Artists from UAE and Korea at Seoul book fair
Artists from UAE and Korea at Seoul book fair Image Credit: Supplied

Seoul: Sharjah’s prominence as the Guest of Honour at the 65th Seoul International Book Fair, which ended on Sunday, had transformed the event into a celebration of Emirati and Arab culture.

With the emirate’s special participation, the fair became a platform where Emirati literature, music, art, and crafts intermingled, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the diversity of present and past Arab culture.

Sharjah’s participation as a Guest of Honour included an impressive lineup of 33 activities, including panel discussions, seminars, workshops, book signing ceremonies, and literary activities led by 11 eminent UAE writers, creators, and academics, contributing to strengthening relations between the Emirati and Korean cultures.

Visitors at Sharjah Guest of Honour Pavilion Image Credit: Supplied

At the heart of the five-day event, the Sharjah pavilion hosted panel discussions, art exhibitions, and showcased Emirati titles translated into Korean. It highlighted Arab contributions in knowledge, poetry, history, architecture, calligraphy, and language, while emphasising the UAE’s commitment to global cultural connections and supporting access to knowledge sources.

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Embodiment of a vision

Under the supervision of the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), along with 12 esteemed cultural entities, the Sharjah Guest of Honour programme embodied the outlook of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. Emirati writers, poets, and intellectuals engaged in lively exchanges of ideas, experiences, and expertise with their Korean counterparts. This marked Sharjah’s participation in the international event as a new chapter for the Arab world, fostering renewed cultural connections with South Korea and other East Asian nations.

In addition to the diverse events at the book fair, a screening of the Korean-subtitled film ‘Khorfakkan’s Resistance Against the Portuguese Invasion of September 1507’ was held at a local theatre in Korea. The film is based on a book of the same name by Sheikh Sultan. It chronicles the historical events surrounding the Portuguese invasion of Khorfakkan city in the 16th century.

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During the screening of the film Image Credit: Supplied

The Sharjah pavilion witnessed a strong reception for Emirati books translated into Korean, with over 300 copies sold, including the highly sought-after novel ‘One Room Is Not Enough’ by renowned author Sultan Al Amimi, and ‘Thawat’ by Dr Zainab Al Yassi, which sold out completely. Furthermore, 75 paintings crafted through a collaborative effort between Emirati and Korean artists found eager buyers.

‘Transcending boundaries’

Commenting on Sharjah’s participation as a Guest of Honour at the international event, Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah’s Department of Government Relations and head of Sharjah’s delegation, said: “Sharjah’s participation as a Guest of Honour at the international event was a resounding testament to the enduring power of literature and culture. Through engaging dialogues with the people of South Korea, Sharjah’s presence at the fair highlighted the outcome of its cultural journey, which reflects the vision of [Sheikh Sultan].”

Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi Image Credit: Supplied

He added: “His Highness believes that communication is the bedrock for learning, innovation, development, and intellectual and human enrichment. Through communication, Sharjah has transcended the boundaries of time and space. The exchange of knowledge facilitated an immersive exploration of an ancient nation’s history, civilization, and culture. We shared our visions, goals, and aspirations.

“The immense interest displayed by the Korean audience in the books showcased within the emirate’s pavilion asserted that books connect individuals across vast distances. No technological innovation can replicate or replace the profound voice, soul, and thoughts encapsulated within the pages of a book. Culture remains a permanent facet of our existence that defies any transformative change. Its depth and significance cannot be fully comprehended or conveyed by any form of innovation.”

Social connections

The impact of the Sharjah pavilion extended beyond intellectual realms and into the human and social spheres. It fostered engagement among the Korean audience, enabling them to experience UAE culture firsthand through its customs, traditions, and experiences.

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Shajrah National Band Image Credit: Supplied

The Korean participants immersed themselves in traditional dances, savouring Arabic coffee, and even inscribing their names in Arabic as a memory binding them to the emirate of Sharjah. In a display of cultural exchange, Korean women donned traditional UAE clothing and embellished their hands with henna designs alongside Emirati women.