"The Fellowship has been a unique and life-changing opportunity!"

July 2017

Mike van Graan – Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town and one of South Africa’s leading contemporary playwrights – spent a productive time at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin.

During the 197 days of his Richard von Weizsäcker Fellowship, Mike van Graan travelled over 60 days outside of Berlin, visited 10 German cities and 10 countries; he gave 12 talks and presentations and facilitated 4 events; he completed 3 publications, 2 plays and 1 volume of poetry; and he had 21 individual meetings with experts and decision makers organized by the Robert Bosch Academy. Insights gleaned from his stay made their way into his work in many ways.


During the study tour "Germany and the Refugee Story“, Mike van Graan experienced at first-hand how various cities in Germany were dealing with the urgent challenges of migration and integration. His learnings resonated with the theme of his new play “When Swallows Cry”, which looks at migration particularly from an African perspective.

Mike van Graan took advantage of the intellectual and physical space provided by the Robert Bosch Academy: he found the inspiration and time to complete two new plays: “Helen of Troyeville” and “State Fracture” premiered at the National Arts Festival in South Africa in June. He also finalized his collection of poems “Poetry for Patriots” that speaks to the contemporary situation in South Africa, exploring and commenting on the continued social injustices, and the failures of the new government.

Moreover, he was able to put together three collections of writings consisting of conference papers, newspaper columns and critical analyses he has written over the last thirty years. These three publications cover various topics and provide an “insider” account of cultural policy development and perspectives in the foundational years of the post-apartheid project.

The dialogue with other Fellows of the Robert Bosch Academy inspired him to shed light on issues from different perspectives. His broad reflections on various themes are making their way into a collection of essays.

Ahead of the Curve

Mike van Graan co-organized and conducted the two-day seminar “Ahead of the Curve: the Meaning and Relevance of UNESCO’s 2005 Convention to our Contemporary World”. Together with 23 participants – critical thinkers and leaders in the creative and cultural space from around the globe, particularly from the global south – he explored the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and its relevance for our contemporary world.

The main objective of Mike van Graan’s current creative, theoretical and practical efforts is to produce work that engages with key fault-lines in his home country of South Africa, the African continent and beyond to provide cogent arguments, perspectives and proposals in exploring the relationship between culture and human rights, democracy, development, etc., and in so doing, to influence thought and practice in pursuit of a more humane, more just, more peaceful world.

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