Guadalajara: Emirati literature and culture has taken centre stage as part of Sharjah’s Guest of Honour status at the 36th Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) in Mexico till December 4.
Over the course of nine days, Guadalajara, the cultural centre of Mexico know as ‘The City of Roses’, will showcase Emirati and Arab literature and build bridges between the Arab and Latin cultures through a diverse agenda of activities.
The celebrations marking the opening ceremony were held in the presence of Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Government Relations (DGR) in Sharjah, and head of the Sharjah delegation; Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association; Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA); Ahmed Al Menhali, UAE Ambassador to Mexico; Raúl Padilla López, President of FIL; and representatives of Emirati and Mexican cultural institutions.
‘Values of cultural exchange’
Sheikh Fahim, in his keynote address delivered on behalf of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, pointed out the deep cultural bonds between the emirate and Guadalajara, and thanked the book fair for “celebrating the power of books and the importance of the publishing industry with Sharjah and fuelling the curiosity about this wonderful part of the world”.
Sheikh Fahim said: “This curiosity is what we celebrate at book fairs. It is what we celebrate in all our panel discussions, our work on translating between Arabic and Spanish, in our focus on illustration and children’s books.”
He added: “No other industry showcases these values of curiosity and cultural exchange better than the publishing industry. The world of books holds a special responsibility in cultural diplomacy and understanding. Writers, publishers and illustrators, are the spokespeople of cultural dialogue and it is through your words, your books, that a vibrant and truly global cultural understanding is written.”
Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi concluded by expressing his thanks to Bodour Al Qasimi, and said: “Today, on behalf of all of my colleagues in the Sharjah Government, I thank you for the inspiration and the dedication to publishing and elevating Sharjah’s role in it. As you close this chapter and open the next, I am confident that I speak on behalf of everyone here. We will continue to follow your every word, every page and every book - God bless you Bodour and thank you for everything.”
‘Books bring us closer’
In her keynote speech, Bodour Al Qasimi said: “Inviting and welcoming Sharjah as the Guest of Honour at your fair reflects your willingness to build cultural bridges between yourselves and other cultures. Although we are far from one another, our love of culture and books brings us closer together and helps us create a dialogue that leads to more understanding, empathy, and harmony.”
The IPA President added: “At IPA, we encourage and support such cultural partnerships because we believe that we are stronger together, and our strength lies in our diversity and differences.”
She continued: “Despite the ongoing challenges facing the publishing sector, publishers are thinking outside the box and innovating to advance the industry. Herein lies the importance of collaboration, which provides greater opportunities to encourage more people to read and build strong bonds between cultures, which is needed most in our world today.”
Welcoming the Sharjah delegation, Raúl Padilla López, President of FIL, said: “It is an honour to host Sharjah, the World Book Capital 2019, as Guest of Honour at the 36th Guadalajara International Book Fair. Sharjah is the first city in the Middle East and across the Arab world to be celebrated as Guest of Honour at Guadalajara.”
He added: “We are happy and proud of this since Sharjah not only represents the essence of Emirati culture and values but also reflects the integral image of Arab and Islamic cultures in line with the vision and efforts of [Sheikh Sultan]. During the book fair, we will celebrate the commonalities we have with the Arab world, especially our beautiful language, of which around 4,000 words have their linguistic roots in Arabic.”
Ricardo Villanueva Lomelí, Rector-General of University of Guadalajara, said: “Today, we are happy to celebrate a very beautiful city. As we celebrate Sharjah today and for the next nine days, our city will transform from Guadalajara to Sharjahlajara. We look forward to celebrating and strengthening the historical and close relationship between the Arab and Latin cultures.”
Showcase of creative sectors
Following the opening ceremony, Sharjah’s Guest of Honour pavilion was inaugurated in the presence of diplomats and officials from Emirati and Mexican cultural institutions, who toured the pavilion and were briefed on the leading projects in Sharjah that support the Emirati and Arab cultural and creative sectors.
The dignitaries were also introduced to the strides made by Sharjah in the publishing sector, positioning itself as a key player at the regional and international levels. The guests were also briefed on participating entities and had the opportunity to review their offerings in various sectors including arts, heritage, creative industries, and translation.
They also reviewed a vast collection of titles showcased at the pavilion, including a selection of the Spanish translations of the works of Sheikh Sultan, in addition to literary and scientific literature translated into Spanish by SBA as part of its initiatives to promote Emirati and Arabic titles for Spanish-language readers.
As part of Sharjah’s Guest of Honour agenda, SBA is organising 27 activities in partnership with 20 cultural entities in Sharjah and collaboration of 24 Emirati and Arab authors and creatives between November 26 – December 4.
Besides activities at Sharjah pavilion, the evening events at the FIL Forum events included Arab performing artists Emel Mathlouthi, a night of opera with Fatima Al Hashmi, and Arqam Al Oubri, accompanied by the Escarabajo Blues Band, and a traditional band from Sharjah Institute for Heritage.
Also , the film ‘Khorfakkan’, based on the written work by Sheikh Sultan, was screened at the FICG Cinema Library and the UDG Cinema Forum.
Meanwhile the Sharjah pavilion host a session titled ‘The Arabic Lexicon and Its Impact on the Spanish Language’, as well as ‘A Historical Dictionary of the Arabic Language’.
Entities participating under the umbrella of Sharjah include the Emirates Writers Union, Sharjah Broadcasting Authority, Emirates Publishers Association, Sharjah Department of Culture, Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi Centre, University of Sharjah, Sharjah Archaeology Authority, Emirates Reprographic Rights Association, Sharjah Institute for Heritage, Al Qasimi Publications, UAE Board on Books for Young People, Kalimat Group, Kalimat Foundation, House of Wisdom, and the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization.