His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, opened the 40th edition of Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Tuesday.
Themed ‘There’s always a right book", the 11-day event sees the participation of 1,632 Arab and foreign publishing houses. The event will host 85 books, bringing together a stellar gathering of Arab authors, intellectuals, poets and artistes, from around the world.
Organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) at Expo Centre Sharjah under the theme 'There's always a right book', the 2021 edition of the cultural extravaganza will run from November 3 to13. The fair celebrates Spain as Guest of Honour.
The Ruler of Sharjah honoured Kuwaiti novelist and short story writer, Taleb Al Refai, as SIBF's 'Cultural Personality of the Year'. The winner of the Sharjah Translation Award ‘Turjuman’, and winners in various categories of SIBF Awards and the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children's Literature were also honoured at the event.
'SIBF is the world’s top book fair'
In a keynote address, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA, praised the vision of the Ruler of Sharjah whose firm belief in the outcomes of the emirate’s cultural project has reinforced Sharjah’s stature as the cultural capital of the Arab world.
Al Ameri said: “His Highness believed in and envisioned the true impact of culture long before other nations recognised its soft but tangible power. Sharjah’s cultural project is rooted in the Arabic identity and has been instrumental in forging connections and building bridges with cultures around the world, year after year.”
The SBA Chairman added: "I remember the time when His Highness said that a nation's cultural projects are long-term, and that their outcomes cannot be realised in a year or two. I remember His Highness's words clearly when he emphasised that the cultural project is not merely a celebration of authors and books but rather a long journey that will one day benefit those who truly believe in it."
The Chairman added: "Today, after 40 years, Sharjah and the Arab people have the right to be proud of the golden dagger you pledged for a book as a young child, Your Highness, as it is we who reap the fruits of your enduring commitment to books and reading. SIBF has emerged as world’s top book fair this year, as it witnessed the highest number of deals struck in the buying and selling publishing rights.”
Al Ameri added: "Today, the strengths and beauty of Arab literature has crossed geographical and linguistic boundaries thanks to the prestigious Sharjah Translation Award 'Turjuman' introduced in 2011, which aims to promote Arabic titles globally. The creative works of our poets, intellectuals and authors now enjoy an international readership and till date, the award has received 16,490 translation requests from and into the Arabic language and has helped get1,493 books published."
Recognition for promoting Arabic literary works
His Highness honoured the winner of the Dh1.3 million Sharjah Translation Award 'Turjuman'. Brazilian publisher Tabla was honoured for the Portuguese translation of Diwan Ahad 'asher Kaukaban. Written by Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet and author, the Arabic edition was published by Lebanon-based Dar al Jadeed.
Winners of The Sharjah Award for an Emirati Book under the SIBF Awards included Mona Al Tamimi, who won in the Best Emirati Novel category for Shahedon Min Ishbiliyah, Hekayat Malik bin Ghadeer Al Ishbili Wa Sahebah Najm Al Deen. Award for the Best Emirati Academic Book went to Dr. Hessa Abdullah Al Ketbi for Experimentation in contemporary Emirati poetry. Sakher Abdullah Ali Saif won the Best Emirati Book about the UAE category for Hesabat Sohail and Al Duror..Sawt Min Al Madi Al Aseel.
The SIBF Award winner in the Best Arabic Novel category was Tunisian Author El Hadi Taymoumi for Qeyamat Al Hashasheen. Emirati Ayesha Al Naqbi won in the Best International Fiction Book category for Terlamane (Realm of Gerits), while Joel Hayward's The Leadership of Muhammad: A Historical Reconstruction won the Best International Non-Fiction Book award.
Under the Sharjah Publisher Recognition Awards category, ‘Sama Publishing, Production & Distribution’ was adjudged the Best Local Publisher; Kuwaiti ‘That Al Salasil’ recognised as the Best Arab Publisher; and Book Land Publishers UAE was acknowledged as the Best International Publisher.
The Ruler also honoured winners of the Dh1.2 million Etisalat Award for Arabic Children's Literature in its 13th edition. ABZ by Samar Mahfouz Baraj, illustrated by Sinan Hallak, and published by ‘Dar Al Saqi’, Lebanon, won in the 'Early Reader' category. The Superhero by Nusaibah Al Azibi, illustrated by Hassan Manasra and published by ‘Dar Ashjar Publishing & Distribution’, UAE, bagged the honour in the 'Picture Book' category.
In the 'Chapter Book' category, The Orange Ball, by Tamara Samir Qashha, illustrated by Yeganeh Yaghoob and published by ‘Al Yasmine Publishing House’, Jordan, was adjudged the winner. Small Escape by Afaf Tabbala, illustrated by Mariam Hani Abdel Salam, and published by ‘Nahdet Misr Publishing House’, Egypt, secured the 'Young Adult Book' category; while Weaam Ahmed won the 'Comics Book' category award for her 70 Kilos, illustrated by Ali Al Zeini and published by ‘Al Alia Publishing House’, Egypt.
Being recognised is a great responsibility: Taleb Al Refai
In a keynote address, Taleb Al Refai, Kuwaiti novelist and short story writer, lauded the cultural project led by the Ruler of Sharjah that has enhanced the emirate’s status as an incubator of knowledge, intellect, and creativity. Sharjah deserves to be the capital of the book and knowledge because the Sharjah Ruler’s passionate love for these pillars of civilisation has taken the emirate to this level.
He added that being recognised as SIBF's Cultural Personality of the Year is a great honour and responsibility and marks the culmination of a long career that commenced at a young age when someone whispered to him: "Perhaps you can be a writer one day".
Spain pledges to donate books at SIBF pavilion to new library
In his keynote speech, Patrici Tixis, Chair of the Spanish Federation of Publishers Guild (FGEE), thanked Sharjah for the invitation to Spain to showcase the nation’s culture and literature, saying, “Between Sharjah and Spain – our roots are very deep and very close to each other. We still need to open new windows of exchange to continue building on this relationship. An event like SIBF facilitates this in the most vibrant and diverse ways.
“The UAE has a wealth of experience that will be shared with Spain, it is also a gateway to the Asian continent. The Spanish Ministry of Culture has a great interest in expanding to new international markets for translation, children literature, and publishing copyrights. SIBF provides great opportunities to advance the publishing sector, and strengthen cultural partnerships between the UAE and Spain, and turn the spotlight on Spanish authors and publishers," he added.
Books in the Spanish pavilion will be donated to a new library with Spanish funding when the 40th edition of SIBF draws to a close, he revealed.
After the opening ceremony, His Highness toured the various pavilions at Expo Centre and made a brief stop at the pavilion of Spain, the SIBF 2021 Guest of Honour.
The opening ceremony was attended by several senior officials, dignitaries, and leading authors and members of academia.
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