Arab Chamber director wins UNESCO prize

The recipients of the 2019 UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture were announced this Monday (18). The Chamber’s Cultural director Silvia Antibas was the second Brazilian ever to get the accolade.

Bruna Garcia Fonseca

São Paulo – Historian, curator and Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce Cultural director Silvia Antibas accepted the 2019 UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said this Monday (18). Palestinian artist Suleiman Mansour was the other recipient. The award goes out to two people, groups or organizations each year since 1998. Sharjah is one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates.

Recipients are awarded for the commitment of those whose work and achievements help spread awareness of Arab art and culture around the world. The laureates were nominated by UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay by recommendation of an international jury. Each winner gets a USD 30,000 prize. The award ceremony will be held next year in Paris, France.

Silvia Alice Antibas is the second Brazilian and the first Brazilian woman to get the award. The first one was professor João Baptista de Medeiros Vargens, in 2011. A publisher, author, translator, lexicologist and professor in Arab civilization and Arabic language, Medeiros worked to highlight the presence of Arab-Muslim civilization in Brazil and other Portuguese-speaking countries.

In the past 30 years, historian Silvia Antibas devoted her career to promoting a deeper understanding or Arab culture in Latin America, with an emphasis on Arab migration to Brazil. she also promoted Brazilian-born Arab-descendant writers via the translation of their works into Arabic.

Antibas painstakingly researched and preserved archival materials, mapping out Arab influence in Brazilian music. She also curated various events promoting Arab culture around the world. As an authoritative voice on Arab migration in Latin America, she joined numerous conferences and summit events in the Americas and elsewhere. The international jury nominated Silvia Antibas for her lifelong contribution to promoting Arab culture, identity and memory in Brazil and across Latin America.

“This award is given to people who help spread Arab culture, with an unflinching emphasis on dialogue, the peaceful coexistence of peoples, the respect of diversity and the other,” Antibas told ANBA.

Antibas said her work at the Secretariat for Culture of the State of São Paulo helped propel her work to promote and publicize Arab culture in Brazil. “This connection of the public and private spheres helped me with my work,” she said.

The Arab Brazilian Chamber was also a cornerstone of her career. “The support from the board has always been key, and the Arab Chamber did a special job of facilitating my contact with people outside the country,” she said. Antibas’ stint as the Chamber’s Cultural director began in 2013. “I was the first woman in the board, and with the specific task of promoting culture. The Arab Chamber realized the importance of culture in relations between different peoples, and it has always provided the space for me to host lectures and meetings,” she said.

For Antibas, the award is a recognition of her lifelong work. “Recognition for work done with utmost dedication is a double honor. It’s a joy, a particularly meaningful satisfaction, it’s a tribute to my parents, my grandparents, who came from the Arab countries, who went through a lot and gave me opportunities,” she said. Antibas’ father is a Syrian immigrant, and her mother is a Brazilian born to Lebanese parents.

Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

Rodrigo Rodrigues/Arab Chamber

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