Laureates of the 2012-2013 edition

Noreen Abu Oun (ABC's Executive Director ), Imogen Ware (Projects Manager) and Virginia Forbes (Chairwoman). © Arab British Centre

The Arab British Centre (United Kingdom) and Mustapha Cherif (Algeria) laureates of the 2012-2013 edition The Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, has decided, following the recommendation of the International Jury chaired by Prof. Stephen Humphreys (USA), to award the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture to the Arab British Centre (ABC) from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and to the Algerian intellectual Mustapha Cherif.

The International Jury chose these laureates out of 35 candidatures, consisting of 14 non-Arab and 21 Arab, from 17 different countries – many of which participated in the Prize for the first time. The British and Algerian prizewinners were selected due to the quality of the work presented, international recognition as well as originality of their approaches.

ABC and Mustapha Cherif, each in their own way, created spaces for dialogue, exchange and mutual understanding in the fight against ignorance and prejudice.

ABC, a London-based organization, is run by a small but young and dynamic team dedicated to a single passion –the arts and culture of the Arab world – and is chaired by Virginia Forbes (first organization to win the award in the history of the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize and also the first ever British prizewinner). Despite a limited budget, ABC disseminates information and organizes events, in collaboration with other organizations, on its premises and outside. One of their major 2012 projects was entitled “Safar, a journey through Arab popular cinema”. Moreover, ABC benefits from a rich and active network of partners promoting all aspects of Arab culture and arts in Great Britain. The organization’s main concern is to enhance better understanding of Arab culture and societies, especially in the present socio-political context. In addition, ABC organizes public debates and conferences on future artistic perspectives in the context of the Arab Spring.

Algerian, Mustapha Cherif has contributed for over thirty years to disseminating knowledge on Arab and Muslim culture as well as promoting intercultural dialogue and tolerance. This former statesman and diplomat was also deeply involved during his career in science education. As a researcher, he was responsible for implementing training modules on Arab and Muslim civilization and culture at the University of Algiers, the Graduate School of Political Science and International Relations of Algiers, and the Open University of Catalonia. He is co-founder of the Muslim-Christian Friendship Group, as well as its first co-chair in 1993 and coordinator of the Islam-Catholicism World Forum. Mustapha Cherif is also the author of several books on interreligious dialogue, such as L’islam et l’occident (Odile Jacob, Paris, 2006), Rencontre avec le Pape (Barzakh, Alger, 2011) et Le Prophète et notre temps (Albouraq, Paris, 2012). Through his writings and communications, Mustapha Cherif strives for “the spirit of Andalusia to be born again in the spirits of our time”.

Each of the two winners will be awarded the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture of US $30,000 each, at a ceremony to be held on 25 April 2013 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. On the occasion of the 11th edition of the Prize, there will be a rich and varied programme.

Following ten years of cooperation, this edition of the Prize marks a turning point for the joint efforts of UNESCO and the Emirate of Sharjah’s to strengthen the standing of this prize on the world cultural scene at the crossroads between Eastern and Western cultures.

In perfect harmony with the fundamental values ​​of UNESCO and at the heart of current issues and challenges, the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture highlights the present urgent need for dialogue among cultures, identities and accepting differences with regard to a shared heritage.

Mustapha Cherif. © M.C


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