UAEBBY launches 14th Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s literature-1649336091620
Bodour Al Qasimi, Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri and Marwa Al Aqroubi at the London Book Fair. Image Credit: Supplied

London: Sharjah’s pioneering efforts in transforming the knowledge and publishing sectors in the region were once again recognised at the 49th London Book Fair, even as Sharjah highlighted the role of female Emirati writers in shaping the UAE’s cultural landscape and showcased traditional songs and crafts to a captivated English audience at the book fair.

During a panel discussion titled ‘The Future of Book Supply’, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), noted Sharjah has become the centre of the book industry in Asia and North Africa due to the far-sighted vision and directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who believes in the power of the written word and recognises the impact of culture in shaping the development of communities and in building bridges between civilisations”.

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Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri addressed a panel discussion titled ‘The Future of Book Supply'. Image Credit: Supplied

Al Ameri added “Sharjah is a pioneer in radically transforming the knowledge and publishing sectors.” The emirate has established the Sharjah Publishing (SPC) City Free Zone, a first-of-its-kind hub for publishing, printing and allied businesses. SPC Free Zone has created a unified platform for publishers to complete all activities related to translation, publishing and distribution, and provides world-class services and advanced infrastructure to assist publishers in overcoming any sector-related challenges.

David Taylor, Ingram SVP for Content Acquisition International, said SPC Free Zone connects Asia with Africa and other emerging markets. He explained: “Prior to working with Sharjah, it took us two-three weeks to deliver a title in the Asian or African markets. Today, it only takes two days. The print-on-demand service is more effective as it utilises the services and advanced infrastructure at SPC Free Zone.”

Leading female Emirati writers

The influential role played by female Emirati writers in developing the cultural landscape of the UAE and Arab world was the focal point of a panel discussion organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) as part of the emirate’s participation as the London Book Fair (LBF) Market Focus.

The discussion, ‘Emirati Women Writers, Shaping the Country’s Literary Scene’, featured Emirati poet and spoken word artist Dr. Afra Atiq, and novelist Dubai Abulhoul.

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The discussion on ‘Emirati Women Writers, Shaping the Country’s Literary Scene’. Image Credit: Supplied

Dr. Atiq said: “Poetry is an integral component of Emirati culture. We have the Nabati, which is a popular pick for public and private events, meetings and majlises with families, friends and loved ones. I grew up in a loving and supporting family open to other cultures. Being brought up in a cultural environment in which the art form was popularly practiced and appreciated has made my career as a poet much easier.”

Abulhoul, for her part, said: “My grandmother’s folktales made me fall in love with fiction. When I read Harry Potter, I wanted to write the Emirati version of it, and I did that when I was 12 years old.”

“Even though I write in English, the subjects I choose are mostly inspired by the Emirati heritage, folktales in particular, to increase their modern-day appeal without compromising their essence,” Abulhoul added.

Emirati songs and crafts

Meanwhile, the vibrant rhythm of Emirati folk songs played by the Sharjah National Band attracted visitors from around the world to Sharjah’s Market Focus pavilion as live performances of traditional songs and dances enlivened the venue during the fair.

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A traditional Emirati folk performance being staged at London Book Fair. Image Credit: Supplied

The band, clad in traditional Emirati outfits, wowed the audience with music played at Emirati weddings as well as folk songs that were once used to welcome fishermen, pearl divers and travelers from across the country. The band’s music represented the local culture from the desert and coastal areas to the mountainous regions of the emirate.

Visitors also had the opportunity to try on traditional wear and taste Emirati sweets, dates and coffee. Women and young girls had their hands adorned with intricate henna designs.

Award for Arabic children’s literature

The Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature was launched at the book fair in the presence of Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association (IPA), and Founder and Honourary President of the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY).

Registrations for the Etisalat Award are now open for content creators, authors, illustrators and publishers of children and young people’s literature worldwide, who can submit applications online through the award’s new online platform.

“Since its inception 13 years ago, the Etisalat Award has honoured some of the best literary works and is committed to achieving its goals to promote Arab children’s literature globally and improving its competitiveness at international forums and events,” said Marwa Al Aqroubi, President of UAEBBY.

The value of the award is Dh1.2 million and is distributed across five different categories. Each category is awarded Dh180,000, distributed equally between the publisher, author and illustrator; except in the Young Adult Book category where the amount will be divided between the publisher and the author.

Sharjah’s House of Wisdom

The iconic House of Wisdom (HoW) has also proven to be a major draw at the book fair. During the three-day book fair in the UK capital, Sharjah’s modern-day hub for learning and creativity held several meetings with cultural centres and libraries from around the world to exchange experiences and best practices, explore future collaborations, and open up intercultural dialogues.