Emirates Literature Foundation launches competition to increase the number of Arab authors on Wikipedia

Cash prizes and an all-expenses-paid holiday to Dubai will be awarded to the winners

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature director Ahlam Bolooki. Leslie Pableo / The National 
Emirates Airline Festival of Literature director Ahlam Bolooki. Leslie Pableo / The National 

A month-long competition to increase the number of Arab author pages on Wikipedia is starting on June 1.

The initiative by Emirates Literature Foundation's Kateb Maktub, in collaboration with Google, calls on the public to write more articles about Arab authors in the Arabic language.

Ahead of its launch, the foundation is offering free webinars on Sunday, May 30, on how to create author pages on Wikipedia, so people with no prior experience can also take part.

The person with the most articles will be awarded $500, with runners-up getting $400 and $300 for second and third place, respectively.

A second round of the competition will start on August 1, when the person with the most articles across both cycles will get the Grand Slam Prize, which is an all-expenses-paid trip to the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai in 2022. Runners-up will receive subscriptions to Abjjad, a social network for readers, authors and bloggers in the Middle East, which gives access to more than 30,000 Arabic books.

Participants will be split into two categories: one for experts and one for novices. Each article would need to be between 300 to 500 words and structured according to Wikipedia guidelines, including an introduction to the author, notable works, awards, biography and references to reliable sources.

The foundation has a list of 6,000 authors participants can choose from. Once they've picked a name, they'll have 48 hours to upload the article to ensure there are no duplicates.

Many of these Arab authors have no trace online. We want to see their body of work and their biographies, but the information is often lacking or of poor quality

Ahlam Bolooki, director of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

It will be judged by a committee of experts, certified editors and administrators from the Arab Wikipedia community.

“The Kateb Maktub initiative is an important step in the right direction for bringing Arab literature to a wider audience and shining a light on Arab authors," said festival director Ahlam Bolooki. "The Grand Slam prize is a unique chance for literature lovers to meet some of the greatest authors at our festival, and I am sure we will see fierce competition.”

The project first launched in December 2020, when the foundation announced its bid to promote the work of Arab authors within and outside the region by building an army of Wikipedia editor volunteers to share the region's literary culture with the world.

Between September 2019 and September 2020, the number of Arab author pages on Wikipedia grew by 100, but within four months of the initiative launching, the number of pages increased by 4,800, according to the foundation.

The goal of Kateb Maktub is to publish 15,000 Wikipedia pages dedicated to Arab authors in English and Arabic by December 2022.

“We always want to invite new talent and future stars of Arabic literature and, each year, we face the same problem,” Bolooki said when the initiative first launched.

“Many of these Arab authors have no trace online. We want to see their body of work and their biographies, but the information is often lacking or of poor quality. Sometimes it is even questionable if the information is related to the right person.”

Bolooki said such a situation warrants alarm.

“If a literature foundation in the heart of the Arab world is having difficulties finding Arab authors, can you imagine how difficult it would be for regular readers to find them?

“If you haven’t heard of a book or author, you will simply not read them.”

More information is at katebmaktub.org

Updated: May 25, 2021 02:24 PM

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