Egyptian and French-Tunisian artists win UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture

Ahram Online , Thursday 9 Mar 2017

Bahia Shehab and Fawzy 'El-Seed' Khalife were awarded the prestigious prize, given annually to one Arab laureate and one from outside the Arab World

Mural by eL Seed (left) in Cairo, and part of work by Bahia Shehab (right)

Egyptian artist Bahia Shehab and French-born Tunisian artist Fawzy Khalife (known as El-Seed) have been awarded the 14th UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.

The awards were announced Monday by Abdullah Al Owais, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Information of the UAE's Emirate of Sharjah, according to Sharjah 24 news website.

The prestigious prize is awarded annually to one Arab laureate and one from outside the Arab world.

The awards ceremony takes place in Paris annually, and will be held in April this year. 

The prize was established in 1998, and is given each year to “two laureates - individuals, groups or institutions - who, through their work and outstanding achievements, endeavor to disseminate greater knowledge of Arab art and culture…and contribute to the promotion of cultural dialogue and the revitalisation of Arab culture,” UNESCO writes on its website.

Abdullah Alneaimi, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to UNESCO, said the award serves to disseminate culture, harmony and co-existence between different cultures, adding that it "not only honors those who are actively spreading Arab culture, but also goes further to raise the voice of moderation and non-violence in the face of extremism rising in many countries."

The Director-General of UNESCO selects the winners of the prize based on the recommendation of an international jury of experts in the field of Arab culture.

The prize is valued at USD 60,000 and is divided equally between the two laureates.

Shehab is a graphic designer and associate professor at The American University in Cairo whose work tackles contemporary design using traditional Arabic script and calligraphy.

Her project, titled A Thousand Times No (2010), traces the history of the Arabic letters lam-alif, which spells the word for "no" in Arabic. It was shortlisted for the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A) Jameel Prize.

El-Seed began exploring the art of graffiti in 1998 in Paris, where he spent his childhood. Upon moving to North America, he started combining street art with his passion for Arabic calligraphy (usually associated with the Quran and religious scripture). The artist likes to mix traditional script with contemporary pop-culture, giving birth to a distinctive urban style. 

Among his recent iconic works are a multi-building mural in Cairo’s Manshiyat Nasser area completed last March.

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