At an official ceremony organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Cairo on Wednesday 20 June, Hanaa Abdel Fattah, Egyptian professor of theatrical arts, theatre director and critic, was awarded Gloria Artis, the Medal for Merit to Culture.
Gloria Artis is awarded by the Polish Ministry of Culture to persons and organizations for exceptional contributions to Polish culture and heritage. The Gloria Artis award is given mostly to Polish citizens who have made distinguished contributions to promoting Polish culture, whether through translations of works, or in theatre, music, film, visual ars etc. Abdel Fattah is among those rare international artists to have received the medal.
The award was handed to Abdel Fattah by Piotr Puchta, Ambassador of Poland, in the presence of Stanislaw Gulinski, Second Secretary responsible for culture affairs, Polish officials and distinguished figures in Egyptian culture. In his speech, the ambassador thanked Abdel Fattah for his work which helped to build a stronger cultural link between the two nations; he invited him to join a committee that will be formed in the next few weeks with a view to enhancing Polish-Egyptian relations on many levels.
For his part Abdel Fattah expressed his appreciation of the award and underlined the importance of Polish culture and its values. He also thanked many Egyptian figures involved in the arts and culture for their cooperation in facilitating his work through the years.
Following his studies in Egypt in early 1970s, Abdel Fattah left to continue his education in Poland. In the over two decades that he spent in the country he studied at the directing department of the State Institute of Theatrical Arts – Theatre Academy (PIST) in Warsaw – the only foreign student to be accepted by this institution in its entire history. He then pursued his PhD in theatre theory from Warsaw University. Abdel Fattah has been actively involved in Polish theatrical and intellectual circles, directing many plays in Warsaw and other cities; The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni received the audience’s first prize in 1986.
Abdel Fattah returned to Egypt in the 1990s to continue his work as a theatre director; he started teaching at the Higher Institute of Theatrical Arts in Cairo, where he was also the Head of the Acting and Directing Department in the early 2000s. He still directs regularly in Egypt and Poland.
He has translated numerous Polish theatre works to Arabic, directing a few of them on Egyptian stages. He also brought Egyptian theatre to the stages of Polish theatres, directing Polish actors. Most recently, in 2009, his adaptation of a work by the Egyptian playwright Alfred Farag on the stage of Dramatic Theatre in Bialystok proved a major success. Abdel Fattah is also among the principal initiators of Polish cultural activity in Egypt, overseeing lectures, presentations and workshops.
Abdel Fattah has translated numerous works of Polish poetry and prose into Arabic, and for his "work of promoting Polish culture internationally," in 2010, he was awarded the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Culture Award. Abdel Fattah's other awards from the Polish government include the Polish Literary Syndicate [ZAiKS] Prize and the International Theater Institute (ITI) award for promoting cross-cultural dialogue between Poland and the Arab world.
In 2011, Abdel Fattah was awarded the Appreciation Award in the arts from the Egyptian government for his lifetime’s contribution to culture as director and translator.