Artists Announced to Receive UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture

UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture
UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, will award the 14th edition of the UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture to an Egyptian artist, Bahia Shehab, the first woman from the Arab region to receive this award, and French artist eL Seed.

The award ceremony of the Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture will take place on 18 April at UNESCO’s Headquarters. An international jury recommended the two laureates to the Director-General for their innovative use of Arabic calligraphy in street art.

Bahia Shehab (b. 1977) is an Egyptian artist, designer and art historian, whose work has been displayed in exhibitions, galleries and on the streets of cities in many parts of the world.

As an engaged and committed calligraffiti artist, Bahia’s project, No, A Thousand Times No, is a series of graffiti images centered on the one thousand ways of writing “no” in Arabic.

Her artistic work in graffiti brings to the forefront issues pertaining to political and economic injustices, as well as personal issues and gender-based violations, reflecting her conviction that art is a tool for change that can provoke people to leave their comfort zone and engage in action for justice.

eL Seed, was born in Paris to Tunisian parents in 1981 and learned to read and write Arabic in his late teens. He developed his unique pictorial style in calligraffiti that mixes poetry, calligraphy and graffiti and disseminates messages of peace and beauty perceptible even to those unable to decipher Arabic writing.

eL Seed says that the beauty of calligraffiti is like music that can be appreciated independently of intellectual analysis. As an artist of Maghrebin background, he uses his artwork in public spaces to engage viewers in a dialogue that questions stereotypical narratives around Arab and Islamic culture in Europe.

Created in 1998 at the initiative of the United Arab Emirates, the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture rewards the efforts of two personalities or organizations, one from an Arab country and one from any other country, who have made a significant contribution to the development, dissemination and promotion of Arab culture in the world.

The Prize carries a monetary value of $60,000, equally divided between the two laureates.

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Rakesh Raman