The Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation has honored the winners of the 17th session of Al Owais Cultural Awards (2020-2021) at a gala ceremony attended by a wide audience of cultural personalities and culture enthusiasts that was held on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, at the Rashidiya Grand Ballroom in Mӧvenpick Grand Al Bustan Hotel – Dubai.
In the presence of the Chairman and members of the Board of Trustees of the Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation, HE Abdul Ghaffar Hussein (Board Member) honored poet Elias Lahhoud, novelist Nabil Sulaiman, critic Dr. Abdul Malik Murtad, thinker Dr. Ahmed Zayed and Asilah Forum Foundation, represented by its Secretary General HE Mohammed Bin Eissa.
The event, which was attended by a constellation of Arab intellectuals, innovators, publishers and media personalities, kicked off with the UAE National Anthem followed by a screening of a documentary about the award. Next, HE Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Al Owais Cultural Foundation gave a speech, where he pointed out that honoring the winners of the 17th session of Al Owais Cultural Awards is a celebration of the innovation and talent of these personalities who have greatly contributed to the fields of culture, thought and science.
Moreover, HE Dr. Gargash said in his speech:
“First of all, on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation allow me to express how delighted we are to welcome our esteemed guests and audience and to recognize and honor innovation and innovators in various cultural, intellectual and scientific fields.
We meet today, with a revival of our cultural activities following the Covid-19 pandemic. Here we are in the recovery phase thanks to the great efforts made to bring life back to normalcy in all sectors.
A few months ago, we celebrated the 50th National Day of the United Arab Emirates, a country which has always placed innovation and innovators at the forefront of its priorities and interests, as they constitute a cornerstone of the journey to progress and development. We regard the future with optimism, armed with science, culture and innovation to continue on our journey in the coming decades.”
Moreover, HE Dr. Gargash added:
“Celebrating this constellation of innovators in the 17th session of Al Owais Cultural Awards is a celebration of the innovation and talent of these remarkable personalities who have greatly contributed to the fields of culture, thought and science.
The Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Award has underlined its pioneering role in fostering and recognizing innovators and intellectuals, and has always sought them wherever they might be. Therefore, today we would like to congratulate our winners: poet Elias Lahhoud, novelist Nabil Sulaiman, critic Dr. Abdul Malik Murtad and thinker Dr. Ahmed Zayed. We are also proud of the winner of the Cultural and Scientific Achievement Award: the Asilah Forum Foundation, represented tonight by its Secretary General my dear brother and friend HE Mohammed Bin Eissa.
The Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation has always striven to be up to date with the Arab creative scene. Beginning with the core values established within our community, and the values we have inherited from our founding fathers, who saw culture as a vital element for building and developing society and opening up wide horizons for growth and progress.
This brings to mind the late Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais, who set a shining example as a cultured businessman who was aware of the importance of culture and thought and recognized the necessity of supporting innovators and distinguished minds. The late Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais- may Allah have mercy on him- was a role model for businessmen and for the private sector, inspiring them to enrich the cultural and intellectual scene, not only in the UAE but in the region as well.”
HE Dr. Gargash concluded his speech by saying:
“As a Board of Trustees we are very keen on preserving the achievements made by the Foundation since its establishment, which derive its vitality and status from the pioneering experience of the United Arab Emirates and its approach to development created by its wise leadership, led by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates – May Allah protect him, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates- May Allah protect him, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces- May Allah protect him, and their brothers Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Emirates, who have made great contributions and given a great deal of support to the fields of culture and thought so that the UAE remains a haven for excellence and innovation.”
Next, HE Mohammed Bin Eissa, Secretary General of the Asilah Forum Foundation (Winner of the Cultural and Scientific Achievement Award) gave a speech on behalf of the winners of the 17th session, in which he said:
“Over the past few decades, the United Arab Emirates has developed an effective system for the advancement of thought and culture in all forms, a system that has shone beyond the borders of the UAE, as it has allowed culture enthusiasts to contribute their wealth to culture. Hence, public and private entities have complemented each other, which has reflected positively on the national cultural scene. Various forms of motivation support and encouragement emerged both from the state and from patrons; something which had a positive impact on individuals and institutions in the fields of thought and culture, not only in the UAE but also in various Arab countries who have benefited from the cultural renaissance in the UAE.”
Following this, novelist Shahla Al Ujayli read out the jury panel report for the 17th session, which stated the grounds upon which each winner was selected in various categories of the prize:
“Firstly in the ‘Poetry’ category, the committee decided to grant the award to poet Elias Lahhoud in recognition of the richness of his poetic journey, spanning more than half a century, and for his innovative poetic project, which sheds light on a myriad of themes about the self, the homeland and humanity at large. His innovative poetic style and the way he constructs and geometrically structures his poems have given him a distinct identity among his contemporaries.
Moreover, his poems display various language devices as well as innovative imagery and symbolism among other techniques that aim at deconstructing the familiar and dissecting the linguistic structure into units of vast semantic and emotional implications. He uses multiple techniques to create his imagery, which are innovative and filled with wonder, weaving together mythology, dialogue and poetic narrative in a noteworthy framework. In addition, his derivations from Arab and world heritage are presented within an intriguing dramatic format that brings together multiple voices and a variety of rhythms. He is constantly searching for novel visions, which reflects the depth of his awareness and experience and how he has utilized the many transformations that occurred in the field of poetry during his long career.
Secondly in the ‘Short Story, Novel and Drama’ category, the Committee has decided to grant the award to novelist Nabil Sulaiman in recognition of the variedness and richness of his creative experience. His writings mirror the history of Arab literature over a period of six decades, and underline its aesthetic, political and ideological milestones, in addition to reflecting the development of the Arab narrative writing.
Sulaiman is a persistent author who continues to reinvent himself, working diligently so that his writing experience is far-reaching. He is considered one of the most prolific writers who have always been present on the Arab literary scene. His narratives are a mixture of documentation and fantasy, of sociology and politics. Despite being based on historical material, his novels elevate the historical elements to the “fantastic” level. Sulaiman writes in a seemingly simple language, but his language derives its depth from the poetic everyday words of the Syrian dialect, making it similar to folktales, with their philosophical wit. By using this aesthetic approach, he succeeds in giving his writings a distinct local flavor.
Thirdly, in the ‘Literary Studies and Criticism’ category, the Committee has decided to grant the award to critic Abdul Malik Murtad in recognition of the depth and comprehensiveness of his work, which covers various areas of literary criticism such as popular literature (including riddles and proverbs), mythology, Nabati poetry, classical Arab literature (Maqamat and the Seven Mu’allaqat), and his deconstructive analysis of a tale from A Thousand and One Nights, in addition to modern Arabic literature (poetry and prose). He has many distinct contributions to literary theory, and has extensively discussed modern critical theories in his works in a way that is in harmony with Arab culture, making use of semiology, deconstruction, reading theory and text theory.
Murtad is also known for his wide knowledge of classical Arab heritage and for his ability to master modern critical theory. In his writings, he strives to establish critical concepts and follow them historically and cognitively, especially through lexicons, encyclopedias and Western philosophy books as well as Arab heritage books. He developed a literary dictionary that offers critical terms and tools for the new generation of critics in the Arab world.
Fourthly, in the ‘Humanities and Future Studies’ category, the Committee has decided to grant the Award to thinker Dr. Ahmed Zayed; one of the most prominent contemporary sociologists. He is one of the founders of an Arab Egyptian school of sociology that presents an understanding of the modernist project coupled with self-criticism. Armed with sociological analysis and political sociology tools, he has worked on creating serious visions and contributions within the framework of the Arab school of sociology. This is manifested in his works and translations and also in the field work he has supervised. He has been preoccupied with renewing religious discourse and with issues pertaining to the middle class, and presents an informed reading of the concept of social capitalism. He has succeeded in placing the concept of rural sociology back in its rightful place by shedding light on rural environments as a distinct area for research. His works authentically bring together historical research and field research. In addition, his sociological writings target a broad readership ranging from the common reader to the specialized scholar, hence making his works a rich addition to the Arab library.”
On the other hand, the statement of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees about the Winner of the “Cultural and Scientific Achievement Award”, which was read by Board Member Dr. Fatima Al Sayegh, said: “The Award was granted to Asilah Forum Foundation in recognition of the social and humanitarian dimensions of its activities; as it works on creating model schools, offering scholarships and establishing homes for the elderly. The Asilah Forum Foundation also oversees a project to build 900 residential units for inhabitants of tin shacks, in addition to building museums, theatres and other projects. The Asilah Forum Foundation Festival, which is held in the Moroccan city of Asilah, is considered a major event that attracts a large number of tourists to the city. The Festival covers a wide range of activities from various fields, including literature, music, art and sculpture, which transform the city to an open art exhibition attracting visitors, innovators and authors from around the world. A country is chosen to be the guest of honor each year and the Festival brings together writers, critics, musical bands, artists, media personalities and other innovators in one cultural space.”
Moreover, Al Sayegh added: “The Board of Trustees of the Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation has decided to grant the ‘Cultural and Scientific Achievement Award’ in the 17th session to Asilah Forum Foundation in recognition of its exceptional role in achieving cultural, social and developmental goals stemming from the deeply rooted values of free culture, which sees dialogue with the other as a means of promoting Arab culture around the world, and as a way of spreading values like acceptance and tolerance to reach an understanding of other civilizations. The Board also recognizes the role played by Asilah Forum Foundation in promoting knowledge and science, through offering scholarships and social services in the aim of creating joy and a free and honorable life for those in need.”
Following this, the honorees ascended to the stage, where they were presented with commemorative shields by HE Abdul Ghaffar Hussein, Member of the Board of Trustees. In addition, each winner received a monetary prize of USD $120,000 as well as a gold medal -made of 22kt gold- with the winner’s photo on one side and the logo of the awards on the other. Winners also received elegant crystalline shields and prestigious calligraphed certificates written by hand in various Arabic calligraphy scripts, such as the square Kufic, Diwani, Jeli Diwani and Naskh scripts. All the winners were adorned with the United Arab Emirates sash as they sat for a group photo with Members of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
It is worth mentioning that the total number of winners in all the sessions of Al Owais Cultural Awards is 101; while there have been 184 jury members and 84 consultants. The Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Award is considered one of the most established and prestigious Arab awards, and is known for its integrity, transparency and the meticulous scientific standards it applies. In the 17th session of the Award, the Foundation received a total of 1847 nominations in all categories of the Award, with 321 nominations in the “Poetry” category, 480 nominations in the “Short Story, Novel and Drama” category, 285 nominations in the “Literary Studies and Criticism” category, 480 nominations in the “Humanities and Future Studies” category and 265 nominations for the “Cultural and Scientific Achievement Award”.