News & events > Launch of Martin-Roth-Initiative | Facilitating shelter for artists at risk
18 Nov 2018

Launch of Martin-Roth-Initiative | Facilitating shelter for artists at risk


Launched in Berlin in November 2018, the Martin Roth-Initiative protects artists who are committed in their home country to the freedom of art, democracy and human rights by enabling temporary residence in Germany or third countries for the purpose of protecting those who are being persecuted.

Special significance is placed on the cultural scenes and local civil society in the host countries which, during the scholarship period, work with the scholarship holders, provide support and enable their professional development. The Martin Roth-Initiative aims to ensure that, at the end of the scholarship period, it is possible for the scholarship holder to return safely to their home country, or that the foundation for their successful integration in the society of the host country has been laid. The joint performance between the Martin Roth-Initiative and its partners, both domestically and abroad, expresses the commitment of civil society to take on responsibility and nail its colours to the mast.

»Whoever attacks the freedom of art actually wants to question the democratic freedom of a society.«      Martin Roth

The Martin Roth-Initiative was started as a joint project by the ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) and the Goethe-Institut in reaction to the global decline in pre-political spaces. In many countries, state and non-state actors are increasingly restricting the work by and with critical artists as well as civil-society actors. Socio-political commitment in these countries results in personal danger for those involved.

Against this background, renowned institutions and leading figures of the German cultural scene stated their willingness to accept responsibility and support their persecuted colleagues abroad. In a public appeal, they called for policy makers to create a programme that ensures not only the safety of endangered artists, but also the continuation of their critical work in theatres, museums, exhibition halls and at festivals.

Within the spirit of these concerns, the Martin Roth-Initiative promotes and supports endangered artists in close collaboration with a network of both national and international (cultural) institutions.

The recipients of scholarships are selected by an independent Selection Committee consisting of members of the art and cultural scene in Germany as well as representatives from international civil-society institutions.

The Martin-Roth-Initiative is established to honour the memory, values and beliefs of Martin Roth:

“I hold terms such as freedom, tolerance and solidarity sacred,” said Martin Roth, museum director and cultural scientist (1955–2017), who was a long-standing member of the Goethe-Institut and, at the end of his life, President of the ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen). “Just sitting there, concentrating only on the ‘nice’ topics and unendangered institutions in safe countries, letting events pass us by without any comment: this is no longer possible.” Martin Roth was convinced that art and culture are the indispensable foundation for a society living together in democracy and peace. To strengthen civil society, he regarded discussion, especially with colleagues in repressive regimes, as essential. For Martin Roth, the motto, “It’s time to nail our colours to the mast” was a plea for the defence of an open society.