It was a sight to behold at the Sao Paulo International Book Fair this year, when Brazilian audiences lined up at Sharjah pavilion’s Arabic calligraphy stand to have their names written in a variety of Arabic calligraphy types such as Thuluth, Diwani and Naskh, Brazilian women and girls got delicate Henna drawn on their palms, and thousands of visitors to the book fair watched Emirati artisans creating the UAE’s traditional crafts of Talli and Safeefa, 12,000 km away from Sharjah.
At the heart of the state the Sao Paulo, the cultural capital of Brazil, Sharjah put up a spectacular 10-day showcase of Emirati and Arab cultures, to honour its selection as the first guest of honour the prestigious cultural event has had in all its 25 editions.
Sao Paulo’s streets came alive with an Emirati carnival featuring traditional song and dance performances steeped in the UAE’s history, whose protagonists married Samba beats to the tempo of Tanbura, Mizmar, Shindo and other Arab musical instruments as they narrated old tales of the UAE’s sailors and pearl divers in crowd-pulling performances.
The UAE flag was hoisted high at the fair, which saw the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) take the lead on a plethora of activities organised at the massive Sharjah Pavilion. Dozens of Emirati and Arab authors, intellectuals and artists engaged thousands of visitors in discussions on Emirati literature, plays and novels translated into Portuguese for the first time to be shared especially with Brazilian readers.
For 10 days, Sharjah Pavilion was a platform that brought together Brazilian and Emirati cultures, offering space for an open dialogue between the two nations to enhance bilateral relations. Brazilians engaged with a spectrum of panels unveiling the similarities and uniqueness of the two cultures.
Emirati authors, Hareb Al Dhaheri and Asmaa Al Zarouni participated in a panel dedicated to the discussing the impact of Emirati heritage passed on through the popular oral tradition of the folk tale on local literature. A young Brazilian engaged with the participants and underscored that Brazilian children are still listening to their grandmothers’ stories that spark their imagination, exactly like their Emirati counterparts.
An overwhelming number of visitors to the fair turned up at the Sharjah Pavilion to have their Portuguese copies of Emirati titles signed by their authors; over 40 contemporary Emirati authors and intellectuals were in attendance at the fair. Poetry reading sessions with the poets themselves often followed by pictures to capture the time they had together forever exemplified the charismatic influence of a new culture on a largely Brazilian and western audience.
Sharjah offered its Brazilian publishing counterparts a comprehensive picture of the writing and books industries in the UAE and the Gulf Region, as well as the emirate’s on-going cultural and creative initiatives, which seek to boost its leading cultural project.
A section displayed for Portuguese editions of two popular works by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. A delegation comprising 20 cultural entities from Sharjah and UAE represented Sharjah at the book Fair. They included, the Sharjah Department of Culture, Emirates Publishers Association (EPA), Emirates Writers Union (EWU), Dr Sultan Al Qasimi Centre of Gulf Studies, the ‘1001 Titles’ initiative and ‘Knowledge without Boarders’ (KwB).
It was crafts galore too at the pavilion with Emirati craftswomen from Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council (Irthi) and Sharjah Institute for Heritage (SIH) offering the audience live demonstrations of the traditional ‘Talli’ and ‘Safeefa’ crafts, as well as indulging them with beautiful Henna art. Sharjah-based publisher, Kalimat Group, displayed its latest children’s and young adults’ books, while the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) showcased its cultural and literary initiatives in the UAE and the region aimed at increasing children’s access to books.
Brazilian publishers have met with representatives from Emirati cultural institutions to enhance the translations movements and the books business in general.
To sum it up, a fifteen-hour flight to the Latin American continent was enough to bring the Brazilian audience closer to the UAE’s heritage and culture through literature, arts and music with 15 representatives from Sharjah and the UAE, more than 20 Emirati writers and publishers, thousands of Portuguese editions of books written by 40 writers.
All these efforts were made to communicate the message of His Highness The Ruler of Sharjah on the importance of a globalised world built on cross-cultural dialogue, and culture and knowledge exchange, based on which His Highness launched the emirate’s vibrant cultural project five decades ago.
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