A well-known Swiss artist has died at the age of 80. Dimitri Jakob Müller – known simply as Dimitri – was a popular clown and mime.
His death was confirmed by an agent of his family on Wednesday.
Born in Ascona in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, Dimitri was just seven when he decided that he wanted to become a clown.
He trained in Paris with Etienne Decroux, performed with the Marcel Marceau troupe, and received accolades for his solo mime act during the 1962 International Mime Festival in Berlin. In 1973, he performed in New York’s Big Apple Circus.
He and his wife founded a theatre, and he also founded Scuola Teatro Dimitri – a performing arts college. Dimitri was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1995. A national treasure, Dimitri won the SwissAward for culture in 2009 and 2014.
In an interview around the time of his 80th birthday, Dimitri told swissinfo.ch that three hours of daily training kept him fit enough to perform in about 150 shows a year.
“Without laughter you can survive, but you won’t live well. For me, humour and love are the same, ever if there’s devilish or black humour. Personally, I stand for loving and positive humour,” said Dimitri – adding that he enjoys laughing at comedians whether they use words or not. “But a kitten playing clumsily can make me laugh, too.”
On a more serious subject, swissinfo.ch asked Dimitri whether he was afraid of death.
“Worms eat the body, but I’m convinced that we continue to exist in a spiritual form.”
“It’s more of a fear of the notion of sickness, disease and infirmity, not of death itself,” he said, adding, “For me it’s clear that there’s an afterlife. Worms eat the body, but I’m convinced that we continue to exist in a spiritual form.”
Interior Minister Alain Berset paid tribute to Dimitri, saying the clown had marked the cultural life of Switzerland for more than 50 years.
“He was an inspiring and warmhearted person and one of the most important stage artists in the country,” he told the Swiss News Agency.
“Switzerland will badly miss his poetic style and his ability to make people laugh. He made us all happy.”
swissinfo.ch and agencies