Award-winning Egyptian writers and artists have been telling Al-Fanar how awards have boosted them personally and their craft generally.
The Arab world has many awards celebrating achievement in many genres of creative work. These awards receive great attention, reflected in the high number of annual applicants and the controversy that sometimes accompanies the results.
Amongst the most prestigious Arab awards for writers are the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), sometimes referred to as the “Arabic Booker”; the AlMultaqa Prize for Arabic Short Story; the Katara Prize for Arabic Novel; the Sheikh Zayed Book Award; the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature; and the Sawiris Cultural Award.
A Bridge Between Writers and Readers
The Egyptian novelist Ahmed Abdel Latif said writers do not usually expect to win a prize. “It is better to forget about it after submitting a book for a prize,” he said. “You can remember it once you have won. Otherwise, it is better to keep forgetting about it.”
“Many beautiful works have not been widely read because they have not won awards. An award-winning book is more likely to be read. Thus, an award acts as a bridge between the writer and the reader, which is an important and indispensable role.”Ahmed Abdel Latif, an Egyptian author.
Recently, Abdel Latif’s “The Kingdom of Mark Zuckerberg and His Fairy Birds” won the Sawiris Cultural Award for the best short-story collection by an established writer. In 2011, he won Egypt’s State Encouragement Prize for his debut novel “The Key Maker” and in 2018, his “The Earthen Fortress” was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
Abdel Latif told Al-Fanar Media that “awards not only promote a writer and his book, they also promote the act of reading and its appreciation. They often direct readers’ taste, but many beautiful works have not been widely read because they have not won awards.
“An award-winning book is more likely to be read,” he said. “Thus, an award acts as a bridge between the writer and the reader, which is an important and indispensable role.”
A Boost to Creativity
Sarah Ibrahim, founder of the Bookmark reading club on Facebook, also believes that awards affect what people read.
“Giving awards constitutes an important way of appreciating and honouring genuine creativity,” she told Al-Fanar Media. “It is a moral appreciation for the writers and their efforts in the first place, and a tribute to writing itself, which can greatly influence minds and ideas. I see awards as a significant boost to creative writing.”
She added that awards not only promote books, they also highlight the winning writers amid the large number of fiction publications.
Fine Art and Filmmaking
wards also cover the visual arts and cinema. Eman Elshokery, an assistant lecturer at Helwan University’s Faculty of Art Education, won three awards for her ceramics between 2016 and 2019. Apart from the financial help, these awards gave her a great morale boost, she said.
“Awards boost artists’ enthusiasm to keep going,” she told Al-Fanar Media. “However, whether you receive an award or not should not diminish your artistic project because evaluation, in the end, is relative.”
Elshokery also talked about winning the grand prize for teamwork at Egypt’s 2016 Youth Salon.
“That was the first time ceramic art was awarded a major prize in the history of the Youth Salon,” she said. “That collective award shed a different light on the experience of the winning artists, on our artistic project and its philosophical concept, and on that concept’s translation into contemporary ceramic art.”
Omnia Mohamed Sayed, an artist and lecturer at Helwan University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, thinks that creating art is a personal enjoyment, but one in which pleasure increases if it is shared with an audience. For her, awards shed light on works that bear special artistic colour and a unique philosophy.
“Awards boost artists’ enthusiasm to keep going. However, whether you receive an award or not should not diminish your artistic project because evaluation, in the end, is relative.”Eman Elshokery, an assistant lecturer at Helwan University’s Faculty of Art Education
More than once, Sayed has co-won a Youth Salon award with Fatima Al-Zahraa Sami, a video artist whose work relies on photography, drawing and animation. “Awards grant us appreciation,” Sayed told Al-Fanar Media. “They make us feel we are not working in vain.”
Plays and Scripts
The Arab world also has awards for writers of screenplays and theatrical works. The screenwriter Mohamed Al-Samman, who recently won a Sawaris Cultural Award, said: “I applied for the award in 2019. I did not make it to the shortlist. Despite my frustration, I tried again and won in 2022.”
Al-Samman, whose script for “Ardioon” (“Earth People”) won the prize for best screenplay by a young writer, said prizes for screenwriters and playwrights provide opportunities for talented writers’ work to be evaluated before it is turned into something visual. The production process may change the work in a way that does not satisfy the author, he said.
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