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UNESCO culture prizes awarded

Paris, October 25 - UNESC0 Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura will present the first Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture and this year’s UNESCO-Greece Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes at Headquarters on Thursday, October 25. In a ceremony on Friday, Mr Matsuura will present four new intangible heritage prizes to their laureates.

In a ceremony on October 25 (6.30 p.m. Room XI), Professors Abdulaziz El Makaleh (Yemen) and Na Zhong (China) will each be awarded US$25,000 as winners of the first Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.

This prize was created by UNESCO’s Executive Board in 1998 with funds from the government of the Emirate of Sharjah. It will be awarded every two years "to honour intellectually distinguished individuals, groups or institutions world-wide for their activities to promote Arab culture".

A professor of Arab literature, Abdulaziz el Makalah is one of the Arab world’s leading poets and is deeply committed to promoting and developing Yemen’s culture.

Professor Na Zhong, was born in 1910 into a Muslim family of the Hui nationality in Yunnan Province. He has worked for over 60 years to promote a better understanding of Arab culture in China and was the first to teach Arabic in a Chinese University (Central University, now known as Nanjing University). Professor Na is the author of more than 20 works on Islamic history and religion.

An international jury selected the winners from a list of 33 candidates proposed by 21 countries.

On the same day (7 p.m., Room XII), the UNESCO-Greece Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes will be presented to the Djebel Murdjadjo planted forest and old town of Sid El Houari in Algeria, and the Heathland Centre at Lygra (Norway). Each will receive a cheque for US$10,000.

The prize is awarded every two years to an individual or group of persons, working in a personal capacity or as staff members of a private or public institution, in recognition of their efforts to conserve and promote cultural landscapes: sites shaped largely by human hands.

The planted pine forest of Murdjadjo and old town of Sid El Houari, overlooking the Bay of Oran in Algeria, were selected for the "harmonious and close relationship" between the urban and natural environments, established over several centuries.

The Heathland Centre at Lygra in Norway was set up in 2000 to work with local farmers to restore the seriously threatened heathlands that once stretched over the entire length of Europe’s Atlantic coast, from the Polar circle to Portugal.

In a ceremony on October 26 (1.15 p.m., Room XII), the Director–General will present four new intangible heritage prizes to organizations working for the safeguard, protection and promotion of four of UNESCO’s recently proclaimed Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage. The prize money, of differing amounts as provided by Member States, will be used to continue and improve the work of these organisations.

The Arirang Prize, funded by the Republic of Korea, will be presented to the Dökala Association for the safeguard and promotion of the cultural space of Sosso Bala (Guinea) and to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of Philippines for the safeguarding and promotion of the Hudhud chants of the Ifugao (Philippines).

The Pacha Prize, financed by Bolivia, will be awarded to the Rustavi State Academic Ensemble of Singing and Dancing for the safeguarding and promotion of Georgian polyphonic singing in the Republic of Georgia.

The Samarkand Taronasi Prize, funded by Uzbekistan, will be presented to the Semeiskie Cultural Centre for the safeguard and promotion of the cultural space and oral culture of the Semeiskie (Russian Federation).

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Prize, financed by the United Arab Emirates, will be given to two laureates: The Association Djamaa el-Fna Square - Oral Heritage of Humanity for the safeguard and promotion of the cultural space of the Djamaa el-Fna Square (Morocco) and to the Association for the Zápara Nationality of Pastaza Province in Ecuador for the safeguard and promotion of the oral heritage and cultural manifestations of Zápara people of Ecuador and Peru.

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