Last Thursday, 18 March, the Egyptian cultural scene was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of former minister of culture Shakir Abdel-Hamid.
Abdel-Hamid was 69 when he died a week after he was admitted to a hospital in Giza suffering from Covid-19 complications.
Within minutes of the news breaking, social media filled with the fondest and warmest words and memories. They came from students, fellow scholars, intellectuals, critics and friends who paid condolences to each other, often recalling moments of courage or reminiscing about books he wrote or translated. They all stressed his long journey through and huge contribution to the cultural sphere.
Abdel-Hamid was born on 20 June 1952 in Assiut, Upper Egypt. He studied psychology at Cairo University, graduating in 1974, and he embarked on his academic journey by earning a Masters and PhD in the psychology of creativity, also from Cairo University where he went on to teach, in 1980 and 1984, respectively.
Later, he became a professor of the psychology of creativity at the Egyptian Arts Academy and was appointed Dean of the Higher Institute of Art Criticism at the Academy of Arts.
He was also the Vice-President of the Arts Academy (2003-2005), a professor at the Faculty of Graduate Studies and the Director of Gifted Students Programme at the University of the Arabian Gulf-Bahrain. Creativity was always the focus of his research. He also worked as Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Culture and he was appointed Minister of Culture within the Kamal Al-Ganzouri cabinet in December 2011.
In spite of Abdel-Hamid’s relentless efforts and constant work in academia, he was also always present as an active force in Egyptian cultural life, sharing the efforts and responsibilities of Arab cultural life.
One of Abdel-Hamid’s greatest contributions was an extensive and extended research project on the short story in Egypt lasting three years, which went beyond his Masters’ thesis, resulting in a number of books. In this project he took on over 50 authors from Egypt, assessing and analysing their works and their contribution to the art of the short story, delving into the secrets of the genre and how it operates and coming up against a scholarly void.
Abdel-Hamid’s research produced books like Al-Amaliya Al-Ebdaaiya fi Fann Al-Tasweer (The Creative Process in the Art of Photography, 1987), Al-Adab wal Junoun (Literature and Insanity, 1993), Al-Osous Al-Nafsiya Lel Ebdaa Al-Adabi Fi Al-Qessa Al-Qassira (The Principles of Psychological Creativity in the Short Story, 1993), Al-Hulm wal Ramz wal Ostoura (The Dream, the Symbol and the Legend, 1998), Al-Fokaha wal Dahik (Humor and Laughter, 2003) and others. He made numerous other contributions including journal and conference papers on the psychology of creativity.
Among his last publications were Al-Fann wa Tatawor Al-Thaqafa Al-Insaniya (Art and the Development of Human Culture, 2015), published by Merit Publishing House, Al-Tafsir Al-Nafsi Lel Tatarof wal Erhab (The Psychological Explanation for Extremism and Terrorism, 2017), published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Madkhal Ela Al-Derrasa Al-Nafsiya Lel Adab (Introduction to the Psychological Study of Art, 2017), published by the Egyptian-Lebanese Publishing House, and his last book, Al-Hulm wal Kimyaa wal Ketaba (Dream, Chemistry and Writing), published by Batana for Publishing and Distribution.
Abdel-Hamid received many awards like the Shoman Prize for Young Arab Scientists in the Humanities in 1990 as well as the State Award for Excellence in Social Sciences in 2003.
In 2012, he received the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the Arts for his book Al-Fann wal Gharaba (Art and Strangeness) in Abu Dhabi. The book presents an academic critical study of eccentrics in arts and literature, combining theories that tackles topics and interactions with real life and the imagination.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 25 March, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly