Arab Awards: Towards Stimulating Cultural and Scientific Creativity

As life becomes increasingly complicated with the broadening scope of scientific research and technology, the familiar meaning of ‘award’ turned from being a gift or grant- whether it is conditional or not on the performance of a work -into a prize for a creative achievement. Its goal is to create a spirit of competition and unleash talents among creative persons in all fields of science, arts and social sciences by focusing on work and its outstanding scientific results or aesthetic aspects in order to reach the largest number of recipients. Indeed, awards focus light on achievers by honoring them with dedication of their standing in the scientific and cultural scenes. Moreover, they represent recognition of the value of creativity and its role in life. The idea of awards was initiated by advanced countries as a way of developing their arts, literature and sciences. According to statistics, the number of well-known prizes in the world reached nearly 500 awards. Determining factors were such as continuity and a declared clear method, as well as the status, originality and reputation of the award internationally, regionally and nationally. The ratings of these awards varied with different objectives and aspirations.

Some of the awards are quite specialized, such as those awarded in an exact scientific discipline, or for a specific literary genre such as fiction, short story, or theater. Other awards are limited to a particular region or country, or to speakers of a language. There are, however, prizes that do not place geographical or linguistic restrictions and are awarded in the fields of pure science, humanities, literature, social sciences or applied sciences. When the ‘encouraging incentives’ for the awards were strong and multiple, the results were important in raising the level of artistic, cultural and scientific production, and when the opposite happened, production knew a contraction and decline. This is why when we compare, for example, the enormous budgets devoted to scientific research in developed countries, especially in the United States of America, as well as the international awards that are unique to American cinema, we recognize the main reason behind the flourishing of scientific research and the spread of the American film. In a country such as France, for example, as a leading center in culture, art, literature, business and other sectors worldwide, more than 1,500 prizes are awarded annually at various levels and sectors at a rate of 4 awards per day, to consolidate the concept of excellence, creativity and quality as a renewed culture.

In our part of the world, the expansion of Arab space, the weakness of Arab cultural media, and the poor distribution of books, all made it difficult to identify the most profound studies or the most important innovations. Yet, in the context of this, the tradition of creative prizes in the Arab world has emerged as one prize or two, and has spread to dozens of awards. It is worth mentioning that a few decades ago, some Arab kings, presidents, financial or creative figures or financial and scientific institutions began to contribute to the creation of prizes for intellectual, scientific, literary, artistic and sporting creativity. The positive and healthy competition between them has succeeded in creating compelling reasons for participating in the annual or biennial awards especially those concentrated in the Gulf States.

Examples on the main awards include King Faisal International Prize, Sheikh Zayed book award, Qatar’s Katara Prize for Arabic novel, Abdul Aziz Al Babtain award for poetic creativity, Abdul Hameed Shoman Award for Young Arab Researchers, Al Oweis Award for Culture and Art, Dubai Award for Cultural Creativity, Arab Creativity Award , King Abdullah II Award for Creativity, Arkanah International Poetry Award of Morocco and Palestine Cultural Awards, etc.

More include book prizes organized by the Arab ministries of culture, in addition to state awards for appreciation and encouragement, film awards, sports and popular awards that play a major role in   introducing outstanding work to the people. Some of these offer large sums of money, and contribute – no doubt – to presenting the winning work to the recipients and increasing distribution, while harvesting more returns. The material reward can add to the moral reward if the arbitrators of proposed works, in their multiple opinions, have assumed their moral responsibility without bias or favoritism. Publishing houses and media institutions also need to play their role in valuing winning works, through wide publicity that lead to continued marketing and distribution.  Otherwise, the prize will remain a mere bonus. All said, Arab prizes have been able to stir up stagnant water in the cultural life, adding to the stimulation and encouragement of Arab innovators in various fields.

It is now required, and really necessary, to take into account the importance of the material value of the award. Let us increase a little the value of the prizes and make them generous, for harvesting frustration can, sometimes, be greater than the harvest of satisfaction! Prizes have always received a moral and material luster that no writer has ever been able to overlook. However, the competition for an award, proved to be tempting for the soul and for ink to flow. Indeed, the moral motivation involved among the participants – we believe – has stimulated creative ‘ink’ in them and endeavors as much if not more than a yearning for a prize or money.