Sharjah: ‘What is world history without Arabs?’ This was the question posed by Sudanese historian Yusuf Fadl Hassan, who was named as the Cultural Personality of the Year at the ongoing 41st Sharjah International Book Fair.
“The Arab tradition is very long and very old,” Hassan underscored as he shared his experiences in writing and chronicling history at a session titled ‘In the Presence of History’ at SIBF.
He said: “When I was studying and doing my research in Sudan, I found more spoken narratives than written records – passed on from our forefathers, from one generation to another. My university thesis was about the migration of Arabs to Sudan and it later became the repository that influenced my thinking about the future.”
Now 90 years old but still with a sharp mind and memory, Hassan has published more than 30 books. He was as awarded ‘Cultural Personality of the Year’ at SIBF for “his substantial efforts in promoting the research and documentation movement in Africa and Asia.”
He has chronicled Sudanese heritage, led teams of researchers, served as the president of Khartoum University, and also became editor of several publications.
Hasan also touched on his long friendship with His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, which started during Sheikh Sultan’s visit to Khartoum University in 1974.
“His Highness has been a constant source of support to us since then, and our work has been enriched by the virtuous and generous support of the UAE,” noted the Sudanese historian, who said his scholarly studies mostly delved on verbal narratives.
Africa’s artistic creativity
Aside from Arabic, English and Urdu poetry that are popular in the region, there is also a growing appreciation for African poetry and this was highlighted by poets from Senegal and Nigeria at SIBF.
The session ‘Poets of Africa’ brought together elite poets from the two African countries who spoke about their poetry with varied subjects like love, nature, beauty and duty to homeland.
Dr. Abdulqader Idris noted the African continent has a vast list of intellectuals, thinkers, scientists and scholars, poets and artists. “Scholars in Africa have left an enduring legacy, as their knowledge has spread throughout the continent. A lot of the poetry and creativity we have today is a result of that,” he added.
During the session, Senegalese poet Mohammed Hadi Sali Ali Baah recited poems about love and destiny while Nigerian poet Dr. Hamid Al Hajiry gave a passionate recitation on Islam and praised the African culture.
Expanding social media followers
Aspiring influencers received handy tips how to boost their followers on social media during a session by entrepreneur and communication expert Dana Shaban.
Shaban stressed the need to use simple and direct messages in digital platforms. “Content is king. Engaging and valuable content is the key to success; the count and engagement with followers will increase based on what you offer your viewers,” she underlined.
She added: “Content should have a purpose and serve a cause. The aspiring influencer needs to make the objective of the video clear in the first 10 to 15 seconds, or the viewer will lose interest and move on to the next video.”
An important tip she shared: “Even when you face the camera in your video, always add captions to encourage more viewers to feel compelled to listen and watch the video.”
Shaban also emphasised the creator should appeal for some form of action from the viewers, which would help in increasing their engagement.
Manga magic and anime
One of the popular stalls at SIBF 2022 is Artist Alley that sells stickers, keychains, brooches and tote bags displaying manga and anime characters. Manga refers to Japanese comics and anime is Japanese animation – and they are both popular with girls and boys in their early teens.
On display are the Chainsaw Man from Manga, Jinx from Netflix series Arcane and characters from Saiki K, Komi-san, Mob psycho and Spy X Family.
Emirati artists Khulood Nasser, student at Zayed University, and Nader Mohammed Al Darwish, a freelance illustrator, are also selling stickers. Their works have been featured in several Arabic magazines.
UAE-Italy cultural collaboration
Meanwhile, the stand of House of Wisdom (HoW) at SIBF is focusing on UAE-Italy cross-cultural creative projects, featuring illustrations by five artists each from the UAE and Italy.
The exhibition will run through the duration of the book fair, which will conclude on November 13 at Expo Centre Sharjah.
Marwa Al Aqroubi, HoW’s Executive Director, said: “Across cultures and generations, young children enter the world of stories through folklore, much before they start reading. The value of folktales in shaping our lives and sensibilities, therefore, cannot be overstated. ‘Folktales Reimagined’ is the outcome of a bold and heartfelt undertaking by 10 artists in the UAE and Italy, who immersed themselves in a culture very different to theirs to create the art featured in this exhibition”.
“By bringing the exhibition to the Sharjah International Book Fair, which receives millions of visitors each year, we seek to promote cross-cultural appreciation amongst the fair’s visitors in line with the goals of the book fair as well as those championed by Sharjah,” she added.