Via Ahraam Online, by Mohammed Saad and Mary Mourad
Egypt's highest state awards were announced in the fields of literature, arts and social sciences as some artists feel the future for creativity is uncertain under Islamist rule
While a group of Egypt’s most prominent literary and artistic elite were voting on the prizes of the highest honour at the Supreme Council for Culture (SCC) on Saturday, the newly-elected president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was taking the presidential oath as Egypt’s first non-military ruler.
Renowned writer Gamal Al-Ghitany said this year's awards come at a momentous time when the rise of Islamists to power brings with it real threats to freedom of expression and creativity.
Al-Ghitany warned that the Islamists may seek to change the structure of Egypt’s cultural institutions, replacing the current members of the SCC itself with Islamists, saying that this maybe the last meeting to vote on state prizes. Many of the audience agreed to what Al-Ghitany said, and vowed to fight any "attempt to change to the cultural identity of Egypt." This seemed to have guided some of the votes.
The Nile Award winners reflect the extensive effect of the political atmosphere on the selection committee. Waheed Hamed (1944), winner in the arts field, is a scenarist renowned for his famous movies that tackle politics and social problems. He is also known for his films on religious fundamentalism, especially those starring the famous actor, Adel Emam. Emam was sentenced to prison for his roles, many of which were written by Waheed Hamed.Hamed received the State Appreciation Award in 2003.
Ibrahim Aslan (1935-2012) is the second winner for the Nile award, which he had been nominated for before he passed away. Considered one of the most remarkable writers of the 60s generation, Aslan was best known for his novels Bohayrat Al-Massa (The Night’s Lake) and Malek El-Hazaeen (The Heron), which was made into the famous movie KitKat, a jewel of Egyptian cinema of the 1990s.
The third winner in the social sciences field is Mohamed El-Gohary, professor of sociology at Cairo University. El-Gohary was the first Egyptian to receive his PhD in folklore from the University of Bonn in Germany and has since then headed the sociology departments at Cairo and Helwan Universities throughout various intervals. His efforts to establish scientific background to the study and understanding of folklore resulted in a 2000-page encyclopaedic publication.
State Appreciation Awards
Mohamed El-Bosaty (1937) won the State Appreciation award for 2012. Born in the governorate of Dakahliya, El-Bosaty's work uniquely portrays life on the margins of the Egyptian rural life. Lately, however, he also dived into the marginalised squatter communities of Egypt's cities. He won the Owais award in 2001 and his novel Noise of the Lake won best novel at the Cairo International Book Fair in 1994.
Mohamed Salmawy (1945) received the same award. Salmawy is a writer and journalist, currently heads the Union of Egyptian Writers and was editor-in-chief for Al-Ahram's French-language newspaper, Hebdo. His most famous works include theatre play, Salome's Last Dance, for which he received the Carthage Theatre Festival award in 1999. He received the honourary distinction of Commandeur of the Ordre of the Crown by King Albert II of Belgium in 2008.