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Visitors during an earlier edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Emirati authors will take centre stage at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature during the ‘Spotlight on Emirati Talent’ on February 4 at InterContinental Dubai Festival City.

Mohammad Al Marzooqi

Sponsored by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, the dedicated event will feature Emirati-led sessions in Arabic on publishing, translation, cinematography, and more. Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, will headline a panel discussion on the future of Arabic language. Key panellists include Hala Badri, Director-General, Dubai Culture, who will speak on developing Dubai as a creative hub, and Major General Mohammad Ahmad Al Marri, Director-General, General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs. They will discuss immigration reform and the UAE’s ‘Cultural Visa’ for creatives, exploring the UAE’s plans to build a sustainable society of talented individuals and why this will be critical to the nation’s plans to build a prosperous future for generations to come.

Literary salons

Asmaa Seddiq

Author Mohammad Al Marzooqi, who has founded many reading clubs such as the Russian Literature Salon and the Nobel Friends Club, will be on a panel with Asmaa Seddiq, founder of Al Multaqa, the award-winning literary salon, discussing the history of salons and how they have evolved to fit the times.

‘Time of Crisis’

Fatima Al Breiki

An assessment of the current state of publishing in the region will be provided by publishers Fatima Al Breiki and Talal Salim Al Saabri in a debate on ‘Publishing in a Time of Crisis’. The COVID-19 crisis has had a huge impact across every industry and the publishing industry is no exception.

The psychology of book design will be uncovered in a discussion with publisher Talal Salim Alsaabri on the subject ‘Judging a Book by its Cover’.

Poetry in spotlight

Shamma Al Bastaki

Aspiring poets can learn how to get their poetry into the spotlight in an interactive workshop with award-winning poet and artist Shamma Al Bastaki. In ‘Make Your Own Poetry Chap Book Workshop’, she will guide participants through the process of both writing poetry and putting together a chapbook. There will also be poetry performances by Amal Al Sahlawi, Shamma Al Bastaki, Alia Al Shamsi, and more. Poets from the UAE and beyond will come together to perform poems from numerous styles and traditions, accompanied by music, in this celebration of the Arabic spoken word.

Audiences can discover traditional Emirati stories, and how they can be changed to a more contemporary setting in ‘Fabulous Folktales - From the Past to the Future!’ with Ameera BuKadra and Maitha Al Khayat.

Ameera BuKadra

‘Tension and Tragedy’

Emirati writer Zayed Al Marzooqi and others will shed light on the impact of suffering and conflict on characters living under the psychological strain, broken relationships, and lost identities in a panel exploring the role of fiction in ‘Tension & Tragedy’.

From page to screen

Emirati author Hamad Al Hammadi, whose work has been successfully adapted for TV, in a session ‘The Magic of Page to Screen’, will look at what really happens when literature and cinema combine.

Habib Al Mulla, one of the UAE’s most renowned legal personalities, will provide a glimpse of different attitudes to cuisine with his book My Journey to the World of Restaurants and look at how food conveys important messages about culture, identity and history.

Promoting peace

Hamad Al Hammadi

Emirati writer and poet Sultan Al Ameemi will be in conversation, giving his views on ‘The Human Face of Literature’. He will discuss how literature can help us achieve inner peace and make us more loving and understanding of “the other”.

The art of the short story will be dissected by Afra Mahmood to consider if the short story has been ignored in favour of novels.

‘Funny and heart-breaking world’

In another session, Dr Nafea Alyasi will explore his writing and take us into the moving, funny and heart-breaking world of medicine. Inspired by interactions with his patients and coloured by his own experiences, he will share how he creates stories of life in hospital by understanding the world from new perspectives.

In addition to the Emirati-focused day, the Festival will be featuring big names such as Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai and authors Elif Shafak, Amin Maalouf, and Lemn Sissay with live appearances and virtual sessions across three weekends and three venues: Jameel Arts Centre (January 29-30), InterContinental Dubai Festival City (February 4-6) and Alserkal Avenue (February 12-13).