Sharjah concludes cultural programme at the London Book Fair

The emirate played a central role at one of the publishing world’s biggest trade fairs

From let, Afra Atiq, moderator Katherine Halls and Dubai Abulhoul in conversation at the London Book Fair. Photo: Sharjah Book Authority
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Sharjah's participation at the London Book Fair ended on a poetic note on Thursday.

Poets and authors Afra Atiq and Khalid Al Budoor teamed up for an enchanting evening of performances at the Arab British Centre, featuring various genres ranging from spoken word to classical Arabic Nabati poetry.

The event wrapped up the Sharjah Book Authority’s extensive programme at the event, mostly held at the Olympia, in which the emirate was designated as this year’s market focus.

In addition to a constellation of stands catering to various Sharjah cultural organisations, including the House of Wisdom and Sharjah Publishing City, the emirate was represented with a large pavilion that hostedo panel sessions focusing on the Emirati literary landscape.

A highlight of the programme was a session on Wednesday called Emirati Women Writers, Shaping the Country’s Literary Scene featuring Atiq and author Dubai Abulhoul.

“Poetry is an integral component of Emirati culture. We have the Nabati, which is a popular pick for public and private events, meetings and majlises with families, friends and loved ones,” Atiq said.

“Being brought up in a cultural environment in which the art form was popularly practised and appreciated, made my career as a poet much easier.”

Atiq also detailed the journey of the Emirati all-women writers collective Untitled Chapters, which she co-founded 10 years ago.

"We say it's a group of writers but really it’s a family," she said. "We have mentored other writers, conducted workshops and we have gone through every stage that a literary family can go through alongside our own lives.

“It is quite extraordinary to think about this group that started because each of us wanted a literary home because we had trouble connecting with other writers."

I think there will always be a thriving Arabic literary scene. What I would like to see is for this conversation not to be a divisive one between generations
Dubai Abulhoul, author

Abulhoul, who at the age of 12 published Galagolia, described as the UAE's first English fantasy novel, said the country's literary community is embroiled in a healthy debate about the use of English in telling Emirati stories.

"I think there will always be a thriving Arabic literary scene. What I would like to see is for this conversation not to be a divisive one between generations,” she said.

“I would like to see the conversation elevated and to accept the diversity of the use of language and for people to be reassured that it doesn’t mean that our identity is in crisis.”

On choosing to write her books in English, Abulhoul said: “I believe that writing in a foreign language ... nurtures the writer’s experience, perceptions and intellect.”

The Sharjah Book Authority also used the fair to highlight its various translation initiatives, including official grants.

Fifty-nine translated books by Emirati and Arab authors were featured throughout the festival, including works by novelists and playwrights.

"Emirati and Arab authors and intellectuals are the best representatives to showcase the values, ideals and rich legacy of the Arab culture,” said Sharjah Book Authority chairman Ahmed Al Ameri.

“Today at the London Book Fair, we are reaping the fruits of our initiatives as we witness first hand the keen interest of international publishers and institutions to present the works of Emirati and Arab authors to their readers around the world."

Scroll through the gallery below to see highlights from the London Book Fair.

Updated: April 08, 2022, 11:12 AM