Sharjah: Hundreds of students, besides families, from across the UAE thronged Expo Centre Sharjah on the opening day of the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Wednesday.
Emirati student Maria, 14, a Year 9 student at Um Amara High School in Khor Fakkan, described the annual book fair as “magical”. She told Gulf News: “I come here every year with my classmates and friends to look for books that enrich our imagination and take us to places that are magical.”
Her friends Afra and Haneen, meanwhile, prefer thriller and young adult novels.
Pakistani mother Sumaira Shaikh Nawal, who brought her six-year daughter Shaikh Nawal, was looking for recreational books. Other young students are hooked for Harry Potter series and popular children’s literature written by Roald Dahl and Jacqueline Wilson.
One of them, Imran, said, “The fair is so vast. There are so many books to choose from here, I feel like picking up all of them.”
Free to attend
Entrance to the book fair is free and visitors could treat themselves to meeting more than 100 writers and intellectuals from 57 countries during the 12-day educational and cultural extravaganza that will run until November 13 at Expo Centre Sharjah.
Dubbed as the “world’s largest book fair” in terms of buying and selling of copyrights for the second year in a row, this year’s edition of SIBF carries the theme ‘Spread the Word’ and is bringing together 2,213 publishers from 95 countries and displaying more than 1.5 million books. There are also 123 theatrical performances and musicals.
New cultural achievement
Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority which organises SIBF every year, said: “Today, we celebrate a new cultural achievement bearing the imprint of the emirate of Sharjah and its cultural project, which was launched under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, who firmly believes that building strong societies and civilisations can only be achieved through knowledge and books.
“This achievement is a source of pride and honour for Sharjah, the UAE and the Arab world, because it confirms the emirate’s role in advancing the book industry, and presents an honourable image of the authentic Arab culture that has contributed to the advancement of Eastern and Western civilisations around the world.”
Close cultural connections
Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the 41st SIBF on Tuesday evening. He said: “The opening of the 41st SIBF marks the beginning of a celebration of 12 days of cultural activities and is an opportunity for children, youth and families across the UAE to enrich their learning in arts and sciences, and forge close connections with cultures across the world through books of diverse genres at the fair.”
“The past edition of the annual SIBF witnessed the launch of 17 volumes of the Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language and this year, we are launching a new set of 19 volumes. These 36 volumes document nine letters of the Arabic alphabet and I would like to express my gratitude to the researchers, linguists, and experts for their untiring dedication and efforts that have led to this great accomplishment,” he added.
The Sharjah Ruler also honoured Sudanese historian Yusuf Fadl Hasan, as this year’s ‘Cultural Personality of the Year’. Born in Al Mahmiyya, Sudan, in 1932, Hasan has published more than 30 books, including ‘The Arabs and Sudan: From the Seventh to the Early 16th Century’ (1966), ‘Introduction to the History of Islamic States in Eastern Sudan’, ‘Studies in Sudanese History. He also co-edited ‘Tabaqat wad Dayf Allah’.
SIBF is also an important platform in promoting cultural exchanges. This year, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, chairman of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), met with Nathalie Kennedy, consul-general of France in the UAE, to promote translations of Arabic literature in French and vice versa. They also discussed initiating more cultural activities.
Al Ameri also highlighted the impact of SIBF among the French-speaking African nations. He said: “Libraries across the world, particularly in the African continent, turn to SIBF to look at new topics and titles for their shelves. This annual fair acts as the perfect choice for publishers to address the French-speaking communities in that part of the world.”
“We have special interest in French language and literature which have a rich legacy and history, and we are keen on promoting translations that tell stories of French culture that will resonate with audiences in the Arab world,” he continued.
With 15 publishers from France participating at SIBF 2022, Kennedy, for her part, noted: “We are keen to identify Arabic books that can act as cultural bridges; and the book fair is an opportunity for readers to get a taste of French literature.”
