Brazilians celebrate Sharjah as São Paulo International Book Fair’s first-ever guest of honour

Amid a strong presence of diplomatic and cultural figures, authors and publishers, the 25th edition of São Paulo International Book Fair raised curtains on its 10-day celebration of books and literature last evening (Thursday), with Sharjah taking centre stage as its first-ever guest of honour. This signals a prominent step in strengthening cultural ties between the UAE and Brazil.

The two countries’ plans to turn this vision into reality were shared briefly at the book fair’s opening ceremony with speeches from Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, who is leading the Sharjah delegation in São Paulo; Bruno Covas, Mayor of São Paulo; Sérgio Sá Leitão, Brazilian Minister of Culture; Luis Antonio Torelli, Brazilian Book Chamber President; and Lúcia França, the First Lady of São Paulo in the presence of HE Ibrahim Alawi, UAE Consul-General in São Paulo.

On the side lines of the opening ceremony, Sharjah’s pavilion, which will host a rich cultural programme for the fair’s visitors was inaugurated by São Paulo’s First Lady; Romildo Campelo, Culture Secretary of the State of São Paulo; and Luis Antonio Torelli, who were received at the pavilion by Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, HE Ibrahim Alawi, and numerous cultural entity representatives from Sharjah and Brazil.

The visiting Brazilian dignitaries were acquainted with the vision and roles of all participating entities representing Sharjah at the fair. They browsed through Portuguese translations of Arabic books from the UAE featured on the stand, and Sheikh Fahim presented the São Paulo’s First Lady with English and Portuguese translations of the works of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.

Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of the Department of Government Relations in Sharjah, and Head of the Sharjah delegation at São Paulo Book Fair, underscored that their presence in one of Latin America’s most prominent cultural events is a landmark occasion. He pointed out that culture has been and will continue to be a decisive contributor to the phases of human history, likened cultural exchange to sharing historic expertise with nations.

He said: “We are proud to be in Brazil, a country home to acclaimed authors who have shaped world literature. Its vibrant and exciting literary history preserved in novels, plays, poems and songs, exemplifies a society where people share a unified cultural identity that they use as a shield to face common challenges. The exceptional beauty and distinctive flavour of Brazilian and Latin literature never fail to mesmerise.”

On the importance of cross-cultural exchange, he added: “Writing is one of the ways to manifest one’s conscience. When we write, we interpret the world as we see it. Reading other people’s literary creations enables us to share their imagination, understand them better and develop empathy. It is said that we write to be understood. In this view, I believe that we read to understand others and find new horizons. For these reasons and many more, we believe that cultural exchange is a way to build long lasting relationships that go beyond official formalities. It allows us to express ourselves in the most beautiful ways.”

Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi highlighted that the UAE enjoys close cultural relations with Brazil, and that the country is keen to take this further by strengthening cultural ties between the two nations, and build a better future together.

HE Ibrahim Alawi, UAE Consul-General in São Paulo, said: “The UAE has strong relations with Brazil, this is evidenced by the number of Brazilians in the UAE, which is part of the diverse social fabric of the country, and through the trade, cultural and sporting relation. Sharjah’s selection as this prestigious event’s first guest of honour testifies the depth of appreciation the two parties have for each other. I’m certain that the days that follow will unfold concrete plans   for fuelling cooperation between Brazil and Sharjah on social, cultural and economic fronts.”

For his part, Bruno Covas said: “I hope this year’s edition of the São Paulo Book Fair will allow us to strengthen Brazil’s economic and cultural ties with the UAE, as well as city ties between São Paulo and Sharjah. Both are proud of their cultural heritage preserved in their people, their numerous museums, theatres, galleries, and exhibitions. Not to mention we are extremely proud of our book fairs too.”

Sérgio Sá Leitão, Minister of Culture remarked: “Sharjah has strong cultural reputation around the world, and is recognised for its investments in cultural initiatives, particularly those related to books and reading. It is an honour to host a regional beacon of literature and culture in our fair.”

Luis Antonio Torelli observed: “This year’s edition is the first to honour a city from the Middle East. Sharjah, our guest of honour, is the cultural capital of the UAE, and we look forward to experiencing the richness of its culture speckled with music, dance, and literature. The UNESCO World Book Capital 2019, Sharjah is a cultural mirror for the Arab world. The recent opening of the Sharjah Publishing City, the world’s first free zone focused on the publishing industry is a recent example of this. Sharjah will bring a special glow to the event its 600,000-plus visitors, who will most definitely be enchanted by the region’s unique culture.

The Sharjah showcase: top intellectuals and publishers offer a taste of Emirati culture

Sharjah will take São Paulo visitors on a journey through the development of Emirati culture in the past four decades. It is organising a spectrum of panels and interactive sessions on UAE poetry, prose and heritage, featuring 20 Emirati authors and publishers and 15 cultural entities.

Sharjah has curated an array of literary and cultural activities to highlight this largest-of-its-kind participation by an Arab country in one of most prominent cultural events in South America. The emirate provides São Paulo the opportunity to explore Emirati art shows including traditional songs and dances. The shows are being performed at the city’s landmarks by the Sharjah National Band.

The first day of the event will see a poetry reading session themed ‘Poetry Spectra’, with Dr. Habib Al-Sayegh, Talal Salem, and moderated by poet and journalist Sheikha Al-Mutairi. Oud player, Taresh Khamees Saeed Al Hashimi’s, will be featured on the ‘Music of the Soul’ musical.

The activities curated on the first day of the event includes a seminar titled ‘The Year of Zayed’, moderated by writer and journalist Khalid bin Qiqa. Researchers, Dr Hamad bin Sarai, Professor of Old History at the United Arab Emirates University, and Saeed Hamdan, Professor of History at the UAE University, and Saeed Hamdan, Director of Program Management in the National Library Sector, the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi, will highlight the efforts of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE, who united the seven emirates, bolstered its culture values and ethics and ensured its development.

Through the Sharjah Institute for Heritage (SIH), the emirate also curated shows by Emirati traditional band who will parade key streets of the city. The shows are performed at the Museu do Futebol (Museum of Football), one of the oldest Brazilian stadiums; Estádio Municipal Paulo Machado de Carvalho – Pacaembu (Paulo Machado de Carvalho Stadium), Museu de Arte de São Paulo (São Paulo Museum of Art) and Ibirapuera Park.

The shows feature four traditional Emirati arts by Sharjah National Band, namely: ‘Nouban’ using the tanbur musical instrument, ‘Liwa’ that comprises two musical instruments the Ney and the big drum, ‘Andima’ with Scottish bagpipes and finally ‘Hibban’ with leather bagpipes.

Sharjah will be represented by delegations from various leading cultural, educational and academic entities at the São Paulo International Book Fair. Those include the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), Emirates Writers Union (EWU), Emirates Publishers Association (EPA), Sharjah Department of Culture and Information (DoCI), Sharjah Institute for Heritage (SIH), Dr. Sultan Al-Qasimi Centre for Gulf Studies, Sharjah Media Corporation (SMC), UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY), Knowledge without Borders (KwB), 1001 Titles initiative, Al Qasimi Publications, Kalimat Group, NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, Sharjah Business Women Council and the American University of Sharjah.