Sharjah: Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), said Sharjah’s diverse cultural programme will be showcased at the Italian city of Bologna from March 21-24, 2022, during a virtual session titled ‘Sharjah Guest of Honour 2022’ at Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF) 2022.
According to SBA, more than 30 writers, illustrators, artists and storytellers from the UAE and the Arab world will participate in panel discussions, workshops, reading and matchmaking sessions to highlight the role of the UAE and the Arab region in supporting and promoting books for children and young adults. Al Ameri said: “The ‘Illustration Production Workshops’ launched in February 2019, in collaboration with global mentors from different cultural backgrounds, is upskilling Emirati illustrators as they prepare for their participation at BCBF 2022. The practical, hands-on training has broadened their practise and opened a new window of opportunity for artists in Sharjah and the UAE.”
Shining a spotlight on diversity
SBA will also present 17 Arabic-Italian translations of children’s books authored by Emirati writers at Bologna — one of the most prestigious children’s book fairs in the world.
To promote children’s literature from the Arab region, SBA will also conduct four school visits and organise several hands-on children’s workshops and interactive storytelling sessions, including two film shows at the Testoni Theatre.
An impressive guest list of authors and writers from the UAE and the region will also be at Bologna to promote cross-cultural dialogue and highlight the Arab literary output, said the SBA chairman. “Ten authors of various genres — many of them award-winning writers — will join pioneers of arts and culture from across the world at Bologna to highlight the quality content and diversity of Emirati children’s literature.” Prominent amongst these are Noura Al Noman, science fiction writer; Abdulla Al Sharhan, an Emirati illustrator and author; Marwa Obaid Al Aqroubi; Dubai Abulhoul; and Dr Reem Al Gurg, professor and academic researcher, among several others.
Sharjah’s thirst for knowledge continues
In response to a question by Elena Pasoli who described Sharjah as “a place where books, culture and reading are close to its heart”, the SBA chairman said it was the establishment of a library in 1925 that first sowed the seeds of a reading culture in the emirate.
Ameri said: “The main spark, which has fuelled Sharjah’s emphasis on reading and knowledge, stems from the vision of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, who believed in the power of books and literature to improve societies and nurture the potential of the young generation. It was this vision that led to the establishment of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) 40 years ago and ignited a well-established reading culture across the UAE and the entire Arab world.”
Promising future of Arabic children’s books
The SBA chairman stated that the launch of Kalimat Group by Bodour Al Qasimi, the IPA president, in 2007, set the bar for both quality and original works that connect children of the region to their roots and culture and kickstarted the development of Arabic children’s literature in the region. “Since then, there has been an impressive growth in this sector as several new publishing houses for children’s books have opened across the region,” he added.
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He also cited the announcement of several awards and prizes for children’s literature that have led to improved standards in the quality of writing, illustrations and production. “The $325,000 (Dh1.19 million) Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature, for instance, which recognises the best works of authors, illustrators and publishers in the field of children’s books, has encouraged the creation of good quality work and improved publishing practices,” he added.