She added: “Through SIBF, we aim to build partnerships with Arab language publishers.”
Boost to regional publishing
Themed ‘Arabic Content Creation and Post-Pandemic Challenges’, the 6th Arab Publishers Conference (APC) also kicked off on Wednesday, coinciding with the opening SIBF, bringing together
In her keynote speech, Bodour Al Qasimi, president of the International Publishers Association (IPA), talked about the “necessity of working and communicating with the global publishing sector, strengthening bilateral regional cooperation between publishers, in addition to promoting policies of diversity and inclusion to achieve positive change.”
She noted: “The global publishing sector is currently witnessing rapid and transformative developments. This requires Arab publishers to keep themselves up-to-date through continuous and active engagements with regional and international publishers,
institutions, and organisations if they must remain an important partner in international deliberation on the realities and future of the publishing sector.”
"The major success stories in the publishing industry are the outcome of effective bilateral regional cooperation between publishers in the same geographic region, especially those that share a similar language or cultural values. Arab publishers should strengthen regional cooperation to utilise shared resources to reach more readers around the world, and boost growth opportunities,” Al Qasimi underlined.
International Library Conference
Alongside SIBF, the 9th Sharjah International Library Conference (SILC) will also take place from November 8-10 to focus on train library professionals in leadership development, best practices, current readership trends, latest library technologies, and more.
SILC is collaboration among SBA, the American Library Association (ALA) and Combined Book Exhibit. At the conference, the National Library Board of Singapore will share how they make a difference for young and old with their Early Reading Programme, which has been helping parents and preschool educators nurture a love for reading among young children, and how librarians can collaborate to design assignments for authentic learning and upskilling students in multimedia production.
Honouring SIBF 2022 winners
Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, honoured the winners of SIBF 2022, as well as the Sharjah Translation Award 'Turjuman' and the 14th edition of the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children's Literature on Wednesday.
Instituto Per l'Oriente C.A. Nallino received the Dh1.3 million Sharjah Translation Award 'Turjuman' for their translation of Suleyman Al Boustani's foreword of Homer's Iliad into the Italian language. The award was received by Claudio Lo Lacono, Director of the institute.
SIBF winners include Dr. Mashael Al Naboodah, who won the Best Emirati Novel Book award for her work 'Jerah Mozmena'; Dr. Abdallah Sulaiman Al Mughani received the Best Emirati Academic Book award for his 'Features of UAE's History through the Writings of Western Travelers and Politicians'; and author Shaikha Saif Al Nakhi, received the Best Emirati Creative Literature Book award for her book 'Those Days'.
Kuwaiti author Muna Al Shimari won the Best Arabic Novel for her book Khademat Al Maqam; while Angelika Dunsmore received Best International Fiction Book award for ‘Micro Life: Miracles of the Miniature World Revealed; and South African author Futhi Nsthinglia won Best International Non-Fiction Book award for her book ‘They Got You Too’.
Rewayat, an imprint of Kalimat, won the Best Local Publisher award and the Best Arab Publisher award went to Arab Diffusion Company from Lebanon while International Islamic Publishing House received the Best International Publisher award.
For the 14th edition of the Dh1.2 million Etisalat Award for Arabic Children's Literature, the Early Reader award went to ‘How do You Feel Today?’ written by Massara Touqan, illustrated by Haya Halaw, and published by Kalila Wa Dimna Publishing House, Jordan; The Picture Book award was won by ‘Kingdom of Antiquity’ by Manar Haza, illustrated by Basema Husam, and published by Alia publishing, Egypt.
Whispers of Trees by Fay Mousa, illustrated by Fatima Madi, and published by Dar Asfar Publishing, Saudi Arabia won the Chapter Book award; while the Young Adult Books award went to ‘I'll Start Now, Do You Hear Me? by Anas Abu Rahma, illustrated by Lubna Taha, and published by Dinosaun Publishing, Palestine.