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First African Woman to Be Awarded the Goethe Medal: Zukiswa Wanner

First African Woman to Be Awarded the Goethe Medal: Zukiswa Wanner


The Goethe Medal is an official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany and is awarded once a year to luminaries who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion and service of the German language and for cultural relations on an international level.

This year’s awardees count among them the first Black African woman to be awarded the medal: author, journalist and publisher Zukiswa Wanner.

The Goethe Institute explains that:

‘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. Since 2009, the award ceremony has taken place in Weimar on 28 August, Goethe’s birthday. Thus, the ceremony fits seamlessly into the Weimar Kultursommer and one of its highlights, the Kunstfest Weimar. Together with the Kunstfest, the Goethe-Institut organises a fringe programme that rounds off the festivities for the conferment of the Goethe Medal and offers further opportunities to meet the awardees.’

Since its inception and establishment in 1955, 348 people from 65 different countries have been awarded the honour.

Zukiswa Wanner is a writer, journalist, publisher, curator, and a promoter of African literature. She is the author of four novels, three non-fiction books and two children’s books. She is also the co-author of the Nelson Mandela biography, A Prisoner’s Home (2000). Her novels have been shortlisted for the South African Literary Awards and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. In 2018 she founded her own publishing house, called ‘Paivapo’, together with Nomavuso Vokwana. She has recently launched and curated the online literary festival AfrolitSansFrontières in response to the lockdown measures and ensuing cancellations of events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In conjunction with the Goethe-Institut in Kenya, Zukiswa developed transnational series called ‘Artistic Encounters’, which brings African writers into discussion with other artists. She is also curator of the Afro Young Adult project and has established short story writing workshops.

We’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Zukiswa Wanner on being awarded the Goethe Medal and on all her other achievements that have come before this one.

Here’s to successful, impactful, kind, talented, and pioneering African women!

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