’s dance company in Wuppertal. In 1994, Wen Hui founded China’s first independent dance theatre group, the Living Dance Studio, together with filmmaker Wu Wenguang. Dance theatre is her means of intervening in society. In Report on Giving Birth (1999), the body is used as a strategy of resistance to portray the complexity of being a woman in the cultural and everyday context of our time. With Report on Body (2004) she and her team won the ZKB Prize of the Zürcher Theater Spektakel. With the support of the Goethe-Institut, the Living Dance Studio produced the piece Red in 2013, a reflection on the model opera as a political cultural symbol and part of the collective consciousness during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Wen Hui has participated in numerous independent Chinese and international festivals. Her works are shown at theatres, museums and art centres. She is presently working on I am Sixty, which will premiere in autumn 2021. Wen Hui lives in Beijing.


The Goethe Medal was established by the executive board of the Goethe-Institut in 1954 and acknowledged as an official decoration by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1975. The conferment is held on 28 August, Goethe’s birthday. Since it was first awarded in 1955, 357 persons from 70 countries have been honoured, including Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Bourdieu, David Cornwell AKA John le Carré, Sir Ernst Gombrich, Lars Gustafsson, Ágnes Heller, Petros Markaris, Shirin Neshat, Sir Karl Raimund Popper, Jorge Semprún, Robert Wilson, Neil MacGregor, Helen Wolff, Yurii Andrukhovych, Irina Shcherbakova and Ian McEwan.

Due to pandemic restrictions, the 2021 Goethe Medal awardees will not be able to travel to Germany together. Therefore, the awarding will be broadcast live as a digital ceremony on 28 August from 11 am on the Goethe-Institut channels. The programme will include three film portraits created in collaboration with Deutsche Welle to honour the work of this year’s awardees. In addition, the digital ceremony will be shown at the Kunstfest Weimar and supplemented by a supporting programme. In order to enable personal contacts with the awardees, the Goethe-Institut is offering digital press talks, the dates of which will be announced.



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