Sharjah: The three-day SHASHAH festival showcasing Japanese anime (animation) started in Aljada, Sharjah, on Friday featuring workshops, film screenings, panel discussions, music performances, competitions, cosplays and more.
The event is organised by FUNN, a Sharjah-based organisation that promotes media arts learning among children and youth. Running until Sunday, from 4pm to 10pm, the opening of SHASHAH 2022 heard from Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, director of FUNN, who said: “SHASHAH represents the totality of media arts that appear on screen, be it in the medium of photography, cinema, or animation. Whether these are absorbed via television, computers, the cinema, or a mobile gadget, they all fall under the broad framework of arts.”
She added: “This is FUNN’s first event focused exclusively on anime art, and we chose a name that embodies all aspects of this unique art form. SHASHAH thus explores the divergent art styles of anime with an array of artists and creators who will lead our children and youth into its deep and expressive world.”
Young children experienced the learning the Japanese art of origami at a workshop led by Sahar Abdalla, a visual artist animator and art director, who introduced children to the art of ‘folding paper’.
On Friday, children and youth were also introduced to the art of ‘2D Anime Sketching’ where they explored the art of sketching anime portraits, while in the ‘Creating Visual Novels’ session, participants learnt the techniques of adding visual appeal and interactivity to novels.
The ‘Colouring Manga & Anime’ session equipped young anime enthusiasts with the aesthetic skills of colouring manga characters while in the ‘Introduction to the Chibi Style’ workshop, participants were guided on the basics of drawing anime characters with large heads and small bodies.
Families and children gathered to watch Kôbun Shizuno’s ‘The Journey’, produced by Manga Productions in Saudi Arabia. The movie is based on a tale drawn from the Arabian Peninsula and set 1,500 years ago. The narrative features the story of a potter named Aus who takes up arms against an invader threatening to enslave the people of Mecca.
Emirati anime artists
Meanwhile young Emirati anime artists are presenting their artworks for sale to anime lovers of all ages at the event. Kiosks dotting the ‘Artists’ Alley’ at the venue display an array of trinkets printed with anime fan art and anime-inspired artwork by the creatives, who are part of a growing community of Emirati youth drawn together by their shared passion for the genre.
“My father introduced me to anime,” said 24-year-old Emirati anime artist Madiya Zayed. “He would buy anime series dubbed in Arabic on cassettes and CDs, and we would watch them together.”
Bassam Al Naqbi, who began his artistic journey during primary school, is showcasing his sketches at SHASHAH 2022. “I picked up the anime style by copying the art in the series I was watching,” said the 36-year-old who, in 2017, compiled his collection of anime sketches and comic strips into a self-published book.
Sisters Shayma and Noora Alshemeri, both in their mid-20s, share a penchant for anime that they have channelled into a small business focusing on anime-inspired artwork on tote bags and miniature prints.
Nouf Albloushi, 23, also runs a small business on Instagram offering items designed with caricatures called ‘chibis’. She said: “I’ve tried to recreate my favourite characters from ‘Demon Slayer’ and ‘My Hero Academia’ to make them look cuter.”
‘Anime can transform lives’
Abdul Rahman Al Ali, a young entrepreneur behind an anime merchandise store, recounted how he transformed his passion for the pop culture phenomenon into a pioneering business during a discussion at SHASHAH.
At a panel discussion held on the sidelines of the opening day of the event, Al Ali, founder of ‘Anime Store’ in Umm Al Quwain, described how from its beginnings in 2016, the store has gone on to participate in 26 comic conventions, exhibitions and other related events across the country till date.
In a session moderated by Faisal Al Qudra and Bisher Zamot, Al Ali said: “Anime is not purely entertainment; it often has important underlying messages and values that leave a strong impact on viewers and can even transform lives. In the silent anime project that I worked on during my university years, I have attempted to capture this deeply moving essence of anime.”