Archived photo of the SCC members meeting to vote on state prizes 2012 (Photo: Mohammed Saad)
Egypt’s highest State Awards in literature, science and the arts will be announced on Monday, 23 June at 11am, according to a statement by Said Tawfik, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Culture (SCC).
Tawfik, a well known philosophy professor who has led the institution since February 2012, did not disclose any details to Ahram Online on whether or not the voting mechanism will be changed this year. The SCC has been struggling to draft a new law to regulate the conditions of its membership, reduce the number of official appointed members and set new rules to grant the state awards and change the voting mechanism.
Nominees for the prestigious State Awards are voted on by the SCC's 64 members, half of whom are appointed due to their cultural contributions as writers, intellectuals or artists. The other half are appointed due to their positions as heads of Egyptian cultural institutions, along with the ministers of education and information and university presidents.
The SCC receives nominations for the State Awards from cultural institutions several months before the meeting.
The prizes are granted in the fields of social science, the arts and literature and are distributed across four divisions: the Encouragement Award, the Excellency Award, and the Appreciation Award, and the Nile Award – the highest honour.
The Nile Award was originally named the Mubarak Award, but was changed in the aftermath of 25 January 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power.
The total sum in prize monies is an estimated LE7 million (approximately $1 million).
The Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Shura Council, Egypt's upper house, which was dissolved on 3 July 2013 in the aftermath of the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, wanted to decrease the budget allocation for the prizes, deeming it a waste of public funds. The move outraged intellectuals, who took the Islamist-dominated parliament's decision as a "Brotherhood scheme" to destroy Egyptian culture.
The State Awards were launched in 1958 and have only been cancelled once – in 1967, during the Six Days War between Egypt and Israel.
The Encouragement Award is granted every year to the best works in the fields of the arts, literature, social sciences and law and economic research. Every field has eight prizes, each worth LE50,000.
The Excellency Award is granted every year in the fields of the arts, social sciences and literature, with each prize worth LE100,000 and accompanied by a silver medal. Political analyst Ammar Ali Hassan and economy expert Ahmed El-Naggar were among the winners of the prize last year.
The Appreciation Award is granted in the fields of the arts, literature and social sciences, with each field offering three prizes except for the social sciences, which offers only two. Each prize is worth LE200,000 and is accompanied by a silver medal.
The Nile Award is granted every year in the fields of the arts, social sciences and literature. Each prize is worth LE400,000 and is accompanied with a golden medal. Nile Prizes were granted for the first time in 1999.
Poet Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudi, writers Bahaa Taher and Waheed Hamed, and cinema director Youssef Chahine were the most prominent figures that won the Nile Prize.
The SCC is considered one of the most important institutions within Egypt's ministry of culture, responsible for setting ministry policy and organising ministry activities. It is also responsible for granting state cultural awards, traditionally announced in June, in different disciplines of literature, arts and human sciences.