Egypt to announce winners of its Arts and Culture Awards on Saturday

Mohammed Saad , Friday 12 Jun 2015

Up for grabs: three Nile Awards worth LE400,000 in the arts, literature and social sciences

Egypt's State Awards 2014 (Photo: Mohamed Saad)

Egypt's state Arts and Culture Awards are to be announced on Saturday after a vote at the seat of the Supreme Council for Culture (SCC), the highest body at Egypt’s culture ministry, amid uncertainty that the council head will not much longer keep his post.

Egypt's Culture Minister Abdel-Wahed El-Nabway, in office since March, has refused to renew SCC secretary-general Mohammed Afifi’s tenure for another year, so he is to step down from his position on 25 June.

Headed by El-Nabawy and Afifi, on Saturday morning at 10am, the SCC’s members will meet to vote on 52 awards for achievements in literature, the arts and the social sciences worth LE5.5 million (around $700,000).

During the vote for last year’s edition of the awards, the SCC head at the time, philosophy professor Said Tawfik, resigned, saying that then culture minister Gaber Asfour had indicated that he was “not welcome in his post.” By the end of the session, the minister had named Mohammed Afifi, a respected historian, to replace him.

Just a year later, it seems that Afifi might be about to meet the same fate.

Same voting procedure, digitised

This year, voting will be digitised for the first time in the awards’ history.

Yet, despite repeated calls to change the legislation ruling the awards since 2011, those who are eligible to nominate and vote on the awards have remained the same.

According to the current system that many intellectuals have criticised for allowing the state to promote its own nominees, several months before the meeting, state cultural institutions submit nominations for the awards to the SCC.

The SCC's 64 appointed members then vote for the winners.

While half of these members are appointed on merit and are writers, intellectuals or artists, including famed writers Bahaa Taher and Gamal El-Ghitany, the other half is made up of the heads of Egyptian cultural institutions and universities, as well as the education and information ministers.

Prizes in art, literature and social sciences

Four prizes are awarded in each of the arts, literature and social sciences categories: the Encouragement Award, the Excellency Award, the Appreciation Award and the highest honour, the Nile Award.

Last year's Nile Award for the Arts went to famous caricaturist Ahmed Toughan, while the Nile Award for Literature went to novelist and critic Edwar El-Kharrat and the Nile Award in Social Sciences went to Ahmed Omar Hashim, an Islamic preacher and professor of Islamic studies.

The Nile Award was originally named the Mubarak Award, but its name was changed after the 2011 revolution that ousted president Hosni Mubarak from power.

The most prominent figures to date to have been handed the prestigious award are late poet Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudi, writers Bahaa Taher, Ibrahim Aslan and Waheed Hamed, and cinema director Youssef Chahine.

Last year, political analyst Ammar Ali Hassan and economy expert Ahmed El-Naggar were among the winners of Excellency Awards in Social Sciences, while novelists Khairy Shalaby, Gamal El-Ghitani, poet Mohammed Afifi Mattar and critic Gaber Asfour are among previous winners of the Appreciation Award.

The State Awards were launched in 1958 and have only been cancelled once, in 1967, during the Six Day War between Egypt and Israel.

52 prizes worth LE5.5 mln

32 Encouragement Awards each worth LE50,000

(Eight in each section)

7 Excellency Awards each worth LE100,000 (about $13,000), plus a silver medal

(Two are for the arts, two for literature and three for social sciences)

10 Appreciation Awards each worth LE200,000 (about $25,000), plus a golden medal

(Since 1999, three for the arts, three for literature and four for social sciences)

3 Nile Awards each worth LE400,000 (about $50,000), plus a golden medal

(One for the arts, one for literature and one for social sciences)

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