PARIS- The UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture honoured the winners of its 12th edition during an award ceremony, which took place at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
This year’s edition of the Prize has been awarded to the Lebanon-based Arab Image Foundation and acclaimed writer and publisher Farouk Mardam-Bey from France.
Winners were presented with their awards in presence of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Head of the Organizing Committee of Knowledge without Borders,Irina Bokova the Director-General of UNESCO,Mohammed Meer Abdullah Al Raeesi, UAE Ambassador to France,Abdullah Ali Masbeh Al Nuaimi UAE Permanent Representative to the UNESCO, Abdullah Al Owais, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah, Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture as well as a number of officials.
Speaking during her keynote address at the Award Ceremony, Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi emphasised the importance of language as one of the most important tools for communicating between people and delivering each nation’s culture and civilization to others, stating, “We need to care about learning and protecting language. However, I also believe that we should not judge others and their cultures by the standards of right and wrong. There is no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to human culture.”
Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi called for not prejudging other cultures and civilizations only because we feel they do not represent us or don’t resemble ours, and not to look at the other from the perspective, “We are against the other”, based on the principle that our culture, civilization and language are better and “righter” than the other.
Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi said, “I believe that all cultures are the true essence of a specific group of people, and each culture stems from the spirit of this group, its geography and history. As human beings, we must expand our horizons and respect other cultures and exchange knowledge.”
She added, “Today, we are closer than ever thanks to social media, but we are more divided on the cultural level. With the speed of information through social media, we receive every moment a great deal of information about each other’s cultures but most often out of context, thus contributing to creating stereotypes and untrue concepts about each other. What we are witnessing today is worrisome and requires us to be vigilant and aware. If we are truly keen on protecting our culture and our authenticity, we are required today to continue to help each other and achieve a true rapprochement and understanding between us and the world, through similar events that urge us to respect each other.”
Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi talked about the political investment of culture, stressing that politics divide while culture brings people together. “If we see the world from a political perspective, we will see it either white or black… but if we look at the world from a cultural perspective, we will celebrate and enjoy our differences and will not surrender our humanity,” she added.
She pointed out that the UNESCO- Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture is a true mirror of Sharjah’s ongoing efforts to promote the achievements of our Arab civilization in science, knowledge and arts in all parts of the world, with the encouragement and support of Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, emphasising that Sharjah’s goal is to cherish the concept of intercultural respect and understanding, and to share the sources of Arab culture with the entire world.
In her speech, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, praised the efforts of Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to promote world peace and enhance intercultural understanding among all peoples of the world. She also lauded his strong vision of culture for mutual respect and understanding and freedom in the modern world.
Irina Bokoya stated, “This vision has perhaps never been more important than it is today — in this era of globalization, when people and cultures interact ever more, when men and women perceive themselves increasingly as having multiple identities.”
Bokoya added, “The UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture has contributed to supporting initiatives that provide for greater dialogue between cultures and cultural diversity by honouring organisations and personalities that have enriched Arab culture with diverse works.”
Abdullah Ali Masbeh Al Nuaimi, UAE Permanent Representative to UNESCO, highlighted the role the Prize plays in enriching the cultural plurality and diversity, stating, “The 12th edition of the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture coincides with the selection of Sharjah as Islamic Culture Capital for 2014, thus consolidating Sharjah’s internationally recognised reputation for its support to many cultural and educational initiatives in Sharjah and throughout the region. This approach is in line with the deep beliefs of Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, that culture is three acts in one act: thought, enlightenment, and change towards better, higher and most influential humanitarian goals. “
Al Nuaimi underscored that the UAE is pioneering in many fields of creativity under direct guidance and instructions from President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his brothers the Supreme Council members and Rulers of the Emirates, especially with regard to extending a cultural bridge between Arabs and the world, enriching cultural diversity and plurality, and promoting the spirit of tolerance and acceptance of the other.
Abdullah Al Owais, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah, said, “The UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture carries special importance for the significant role it plays in enriching the dialogue between cultures and civilizations, promoting and disseminating culture, and recognising those writers and intellectuals who advocate coexistence, tolerance, and integration”.
Al Owais extended heartfelt thanks to the prize secretariat, the judging panel, and to all who contributed by why of their opinion or suggestion to the development of the award. He congratulated winners of this Prize for their outstanding contribution to supporting Arab culture.
The winners of the UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture are chosen by the Director-General of UNESCO, on the recommendation of an international jury of experts in the field of Arab Culture and having distinguished themselves, over several years, by meritorious actions. This year’s edition of the Prize has been awarded to the Lebanon-based Arab Image Foundation and acclaimed writer and publisher Farouk Mardam-Bey from France.
Established in 1998 and supported since its inception by Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, the Prize recognises two laureates – individuals, groups, or institutions – who through their work and outstanding achievements endeavour to disseminate greater knowledge of Arab art and culture.
Twenty-four laureates have thus far been awarded the UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture, which sees purse of US$60 000, divided equally between the two laureates of each edition, in recognition of their contribution – in their respective disciplines – to Arab art and culture, or for participating in the dissemination of the latter outside the Arab world. Together, the prize winners have come to represent a new generation of researchers, artists, philosophers, authors and translators with a profound desire to achieve a genuine dialogue between Arab culture and other cultures.