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2019 ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture

The laureates of the 2019 ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture are Ahdaf Soueif (Cairo/London) & City of Women Festival (Ljubljana).

The two laureates represent distinct cultural approaches, but both also offer a hopeful vision of democracy by redefining our understanding of culture and its capacity to improve a common European social reality.

Ahdaf Soueif at PalFest in 2017 in Nablus, Palestine. Photo: Rob Stothard for Palfest.

Ahdaf Soueif at PalFest in 2017 in Nablus, Palestine. Photo: Rob Stothard for Palfest.

Ahdaf Soueif (1950) is a writer and cultural activist working in London and Cairo.

In the last 20 years she has courageously merged literature and activism, building a body of fiction and committed journalism that responds to the legacies of European intervention in conflicts outside of the continent’s immediate territorial boundaries.

The Palestine Festival of Literature (2008–present), of which she is founding chair, created a new form of international cultural cooperation.

Soueif’'s consistent opposition to both authoritarianism and colonialism has marked her as a cultural figure of international importance inspiring new generations of critical voices throughout Europe and its neighbouring regions.

Throughout her career, Soueif has been a tireless mediator between the supposed opposition of east and west, working to find common ground for a more democratic future.

City of Women - Miyuki Nishizawa 'Good News', photo by Nada Žgank.

City of Women - Miyuki Nishizawa 'Good News', photo by Nada Žgank.

City of Women Festival (Mesto žensk) is an international contemporary arts festival that takes place in Ljubljana.

Since 1994, the festival has welcomed over 700 advocates for greater gender and social equity, including artists, collectives, curators, theorists and activists from all over the world.

Its inclusive understanding of contemporary feminism and its transdisciplinary framework highlight artists who blur the boundaries of genre and bridge the perceived separation between thought and action, creating new tools for a feminist perspective that is alert to the ways that gender overlaps with class, race and other nodes of oppression.

The continuity of the festival’s residence in Ljubljana and the very name “City of Women” point toward the utopian potential of a space that nurtures the social organisation of women and people of non-binary gender.


Theme: Democracy Needs Imagination

Europe today is rich and diverse, but also fragmented and disjointed. In a year that heralds EU elections and Brexit, our notion of a united and open Europe is more fragile now than ever before.

Our 2019 theme Democracy Needs Imagination emerged from our work protecting Europe’s inclusive and open democracies through new, creative methods. For us, democracy refers to much more than political and legislative systems and ballot boxes. It is “everyday” democracy that puts the active participation of all people in politics and community life, online and offline. This aspect of democracy is under great threat.

We want to reclaim the space for civil society that is under increased threat in a growing number of European countries. We provide a platform for daring cultural experiments; unexpected, complex but urgently needed; and constructive dialogue across differing points of view. The 2019 Award highlights cultural alternatives that bridge the gaps between existing democratic institutions and people, between people themselves, and across all kinds of borders. We celebrate the work of critically engaged cultural institutions and initiatives that consider democracy a shared responsibility for all of us rather than a system owned by a few.

Award Jury 2019

An independent, international and interdisciplinary Jury will convene in early 2019 to assess the nominations and select the two Laureates of the 2019 ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture.

The 2019 ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture Jury are:
Tessa Boerman (Filmmaker, Amsterdam)
Andreas Broeckmann (Curator, Leuphana Arts Programme,Lüneburg/Berlin)
Tímea Junghaus (Executive Director, European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture – ERIAC, Berlin)
Engin Önder (Journalist, Founder of Institute of Creative Minds,Istanbul)

We made a short movie with the 2019 jury members and asked them to tell us a bit more about the award - why do we need it, what does it do, and how does it spark our imagination.


Info material