The Music In Africa Foundation and its partners are mourning the loss of Ms. Henrike Grohs, remembering her as a “proponent of freedom of artistic expression, a lover of our continent, a hard-working colleague and a dear friend.”
Ms. Grohs was among the victims of the attack in Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast on Sunday 13 March, when terrorists opened fire at a beach resort, killing at least 16 people.
Ms. Grohs occupies a very important place in the history of the Music In Africa Foundation. While working at the Goethe-Institut in South Africa as head of the Culture and Development department, she played an integral role in the establishment of the Music In Africa project in 2011. Her work included bringing together both local and international partners together with music professionals from across the continent to formulate the initiative.
Between 2011 and 2013, she actively worked on the project in a crucial phase that culminated in the formalisation of the organisation as a fully-fledged non-profit organisation and the launch of the Music In Africa website, among other important outcomes. In 2013, she was transferred to head up the Goethe-Institut in Abidjan and despite that being a huge task she continued to be actively involved in the work of the Foundation, serving as a board member responsible for international partnerships and fundraising. In October 2015, Henrike stepped down to concentrate on her responsibilities in Abidjan but she remained a vital partner of the organisation.
Always keen to connect arts people from all over the continent, her focus this year was to host the Music In Africa Foundation Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the first time in Ivory Coast.
At the time of her death, she had developed numerous cultural projects in Ivory Coast together with many partners. Her work with the Goethe-Institut began in 2009 when she joined the organization in Johannesburg. Before that she had been the project manager for the educational programme of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra since 2002. She was 51 years old at the time of her death.
Music In Africa Foundation chairman Dr. Ribio Nzeza Bunketi Buse remembers when he started working with Henrike: “I was always deeply impressed by how she could work on multiple projects at the same time and do it so well. I worked very closely with her in 2013 in the DRC when we organised the very first Music In Africa partners’ meeting in Kinshasa and set up our regional office for Central Africa.”
Mr. Andre Le Roux, managing director of the SAMRO Foundation who served on the Music In Africa board alongside Ms. Grohs, also remembers her role in setting up the project: “She was there right at the beginning. She was unsure as to how to proceed with music as it was not her forte but she was clear and focused in initial discussion that it should benefit African artists and the African music scene. Henrike was not one to be toyed with, outspoken and clear with a deep love of the many cultures that enriched our African soil. On the one hand seriousness and on the other playful, warm, kind, smiling - and boy could she dance! It was a little intimidating that she was a boxer too - so she could really fight, not just for the arts.”
Mr. Jens Cording, senior projects manager at the Siemens Stiftung who worked closely with Ms.Grohs to set up a strong partnership between Siemens Stiftung and Goethe-Institut geared towards Music In Africa, says: “I realized already at the beginning of the project that Henrike would be an African door- and heart-opener for me. Her understanding of the concerns of the people, her enthusiasm and her love for Africa infected me from the beginning of the project. Her courageous dedication was to an Africa that is characterized by dialogue, tolerance and a better life for its people. It is especially painful that she became the victim of the forces that pursue the opposite goal.”
Music In Africa Foundation treasurer Ms. Belisa Rodrigues added: “Henrike was steadfast in her convictions and focused heart-and-soul on building Music In Africa to where it is today.”
According to Music In Africa Foundation director Mr. Eddie Hatitye, “It is not only a huge loss to her family but a great loss of an individual who worked extremely hard to make the Music In Africa initiative what it is today.”
Johannes Ebert, secretary general of the Goethe-Institut, said: "We are shocked that Henrike Grohs had to die in such a tragic and violent way. She loved her work and was full of ideas and the energy to bring these ideas to fruition with her partners. Our thoughts are with the family and the colleagues in Abidjan."
There will be a memorial service this week, Friday 18 March at 2pm at the Goethe-Institut Johannesburg. A book of condolences will be available to leave your messages from midday on Tuesday 15 March at the reception of the Goethe-Institut.