Prominent Egyptian academic and theatre critic Nehad Selaiha passed away on Friday, dean of the Theatre Institute Ashraf Zaki has confirmed.
Born in 1945, Selaiha graduated from the English Literature Department at Cairo University in 1966 and obtained her Masters Degree from the UK's Sussex University in 1969.
Though at first she pursued English literature education, Selaiha had a passion for philosophy and theatre.
"I wanted very much to become an actress; that was my real ambition. And I wanted very much to go and study in Britain, but, of course, tradition interfered," she revealed in an interview with Ahram Online in 2013.
In 1982, she obtained her PhD in theatre from the University of Exeter.
She held the post of professor of criticism and drama at the High Institute for Art Criticism since 1984, and in 2001 to 2003 she was dean of the same institution.
"Being on stage remained a passion with me throughout my life, although I couldn't become an actress, and so teaching offered me a sort of a substitute. I enjoy teaching because, for me, it’s like being on stage, I have the floor, I teach drama, I can act all the parts I like... I have a captive audience."
Selaiha authored numerous books and hundreds of articles in both Arabic and English, varying from theory and criticism to translations of plays and critiques.
She was the first theatre critic to write for the English-language Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper, where she also held the position of supervisor and editor of the theatre criticism section.
Selaiha received awards including special recognition by the Cairo International Experimental Theater Festival (1996), the State Award for Superior Achievement in Literary Studies (2003), the State Appreciation Award for Arts (2013), alongside numerous international recognitions handed to her at many theatre festivals.
She was also recognised by various Arab theatre festivals, including the Sharjah Festival, the Gulf Cooperation Council Festival, the Carthage Festival, the Amman International Theater Festival, and the Doha Arab Theatre Festival in 2012.
Selaiha was recognised and valued by theatre makers across generations. She was actively folowing the independent theatre scene, often guiding and supporting young artists about whom she also wrote extensively while documenting the history of Egyptian theatre.
“I don’t write reviews exactly; they're supposed to be reviews of the performances, but they are not precisely so because I try to introduce the political, socio-political, and economic contexts into the art. I don’t believe that art, any kind of art, happens in a vacuum; everything happens in a context, particularly in theatre, because it’s so related to life and it’s a collective work involving so many different disciplines," she said in the interview.
The wake for Selaiha will take place on Tuesday 10 January, at Cairo's El-Hamdeya El-Shazleya mosque..
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