The cultural heritage of narrative traditions from ancient Egypt, the Arab world and Germany is being explored in a new exhibition that begins in the UAE on Sunday.
Titled From Cinderella to Sindbad: German and Arab Timeless Tales, it is running as part of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2021, which will be hosted in-person and online in May and feature Germany as the guest of honour.
The exhibition, which ends on Monday, September 20, is a collaborative effort between the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Abu Dhabi, the Goethe-Institut and the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. It is taking place physically at the Cultural Foundation, but will also be made available online through a virtual gallery.
The exhibition is being presented in English and Arabic and is the result of a research project between the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection Berlin and the Arab-German Young Academy for Sciences and Humanities.
About 100 objects are included, including facsimiles, archival material, books and games, with some items on loan from institutions such as the Goethe-Institut Gulf Region and Kalima Project for Translation, which will showcase German titles translated into Arabic.
Ancient Egyptian papyruses, works by Arab poet Al Mutanabbi and German playwright and novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe are also being explored, as well as the classic Arabian Nights stories and more contemporary pop-up books and comics.
"We are delighted to bring this exhibition from Berlin, Germany – the land of poets and thinkers – to our friends and partners in Abu Dhabi," said Peter Fischer, German Ambassador to the UAE. "This is a fun and interactive cultural exchange and visitors will be surprised by some of the connections between our cultures."
A programme is running alongside the exhibition, featuring a number of activities aimed at children and adults, such as Fairytales and Folktales We Share, which includes a weekly feature of an Arabic story, a German Brothers Grimm tale or a marionette show.
Children's workshops on cultivating writing and storytelling skills, as well as handcrafting marionette dolls and a theatre, are also taking place.
Hakawati, a monthly interactive workshop, meanwhile, allows children to hear folk tales about Sindbad, Cinderella, Sinuhe and other famous literary characters from Germany and the Arab world.
The programme also aims to address commonalities between storytelling traditions and techniques, as well as those that continue to inspire artists and authors across the world to this day.
Elsewhere, there is a dedicated section on children's books by Emirati authors that are based on local folk tales passed down the generations.
Professor Dr Verena Lepper from Berlin, the show's curator, said the exhibition is particularly aimed at children “and to show that the roots of modern Emirati storytelling traditions are very old, going back to antiquity, and are part of an international network".
Fareed Majari, director of the Goethe-Institut Abu Dhabi, said: "Fairy tales like Cinderella or the tales of One Thousand and One Nights entertain their readers with stories from far away cultural or geographical worlds that are both exotic and familiar.
"There is an innate common structure: the quest of the hero, the dangers they face and the battles they have to win, and, of course, the demise of the bad and the triumph of the good.
"This is why the books in this exhibition lend themselves to a discourse about what is culturally different and what is similar, including our common aspirations.”
The Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation is open Saturdays to Thursdays, 10am to 7pm and on Fridays from 2pm to 7pm. A range of Covid-19 precautions that follow government guidelines have been put in place to ensure the safety of visitors.