Al-Ahram Weekly Online   5 - 11 July 2012
Issue No. 1105
Culture
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Honours upstaged

The announcement of Egypt's State Awards received little attention this year, reports Nevine El-Aref

Although the scene at the Supreme Council of Culture (SCC) was exactly as it has always been, the State Awards ceremony did not receive much attention this year. While members of the SCC committee gathered to select the 2012 state award winners, and journalists were in an adjacent meeting room following the voting process on an LCD screen, the newly elected Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi caught all public attention as he was being sworn into office before the Supreme Constitutional Court. All Egyptians were at home in front of their TVs, listening to Morsi's speech after the oath, unaware of what might be happening at the SCC.

Even the minister of state of antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim, who headed the SCC meeting as acting minister of culture following the resignation of Saber Arab a few days ago, left the meeting immediately after the greeting ceremony to attend Morsi's speech at Cairo University, a process that took four hours, before he returned to participate in the voting and announce the winners. Later that day Ibrahim criticised the absence of concrete and clear criteria according to which the SCC committee could select the State Award Winners. It is in fact an issue that was frequently raised in previous years ê" to no avail.

The SCC's first voting session began with a minute of silence in commemoration of three SCC members who passed away last year: former Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (now the MSA) Gaballa Ali Gaballa; and renowned writers Anis Mansour and Khairy Shalaby. Six hours later, the voting completed, the winners of the State Awards in science, arts, literature and social science were announced. There are four classes of award: the Nile Award (LE 400,00), which was named the Mubarak Award prior the revolution; the State Merit Award (LE 200,000); the State Distinction Awards (LE 100,000); and the Incentive Awards (LE 50,000).

***

The meeting this year saw three stumbling blocks. The first took place early, before the members voted on who to replace Ibrahim to lead the session until his return. But finally Fawzi Fahmi won the majority of voters. Debates during voting led to the withholding of a large number of Awards ê" 20 Incentive; 6 Distinction and one Merit ê" because no candidate received the required number of votes. The third came up at the end of the meeting, when most members expressed their anger against withholding the awards ê" describing it as an insult to the SCC, the cultural and intellectual sphere, even a direct accusation to Egypt that it has dried up and no longer produces creators.

Intellectuals and SCC members expressed their concern about the cultural future of Egypt in the light of the raise of political Islam. Poet Ahmed Abdel Mo'ti Hegazy called on all intellectuals to unite against any assault on Egyptian culture. For his part former minister of culture Gaber Asfour said that holding Egypt's cultural portfolio is no easy task; it requires a person with special skill to be "responsible for forming the awareness of all the people of Egypt with its different sects. Therefore, the new minister of culture has to be carefully selected." Novelist Gamal El-Ghitani told Al-Moheet, "The meeting of the SCC this year coincides with a very sensitive moment in the future of culture." He added that this year's meeting might be the last one ever, especially after the ferocious battle that culture is confronting and Morsi's inattention to intellectuals in his first speech. "Culture in Egypt will face very difficult years," he told Ahram Online, suggesting that the SCAF has to issue a statement against any prejudice against culture. "I am not pessimistic but previous experiences with religious movements have surpassed all measures."

Aly El Din Helal, professor of political science at Cairo University and media secretary of the dissolved National Democratic Party, suggested the creation of a committee from SCC members led by Mohamed Nour Farahat, professor of constitutional law, in order to take the initiative in presenting the Constituent Assembly with the demands of intellectuals before it is too late.

***

As for the Nile Award, the most prestigious of all, this year it went to the name of the late writer Ibrahim Aslan in literature, to the talented script writer Waheed Hamed and sociologist Mohamed El-Gowhary: the first Egyptian to receive his PhD in folklore from the University of Bonn in Germany.

The winners of the Merit Awards in literature are writer and head of the Writers Union Mohamed Slamawy, novelist Mohamed El-Bosaty, whose work uniquely portrays life on the margins of the Egyptian rural life, and poet Mohammed Abu Senna. In Social Science Mohamed Saber Arab, former minister of culture, won. Arab resigned from the post two days before the announcement of the State Award winners. Amaal Sadeq and Nadia Halim won the same awards. In Arts, the award was given to Abdel Hadi El-Weshahi, Mohamed Kamel El-Qalyoubi and Hassan Abdel Salam.

As for the Distinction Awards in social science, they were given to political analyst and researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies Ammar Ali Hassan and head of the Strategic Economic Directions report of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic studies Ahmed El-Sayed El-Naggar. In literature the award was given to writer Hala El Badry and poet Hassan Teleb, while in art it went to sculptor Tarek El-Komi and in music to Mohamed Saad Basha Riad.

The Incentive Awards in literature were given to poets Mohamed Tawfiq and Mohamed Mansour, translator Munir Hussein, short story writer Hidra Girgis Zakhari and children's book writer Sahar Abdel Azim. Samir El-Guindi and Mohamed Abu El Elaa El Salamony won it in art. In social science, the winners were psychologist Ahmed Mohamed Hamed, historian Gamal Ali Mashaal, philosopher Nagah Mohamed Mohsen Madbuli and media expert Hisham Attia Abdel Maqsoud. Economic and legal studies scholar Abdel Salam Nuweir won the award for his work in political systems, Mohamed Abdel Meguid in public law, Ahmed Abdel-Zaher in criminal law and Mohamed Abdel Salam Kamel Abu Khozayem in Islamic Sharia law. Ahmed Mohamed Hammad won the award in social science, Gamal Ali Mashaal in history, Saeed Maghawri in Islamic archaeology, Nagah Mohsen Madbouli in political philosophy and Hesham Abdel Maqsoud in media and journalism.

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