Kassem Istanbouli, an actor and director from Lebanon, and Hajer Ben Boubaker, a researcher and sound director from France, were honored with the 19th UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture during a ceremony held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on June 26, 2023. The Prize was presented to the winners individually.
The efforts of two winners were recognized and honored during this event, which the Sharjah Department of Culture put on in collaboration with UNESCO.
The ceremony was attended by Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Owais, Chairman of the Sharjah Department of Culture; Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO; Mohammed Ibrahim Al Qasir, Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs in Sharjah; Ahmed Al Mulla, Deputy Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to France; and Aisha Al Kamali, Representative of the Cultural Attaché at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in France; along with dignitaries.
Istanbouli, the recipient of the Arab Personality Award, and Ben Boubaker, the recipient of the Non-Arab Personality Award, were honored during the 19th annual ceremony for the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture. Al Owais and Ramirez hosted the ceremony.
The laureate of the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture is honored for their exceptional artistic achievements that celebrate Arab art and culture worldwide. The Prize, which promotes peace and conversation to enhance intercultural understanding and celebrate variety, is central to UNESCO’s efforts to combat racism and other forms of prejudice.
The 19th iteration of the Prize was awarded to Mr. Istanbouli and Ms. Ben Boubaker in recognition of their remarkable contributions to the promotion of the arts and Arab culture and the support of their respective local communities.
Kassem Istanbouli is a well-known filmmaker and actor from Lebanon. Since 2014, he has led the effort to restore historical cinemas in Lebanon. Some cinemas were closed down or destroyed during the civil war, such as the Stars Cinema in Nabatieh and the Al-Hamra and Rivoli in Tyre.
Mr. Istanbouli is a participant in several international programs that are centered on the promotion of skills, the empowerment of young people, and collaborative relationships. In 2020, he helped establish the Arab Culture and Arts Network (ACAN), whose mission is to plan and carry out online cultural events throughout the Arab region. Over 700 organizations and individuals worldwide are collectively referred to as members of the Network.
Mr. Istanbouli is also the director and founder of the Lebanese National Theatre in Tyre and the Lebanese National Theatre in Tripoli. Additionally, since 2014, he has held the project manager position at the Tiro Association for Arts in Lebanon.
Hajer Ben Boubaker is an independent researcher and sound director of French and Tunisian descent. Her research is centered on a socio-historical examination of Arab music and the cultural history of the Maghreb community in France and worldwide.
In 2018, she launched and independently produced the podcast Vintage Arab, which delves into the musical history of the Arab world. She can maintain a foothold in both the literary and artistic worlds because of the podcast, located at the crossroads of the two.
Ms. Ben Boubaker is a producer and director of documentaries for France Culture. Her work there raise questions about the cultural and political memory of immigration. As a researcher, she is affiliated with the Arab and Oriental music collection at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and continues writing for scientific publications. Her work will be published in “Paris, capitale maghrébine: une histoire Populaire” in October 2023.
The UNESCO-Sharjah Prize was established in 1998 and is administered by UNESCO at the initiative of the United Arab Emirates. It honors two individuals, groups, or institutions each year in recognition of their contribution to Arab art and culture or for participating in disseminating the latter outside of the Arab world. Laureates can come from any country in the world.
The program contributes to the Organization’s goal of promoting inclusive, resilient, and peaceful societies. The Prize’s monetary value is USD 60,000, and it is split between the two recipients in the same proportion as the Prize itself.