Last Update 10:18
Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Egypt's culture ministry gears for year-long centenary celebrations of Tharwat Okasha

The celebrations honouring Tharwat Okasha (1921 – 2012) will kick off on 20 February and continue throughout 2021

Ahram Online , Sunday 14 Feb 2021
Tharwat Okasha
Tharwat Okasha (Photo: Al Ahram)

Egypt's Minister of Culture, Ines Abdel-Dayem, revealed that the year 2021 will be dedicated to Tharwat Okasha, Egypt's renowned late writer, translator, and minister of culture during the Nasserite era.

Born in 1921, Okasha held the ministerial position twice from 1958 to 1962 and, again, from 1966 to 1970. The two terms made him the most prominent minister of culture in Egypt’s modern history. He is referred to as one of the great promoters of culture and founder of Egypt’s cultural institutions. 

The celebrations honouring Okasha will begin with a concert featuring the Cairo Symphony Orchestra under the baton of its music director and principal conductor Ahmed El-Saedi. The evening will also include an acappella choir with choir master Maya Gvineria.

Taking place on 20 February at the Cairo Opera's main hall, the evening's programme includes El-Saedi's composition festive overture, a work commissioned by the National Bank of Egypt on the occasion of its centenary in 1998.

Further on, the orchestra will perform compositions from Richard Wagner's known operas: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, The Flying Dutchman’s overture, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg’s overture, the prelude to Act III from Lohengrin and The Bridal Chorus, Entrance of the Guests from Tannhauser, and the overture from the same opera.

Following the concert, Abdel-Dayem will honour Okasha in the presence of his family members: his two children, Mahmoud and Noura, and brother, Ahmed Okasha.

Tharwat Okasha
Tharwat Okasha with his family

In April, a grand conference titled ‘Tharwat Okasha - the Knight of Egyptian Culture’ will be held at the Supreme Council of Culture (Cairo Opera grounds).

The same event will see the official launch of the Tharwat Okasha prize for translation from and to Arabic language.

The same month will see the opening of an exhibition organised by the Plastic Arts Sector and the National General Authority for Library and Archives in which many documents and memorable papers representing the times of Okasha will be on display.

The exhibition will also showcase books about Okasha and periodicals referring to him.

Within the same month, a film about Okasha and his contribution to saving Abu Simbel temple will be screened at Cairo's Balloon theatre. Showcasing over 80 paintings and sketches, the film documents the paintings of the artist Hussein Picard about Abu Simbel before and after the rescue. 

In June, the General Authority for Books and the General Organisation for Culture Palaces will hold a ceremonial lecture about the life and times of Tharwat Okasha. The event will take place within the upcoming Cairo International Book Fair.

Tharwat Okasha
Tharwat Okasha with Um Kalthoum

October will include numerous events focusing on bringing the cultural wealth created by Okasha to the spotlight or commemorating Egypt's cultural history during his life. The seminars and conferences will talk about works translated by Okasha, publications about the former culture minister, while creating links between culture and politics across history.

These events are scheduled to take place at the Supreme Council of Culture and various cultural palaces across all governorates, concluding with a major celebration at the Academy of Arts. 

Also, during the 2021 celebrations, the Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with Al-Shorouk Foundation — headed by Ibrahim El-Muallem — will present a series of episodes titled “The Eye Listens and the Ear Sees” with the voice of Tharwat Okasha, discussing his beginnings as one of the officers in the period of the 1952 revolution, his career as Egypt's ambassador to Italy, and then the years when he held the position of Egypt's culture minister.

Tharwat Okasha
Tharwat Okasha visit Abu Simbel during the Nubia salvage operation (1968)

Tharwat Okasha (1921 – 2012) was an army officer involved in the Free Officers Movement, along with former president Nasser and his comrades, which toppled King Farouk of Egypt from his crown in what is known as the July Revolution of 1952.

He received his PhD in literature from the Sorbonne in the 1960’s and worked as a visiting scholar at the College De France.

He published more than 70 books, including his three-volume memoir titled ‘My Memoirs in Politics and Culture’, which is considered a rich resource for historians of the Nasserite era; as well as a 38-volume encyclopedia of arts titled ‘The Eye Listens and the Ear Sees’.

During his terms as a minister, he founded many cultural institutions that are still functioning and considered major Egyptian landmarks. For example, he founded the High Council for Culture and Arts (now called the Supreme Council for Culture), the Egyptian Book Organisation, and, most importantly, the Arts Academy.

Tharwat Okasha
Two first volumes of Politics and Culture book series by Tharwat Okasha

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