Bodour Al Qasimi (R), founder and CEO of Kalimat Group, led a story-telling session in Arabic about Frida Kahlo at SIBF 2022 Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: A story-telling in Arabic of a day in the young life of iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was led by Bodour Al Qasimi, founder and CEO of Kalimat Group, at the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF).

The Arabic version of the children’s book, ‘Fridu, Friducha, Frida: A Day with the family’, centred on a young girl who sets off from her house in the neighborhood of Coyoacan to Mexico City.

Ricardo Sánchez Riancho, author of the book, also read the story in the original Spanish. The book was illustrated by Carlos Velez and translated into Arabic by Samar Mahfooz Baraj.

A Frida Kahlo doll was also unveiled by Kalimat to mark the book’s release. The doll, produced in cooperation with Dumyé, a specialised doll production company, is part of an initiative to support children in Mexico. Kalimat will allocate proceeds from the sale of Frida Kahlo dolls to support children in Mexico.

Kahlo is best known for her self-portraits. Her bright coloured paintings, numbering around 200, fuse elements of surrealism, fantasy and folklore into narratives.

Targeting children in the 4-8 age group, the book is available at the Kalimat Group stand at SIBF 2022, which will run until November 13 at Expo Centre Sharjah.

Emirati heritage

Promoting Emirati heritage is the central theme of the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center (HHC) pavilion at SIBF. On display are rare documents, books and publications documenting the UAE history, tradition, commerce, customs and community values. The HHC pavilion is also showcasing audio-visual recordings of early Emirati poets

His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, is one of the first visitors at the HHC pavilion. He was briefed on the research activities and initiatives by HHC in preserving Emirati folklore and traditional literature.

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Afro-Arabic literature

Literary figures from Senegal and Nigeria have shed light on Afro-Arabi literature during a panel session focusing on ‘The Reality of Afro-Arab Novels’.

Senegalese novelist Omar Lee, who teaches the Arabic language to non-native speakers, said Arabic literature has long been established in Senegal. “Arabic literature has flourished in the country,” he noted.

He added Senegalese writers should also “take a step further and highlight values to create a change in society and draw up a unified Senegalese identity and tradition, in order to bridge the gap with Arabic readers”.

Panelists during the session Image Credit: Supplied

Thriving traditional theatre

Dramatists and theatre professionals said traditional theatre will continue to thrive even with technological advancements.

During a session titled ‘Theatre in the Digital World’, former LtGen Saeed Al Hanaki, who is an active member of the Emirates Writers Union, said: “From the days of Aristotle to date, the art world has passed through different stages, yet theatre has retained its status.”

He added: “When you hear ‘to be or not to be, that is the question,’ (from Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy in Hamlet), you instantly understand the advantage traditional theatre has over the digita.”

Dr. Amna Al Rabeia, a prolific Omani poet and keen dramatist, added, “We should not be afraid about the future of theatre. The stage accepts change and transformation as long as there is a passion for writing good plays.”

Hero for kids

Beloved mouse hero Geronimo Stilton is a big hit among young visitors at SIBF.

“The reason why Geronimo Stilton is loved all over the world by children is that its values are universal and will help children become better adults,” noted Elisabetta Dami, creator of the popular children’s storybook series Geronimo Stilton.

Elisabetta Dami (R) with Geronimo Stilton's mascot at the fair Image Credit: Supplied

Dami, whose books have sold more than 182 million copies worldwide, said “the secret of the Geronimo series lies in the values it upholds – which are respect for school, teachers, elders and families, for friendship, the environment, as well as a love for books. The secret ingredients are adventure, fun, humour and ethics.”

The popular series was born at a paediatric hospital in Milan, Italy when the author began volunteering there after she learnt she could not have children of her own. Dami said the mouse and his associates were created to bring smiles to children’s faces because she loves children.

Not to be missed

A one-of-a-kind roving musical show should not be missed by visitors to SIBF. Twirling delicately to soft music, a ballerina stands on top of a piano then glides effortlessly through the many lobbies and hallways of the book fair.

The visually mesmerising performance is hosted by Italy, the guest of honour at this year’s SIBF. Italy is also organising 17 entertaining activities while Italian authors, intellectuals, artists and publishers also share the cultural dynamics of their country.

Food for thought

Meanwhile, Italian chef Cristina Bowerman said “the strongest way of communicating culture is through food”.

Cristina Bowerman in action at the event Image Credit: Supplied

The Michelin-starred chef, who tossed up mouth-watering Italian dish at the Cookery Corner, said “recipes and traditions in Italy are very strong” as she thanked the organisers for highlighting Italian culture at SIBF. “It is very important that Italian chefs talk about our cuisine,” she added.