Goethe-Institut celebrates 50 years in Mumbai

Fostering ties between India and Germany through culture and education, the Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan completes 50 years in the city. Officially inaugurated in 1969, the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany was originally situated on the ground floor of philanthropist Bapsy Sabavala’s bungalow in Malabar Hill. The space offered classes in German and held music concerts in an intimate set-up. “It was hard for us to find the exact date of when they opened the institute so we are celebrating it now with a three-day festival,” says Björn Ketels, director, Goethe-Institut, Mumbai.

The celebrations will begin with a keynote lecture by professor Homi K. Bhabha on Friday, titled, ‘Whose house is this: thoughts on the culture of migration’. “There are strong nationalist and anti-globalisation movements we see around the world today, and his speech

will deal with how international collaborations, especially in the cultural and humanities space, can fight against these movements,” says Mr. Ketels.

Goethe-Institut celebrates 50 years in Mumbai

Contemporary artist Nalini Malani, who became the first Indian to win the Joan Miro Prize and has been closely associated with the institute, will present her solo show ‘Can You Hear Me?’ from Saturday. Her first solo show in India in five years, it will feature her works from 1969 to 2018-19, spanning the same five decades as Goethe-Institut in

Mumbai. “We don’t just want to celebrate us, but also our networks and people who have been a part of our journey, like Nalini, who has been in touch with us since we have existed,” says Mr. Ketels.

On Sunday, professor Kris Manjapra will be awarded the Merck-Tagore Award 2019 for his contribution towards intercultural exchange between India and Germany. Manjapra’s book Age of Entanglement: German and Indian Intellectuals Across Europe explores the various connections linking German and Indian intellectuals from the 19th century to the years after World War II.

Goethe-Institut celebrates 50 years in Mumbai

Over the last five decades, the Goethe-Institut, which is tucked in a corner of Kala Ghoda today, has cemented itself as one of the key players in the cultural landscape of Mumbai. “We have dealt with various subjects like HIV awareness, nuclear disarmament, city planning and were a part of the organising team of the Kala Ghoda Festival,” says Mr. Ketels. Since 2015, the institute also has its own gallery space, which has hosted dozens of art shows. “We are not a commercial gallery or governed by any museum so we can host niche and collaborative art,” says Mr. Ketels.

Looking forward, the Goethe-Institut wants to focus on the interconnection between technology and art, ecology and sustainability and activism through music. The institute plans to take forward its first digital exhibition ‘Open Codes’, which was hosted last year, in collaboration with the ZKM Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, showcasing art created from codes and scripts. “We want to show what it is like to live in an increasingly digital world but in an artistic way, like using virtual reality,” says Mr. Ketels.

Goethe-Institut celebrates 50 years in Mumbai

Taking forward the discourse on climate crisis, the institute plans to organise a series of lectures on ecology and the Anthropocene with an Indian focus, which will be curated by artist, photographer, environmental campaigner and writer, Ravi Agarwal. Other plans include spotlighting music as a tool for activism, especially in regard to sustainability. “If you look at hip-hop, for instance, it looks at social problems in a direct way, so we want to generate socio-economic discussions through music,” says Mr. Ketels

Over the years

1968 - On December 2, the Goethe-Institut began German classes in Malabar Hill under the leadership of Heimo Rau and Dirk Angelroth.

1972 - Unable to contain its activities in the quaint Malabar Hill bungalow, the institute moved to its current location in Kala Ghoda, spread across three floors.

1978 - German novelist, poet, playwright, illustrator, graphic artist, sculptor, and recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature, Günter Grass, visited the institute and held a public discussion. He returned again in 2005.

1983 to 86 - A few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the then director, Dr. Georg Lechner, ran a four-year project fostering better cultural understanding between India and Germany, through dance, music, art, theatre, philosophy and science.

1992 to 93 - In collaboration with the Indian Health Organisation, the Goethe-Institut ran HIV/AIDS awareness programmes and seminars for medical professionals, leading to the first national conference on AIDS with professionals from India and Germany.

1999 to 2000 - The two-year project discussed German engagement with Indian cinema, especially the works of filmmaker Franz Osten.

2000 - The Goethe Library was shut down, due to lack of funds, and Stuttgart Hall was returned to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS). The institute only provided language courses and intermittent film screenings.

2009 - The Goethe Library was renovated and reopened.

2012 - A.R. Rahman, along with a group of 100 musicians from the K.M. Music Conservatory and the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg, performed across five cities, beginning with Mumbai.

2014 -Poets Translating Poets, a translation-based project, brought Indian poets from across India with German poets, to create new versions of each other’s poetry.

2015 - The Stuttgart Hall, which was reinstituted to the Max Mueller Bhavan in 2013, was revamped as Gallery MMB, hosting multiple shows of contemporary art.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 8:34:21 AM |

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