SIBF 2022: Experience Italy with cooking sessions, folk music, theatre shows at Sharjah fair

Every year Italian publishers sell around 400 titles to Arab countries, with children’s and young adult books getting the highest interest



Photo by Sajjad
Photo by Sajjad

By Lamya Tawfik

Published: Thu 3 Nov 2022, 3:15 PM

Last updated: Thu 3 Nov 2022, 7:58 PM

UAE residents are spoiled for choice for a taste of Italy, both culturally and gastronomically, at the 41st edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair. Notable authors, publishing houses and chefs will be taking part this year which sees Italy as the guest of honour for the first time in the history of the fair.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Amedeo Scarpa, Italian Trade Commissioner to the UAE and the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) Dubai Director said that through literature and culture the fair enables a strong, heartfelt and empathic dialogue between cultures which can also be transformed into business opportunities such as collaboration between publishing houses.

Every year Italian publishers sell around 400 titles to Arab countries, with children’s and young adult books getting the highest interest. Amedeo said that the fair is preceded by a publisher conference which is one of the most important publishing events in the world – this is where copyrights are exchanged. “This is why the Italian Trade Agency invited 12 important Italian publishing houses to bring their publications here,” he said adding that their offerings are vast and variant including fiction, non-fiction, the classics and a focus on children’s books.

“A few years ago, the Sharjah International Book Fair was the guest of honor in the Turn International Book Salon and was a guest of honour in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair – the two most important book fairs in Italy – and we are very happy to be here,” said Amedeo.

Amedeo sees a direct link between cultural events like the book fair and the trade. “The fair is a cultural exchange – a seed of cooperation and collaboration that revolves around the values of Italy and the Gulf,” he said.

In addition to the business opportunities, the Italian participation in the fair includes a varied and entertaining cultural program which is curated by the Italian Cultural Institute in Abu Dhabi.

“Our challenge was to organize a program that is interesting and would impress the public. We have invited 17 writers and we the program includes four children’s workshops, two musical concerts, two theatre shows, two roaming shows and one exhibition,” said Ida Zilio-Grandi, Director of Italian Cultural Institute in Abu Dhabi.

She said that in coordination with the Italian Publishers Association they selected authors that represented the vast and varied nature of the Italian publishing industry.

The program includes a talk by the Director of the Egyptian Museum in Torino, Christian Greco, who will talk about using technology to make archeology more accessible to young digital natives.

“The Institute’s mission is to create bridges between Italy and the host countries and in this case the Arab culture so we also have sessions that combine experts from both Italy and the Arab world,” said Ida.

Other notable speakers include Francesca Maria Corrao, a professor of contemporary Arabic literature who will talk about Islamic civilization in the west and Claudia Tresso who has been awarded for her translation of Rihla – on the voyages of the traveler Ibn Battuta.

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UAE based authors Paola Myriam Visconti and Carla Barbara Coppi will also be participating with their publications. Carla is also holding a children’s workshop on Italian folk music. Children can also learn how to build masks and small theatre sets from Italian theatre group Teatro Verde. Visitors who are more culinary-inclined will be treated to cooking sessions with famous TV Italian chefs Alessandro Borghese, Cristina Bowerman, Damiana Carrara, Luca Montersino.

Walking around the fair, visitors will also spot some literary mascots like Pinocchio, Dante and Beatrice and Geronimo Stilton whose creator Elisabetta Dami is also present at the fair.

“I’ve been here for three years, and I realized there’s a great appreciation for Italian culture. Many feel that Italy is an ancient civilization and that we only try to preserve history, but we’re try to show that if you know us a bit more, you’ll get to know the other part of our story like our use of modern technologies with art for instance,” said Ida.

The impact of the Arab world is very important on Italy’s culture and history, according to Ida. “The real awakening that preceded the renaissance happened when the translation movement started. Translating from different cultures, but mostly from Arab scientists – medicine, astronomy and other sciences,” she said.

Novelty only comes from cultural exchange she emphasized. “Cultural exchange is the nutrition for innovation and creativity. You learn and grow by looking outside and this is the role of the book fairs,” she said.

One example she gave is the famous Italian dish – pizza. “It is an Italian dish that represents the crossing of many cultures. The base the “dough” is from the Arab world, tomatoes that were brought from the United States to Europe and basil was used as a herbal medicine through the world and we used it to flavor food. The only originally Italian ingredient in it is the mozzarella,” she said.


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