Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

A dramatic denouement

The announcement of Egypt’s State Awards this year was filled with surprises, Nevine El-Aref reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

The scene at the Supreme Council of Culture (SCC) was as it has always been, but the State Awards ceremony was nonetheless particularly dramatic this year. While members of the SCC committee gathered to select the 2014 state award winners, SCC Secretary General Said Tawfik resigned in public before the start of the voting session. He justified his resignation saying, “I am resigning because I no longer feel welcome in the post.” Rumours were already spreading along the corridors of the ministry that such unpopularity was due to Tawfik’s attempt to interfere in the nomination process, which preceded voting on Monday evening.

When Tawfik stepped out of the hall, SCC employees announced that Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour would head the voting session (as per the law) and distributed the resignation statement. In it, Tawfik wrote that he resigned because the Asfour refused the new regulations of the State Award put together by him and a team of intellectuals. Tawfik explained that the new regulations aims to adjust the process of the selection of the State Awards winners in order to present it to those who deserve it through inserting an article in the awards law concerning the inspection committee. The latter has to provide a shortlist of the winners, which in its turn would help the SCC member in the final voting session.

For his part Asfour denied he had seen or read Tawfik’s resignation, yet rumour had it he already knew of it and was planning on appointing the Cairo University professor Mohamed Afifi, whom he said he was looking forward to working with even as he denied those rumours. “The role of the SCC will change from now on. Intellectuals are Egypt’s thinkers and masterminds,” Asfour asserted, telling reporters that he asked the ministry department heads to provide a master plan to rebuild Egyptian culture, which will be discussed at the SCC’s next meeting two weeks from now, to be formulated into a national project. Before the start of the voting session Asfour announced that the voting will be secret and its process would not be broadcast on an LCD screen to journalists as it was in the previous vote, three years ago.

After the 2011 revolution, then minister of culture Emad Abu Ghazi decided to make the session public to encourage transparency. Asfour said he does not object to such a measure but only if the SCC committee members agree. He refused to let journalists in the hall during voting because, he said, they are disruptive. “The voting is totally transparent and objective,” he asserted, adding that Egypt should regain its cultural ascendancy. Asfour turned down a nomination for the Nile Award last week due to recently being appointed to his new government post. After negotiations and demands, however, he did agree to air the session. The voting started with a call by Asfour for a minute of silence in commemoration of former minister of education and a SCC member Abdel-Salam Abdel-Ghaffar. Afterwards, everything went as usual; six hours later, the winners of the State Awards in science, the arts, literature and the social sciences were announced.

There are four classes of award: the Nile (formerly Mubarak) Award (LE400,000); the State Merit Award (LE200,000); the State Distinction Award (LE100,000) and the Incentive Award (LE50,000). The Nile Award, the most prestigious of all, saw the fiercest competition. Novelist and critic Edward Al-Kharrat won the prize in literature, while the arts award went to renowned cartoonist Ahmed Toughan and the Social Science went to former head of Al-Azhar University Ahmed Omar Hashem. The three State Merit Awards in literature went to novelist Maged Toubia, the name of the late professor of Greek and Latin Studies at Cairo University Ahmed Etman and translator and writer Mohamed Abu Doma. Meanwhile the arts awards went to TV director Magdi Abu Emeira, actor Sanaa Shafie and arts critic Ezzeddin Naguib.

Women had better luck in the State Merit Award in Social Science as three out of four prizes went to women: Cairo University media professor Awatef Abdel Rahman; folklore professor Nabila Ibrahim, Head of the National Centre for Social and Crime Research Nagwa Al-Fawal, and Cairo University Islamic history professor Mahmoud Ismail. The first State Distinction Award in art went to film director Magdi Ahmed Ali while the second was withheld. The prize in literature went to vernacular poet Samir Abdel-Baki and poet Mohamed Farid Abu Seiada. In social science the award went to Cairo University political science professor Moataz Abdallah, Secretary General of the Arab Archaeologists Union Mohamed Al-Kahlawi and novelist Hasan Al-Saadi. The Incentive Award in arts went to artist Seif Al-Islam, composer Nesma Abdel-Aziz, set designer Mahmoud Hanafi and filmmaker Hebatallah Yosri.

The prize for documentation and collection of folk tales from a special zone was withheld, so was the prize of modernism in the art of medallion making. Architect Tarek Abdel Raouf won the prize for architecture and interior design, while the photography prize went to Abdallah Dawstashi. In social science the prize was withheld, so was the Egyptian political system prize. In journalism the prize went to journalist Mahmoud Ezzat Abdel-Hafez.

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