Guadalajara: The UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) and the Mexico chapter of International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) have collaborated with the House of Wisdom in Sharjah and the Guadalajara City Museum to promote intercultural dialogue with the launch of the ‘Folktales Reimagined’ exhibition at the 36th Guadalajara International Book Fair.
Inaugurated by Bodour Al Qasimi, president of the International Publishers Association (IPA), founder and honorary president of UAEBBY, the exhibition is part of Sharjah’s Guest of Honour programme at the book fair in Mexico, which concludes today, December 4.
Folktales Reimagined was first launched on the sidelines of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy earlier this year where it received widespread acclaim for culturally enriching the folkloric heritage of both the UAE and Italy.
The current iteration is aimed at a creative exchange of ideas between the UAE and Mexico and features the works of five commissioned artists from the UAE who have reimagined and created artworks revolving around legends and fables of Mexico. The exhibition also includes five artists from the Latin American country who have illustrated five artworks about Emirati folktales.
The cross-cultural project, which invites artists from two very different cultures to reimagine each other’s most popular folk tales, was born out of creative partnerships built during the Sharjah World Book Capital (SWBC).
The collaborative exhibition features a new generation of artists retell the stories of the past through their eyes and experiences. This conversation between cultures is a blend of ideas and are genuine expressions of Emirati and Mexican socio-cultural values.
Folktales of the UAE
Umm Alheilan, the story of a shape-shifting woman who spreads malicious envy and greed, was perfectly encapsulated by Juan Gedovius, who has illustrated more than 90 books in various languages.
Al Sa’lawah, a story of a woman covered in gorilla-like hair who transforms into a beautiful woman to murder men at night was illustrated by Guillermo de Gante, an Illustrator of fiction and nonfiction themes in books, magazines, and newspapers.
Khattaf Ruffay, was brought to life by illustrator and animator Valeria Gallo while Shanaq Hanaq Bin Anaq, the story of a giant, was illustrated by Amanda Mijangos and is another story of a fictitious lethal entity that kills its victims.
Sweida Khassuf, the Arabic for ‘Black Dates’ was illustrated by award-winning artist Armando Fonseca, who was also honoured in the UAE at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival in 2022.
Folktales of Mexico
The diverse culture of Mexico, influenced by European and Mesoamerican cultures, took on a new look and colour with the vivid imagination of Emirati illustrators.
Abdulla Al Sharhan, a self-taught Emirati artist who was introduced to children’s books by UAEBBY and has written and illustrated more than 12 books, vividly captured the fascinating story of Legend of the Hummingbird, which carries a message of love and affection.
The story of the origin of two volcanoes, Popocatépetl, which means “the smoking mountain” and Iztacchuatl, which means “the sleeping woman” was reimagined under the expert eyes and hands of Aysha Saif Al Hemrani who translates culture into art to inspire others.
The Bat, a colourful imagination of the nocturnal mammal’s origins as the most beautiful bird, was captured by Mohammed Al Jneibi, a self-taught artist and illustrator.
Eissa Alnuaimi, also known as ISSABLACK, a self-taught freelance illustrator, showcased the essence of The Legend of Corn: The Ant that Gave Food to Man while Sharjah-born Nasir Nasrallah vividly detailed the story of The Opossum and the Fire.