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Made in UAE project supports Arabic literature

UAE to enrich intellectual culture with new Emirati voices

Image Credit: Hadrian Hernandez/Gulf News
Visitors and exhibitors at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair at the Abu Dhabi NationalExhibition Centre yesterday.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: In efforts to cement Emirati teens’ love of Arabic literature, broaden their horizons, and promote reading more effectively, the Made in UAE project resumed its second edition in the framework of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Made in UAE is a long-term project launched in 2011 and which has resulted in the production and publication of seven new wholly Emirati children’s books.

In cooperation with UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY), the Goethe Institute Gulf Region organised workshops for ten Emirati authors of young adult novels to encourage them, exchange ideas and discuss challenges.

“The boom in young adult books in the dystopian, fantasy, and sci-fi genre has in many ways revolutionised the way that teenagers view reading. With their vivid storylines and imaginative worlds, these books are fascinating to young minds looking to broaden their horizons and explore the world beyond their immediate surroundings.

“However, with the lack of titles in Arabic of this genre, many young readers are reading only English books. In the second edition of the ‘Made in UAE’ project, we want to stimulate local writers to create the type of stories that will draw our young readers into fantastical worlds and ultimately strengthen their love for reading in Arabic,” said Marwa Al Aqroubi, president of the UAEBBY.

During the workshops, which will take place till May 1 in the capital, participants will be given the opportunity to work with Rainer Wekwerh, German fantasy author, to exchange ideas in a friendly and supportive environment.

“Like all over the world, fantasy, dystopia and sci-fi are popular genres among readers of the UAE and have attracted even reluctant readers to explore books and reading,” said Susanne Sporrer, general manager of the Goethe Institute Gulf Region.

“Yet, hardly any Emirati-penned and illustrated young adult novel in Arabic has been published in the UAE. Therefore, the aim of our project is to support talented Emirati writers in their book projects and help them develop new Emirati young adult novels in Arabic which explore innovative ways of story-telling from a clear Emirati perspective,” Susanne explained.

Out of about 20 applicants, only 10 Emirati authors have been chosen to enter the Made in UAE project. The participants at this project are between the ages of 22 and 44.

The participants have been chosen based on a short synopsis of some work they have done in the field of young adult fantasy, dystopian or science fiction. They had exceptional ideas as well as ambitious to develop their writing and discuss their challenges.

During the upcoming workshops, Emirati participants will be able to develop the concept of story-telling and get more knowledge about how to write for young adults by meeting publishers, experts and authors from different parts of the world.

Following these workshops, intensive sessions will also be provided for the participants to learn how to translate their writings into Arabic in a professional way,” Bettina Quabius, Made in UAE project coordinator, told Gulf News.

Asma Al Katbi, a 23-year-old Emirati participant in the workshop, said: “I have been interested in writing novels and fantasy stories. I have my own blog where I create my special characters and deploy them in creative scenarios to make for exciting reading.”

Asma, who graduated from Zayed University, has majored in international studies and minored in literature.

“I entered this course to discover what field in young adult novel writing I can excel at. During the first day of our workshop, I spent almost three hours with famous publishers and authors in a very dynamic environment. They have shared very useful tips and creative ideas,” Asma said.

Abdullah Al Qassab, a 28-year-old research and development coordinator, told Gulf News, “I am getting a golden opportunity to learn, write my own novel and even publish it for free. I appreciate this great chance to enrich the intellectual culture of the UAE and witness more Emirati writers in literature.

I have been practising writing comedy for almost two years and I participated in this workshop to develop and write more,” said Al Qassab, who graduated from the engineering department at Khalifa University.