Shaikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan presents the Shaikh Zayed Book Award to Professor Jaroslav Stetkevych and Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych at Auditorium Plaza Louvre in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman /Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The winners for the 13th edition of the Shaikh Zayed Book Award were all honoured on Thursday at an award ceremony held at Louvre Abu Dhabi for their efforts in promoting the Arabic language.

Launched in 2007, the award is aimed at recognising writers, scholars and publishing houses for their works that have helped enrich the Arab literary and cultural scene. The award has also grown on a global level, with submissions for the prize coming from both the Arab world and beyond.

Spread across different categories, each winner receives a cash prize of Dh750,000 along with a gold plated medal. The winner of the Cultural Personality of the Year award receives a Dh1 million cash prize.

“My husband and I were so happy and surprised when we found out that we had won this award. We often work without much recognition or notice of what we do, so it’s very nice to be in a place where there is so much appreciation for the kind of work we’re involved in,” said US professor Suzanne Stetkevych, who along with her husband Jaroslav, were awarded with the Cultural Personality of the Year.

“Certainly for myself and my husband we’re both into literature generally and poetry in particular, and for us the Arabic poetry tradition is one of the richest and oldest poetic traditions in the world. Even though Arabic is not our own national literature, we see it as one of the great literatures of the world and part of a world heritage,” she added, explaining her interest in her works and research with the Arabic language.

Shaikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, posing for picture with winners of the Shaikh Zayed Book Award and officials. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman /Gulf News

Stetkevych also said she hoped her work with Arabic literature would show the richness of Arab culture to a non-Arab audience, explaining how scholarly works were a good way of bridging cultural divides.

“In the US so much of what we hear about the Arab world is only current events unfortunately, and so it’s important for the outside world to realise the Arab people have a long history and culture and are not only defined by current events.”

Professor Phillip Kennedy, a British academic and researcher based in the UAE was another awardee, receiving the prize for the Arab Culture in Other Languages category

“I feel elated by this award, we always associate this kind of event with movie stars and the like, and so to be recognised for our scholarly work is a great feeling and honour,” he said.

“Not many people read my works because of the nature of it, and so perhaps receiving this award will encourage more readers to start doing so, and so I am encouraged from this,” he added.

“I am dedicated to providing Arabic text for people to read across the world in English, It’s a slow work and process, but as long as works are coming out it’s a rewarding one,” he said.

Full list of winners

■ Cultural Personality of the Year award: Professors Suzanne Stetkevych and Jaroslav Stetkevych (US)

Arabic Culture in Other Languages award: Professor Phillip Kennedy (UK)

Literature award: Bensalem Himmich (Morocco)

Literary and Art Criticism award: Dr Charbel Dagher (Lebanon)

Children’s Literature award: Hussain Al Mutawaa (Kuwait)

Young Author award: Dr Abderrezak Belagrouz (Algeria)

Publishing and Technology award: The Arabic Centre for Geographic Literature (UAE)