Book lovers seen at Sharjah Expo Centre during previous edition of Sharjah International Book Fair.
Jamil Khan, Senior Reporter
The upcoming 40th edition of Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) starting from Nov.3-13 at Expo Centre Sharjah is all set to open with a number of surprises for book lovers.
The 11-day star-studded annual event will exhibit 1,566 publishers from 83 nations and will host Abdulrazak Gurnah, the 2021 Nobel Prize winner, leading TV series ‘Money Heist’ screenwriter among others.
The SIBF organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), will be welcoming 85 writers and intellectuals who will lead the fair’s 970 events and activities including literary discussions, workshops, seminars, cultural shows, concerts, theatre.
This year's book fair will be held under the theme ‘There’s always a right book,’ inspired by SBA’s international campaign ‘Into Books,’ which has been making waves around the globe since its global unveiling this August.
SIBF 2021 will host Kuwaiti journalist and writer Taleb Al-Refai as cultural personality of the year to honour his rich contributions to Arabic literature through his novels, short stories, literary criticisms, as well as his role in reviving the Gulf region’s literature and building bridges between Arab and Western cultures for over three decades.
The full programme agenda of the 40th edition of the globally-anticipated book fair was detailed at a well-attended press conference organised by SBA at the House of Wisdom, Sharjah on Wednesday.
Among prominent attendees were Ahmed Bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA; Inigo de Palacio, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to the UAE; Mohammed Hassan Khalaf, Director General of Sharjah Broadcasting Authority; Brigadier General Dr Ahmed Saeed Al Naour, Director-General of Central Operations, Sharjah Police; Abdul Aziz Hamad Taryam, CEO Adviser and General Manager, Northern Emirates, Etisalat; and Khoula Al Mujaini, General Coordinator of SIBF.
In his keynote address, Ahmed Al Ameri said: “Over the past 40 years, we have imbibed several key lessons from the vision and efforts His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, on the emirate’s cultural project. The most important among these is: every achievement and every change we strive for starts in the pages a book; every discussion we begin and even the understanding of our history starts with a book.”
He added: “The 40th edition of SIBF is a remarkable cultural milestone for Sharjah and the UAE, through which we want to continue driving our efforts to promote the growth and post-pandemic recovery of the global publishing industry. SIBF 2021 will serve as a catalyst for new readers and a key player in transforming the industry to meet their needs. At the same time, the book fair will offer a platform for authors and researchers to broaden their areas of interest.”
SIBF 2021 brings together 929 Arab and 637 international publishers showcasing millions of books across a 10,000sqm area. This year, Egypt is represented by 295 publishers, followed by 250 from the UAE, 138 from the UK, 112 from Lebanon, 93 from Syria and 76 from Jordan.
India is participating with 87 publishers, while 48 are coming in from the US, 26 from Italy, 16 each from Canada and Brazil, 14 from Spain, and 12 each from Mexico and France. Nine countries will debut in SIBF, including Colombia, South Sudan, Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Notable names from the Arab region include poet and artist Khalid Abdulrahman, author Ahlam Mosteghanemi, Dr Ahmed Emara, poet Hisham Algakh, actor Muhammad Subhi, poet Faisal Al Adwani, Egyptian jewellery designer Azza Fahmy, Egyptian author Dr Midhat Al Adl, historian Ali Al Namlah, Jordanian Booker winner Jalal Barjas, poet Haidar Mahmoud, and artist Ahmad Al Jasmi.
The richness and diversity of global literature and culture will be represented by Tanzanian novelist and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021, Abdulrazak Gurnah who is making his first appearance in a global event since being honoured with the title; Chris Gardner; writer Yasmina Khadra; Amitav Ghosh; Chetan Bhagat; and the young inventor Gitanjali Rao from America.
From culinary demonstrations to musical concerts including the 'La Caramba' will be part of Spain’s rich GoH programme, which will span 25 activities in total led by 41 guests.
A panel discussion on scriptwriting by the screenwriters of the hit Netflix series “Money Heist” (La Casa de Papel), Javier Gómez and Diego Avalos, and illustrators of children’s and young adult literature will host workshops.
Authors and publishers will be the real protagonists of the programme who will be discussing the importance of translations among other key topics to highlight the shared legacy of Spanish and Arab cultures.
SIBF 2021 is organising 355 activities, shows and workshops for children this year, which will be led by professionals and experts from 9 countries. In addition, the 11-day fair will feature an outdoor exhibition from Canada titled ‘The Heart of Traveler’, which is dedicated to celebrating the literary experiences of the Haitian-Canadian novelist Dany Laferrière and includes seven interactive shows based three of his novels.
In line with its strict health and safety framework, the book fair will be open once again for school and university visits. SIBF 2021 visitor capacity protocol is that the numbers will be capped at 80 percent of the venue’s full capacity. Schools that wish to schedule a visit need to pre-register.
80 shows featuring theatre, dance performances and musicals
SIBF 2021 will stage 80 awe-inspiring theatrical and dance performances as well as musicals in which artists and performing groups from nine countries will participate. Key theatre shows include ‘The Rabbits’, featuring Bader Al Shuaibi, Faher Al Benai, Hanadi Al Kandari, Fahd Saleh, Ghrour Safr and Ahmed bin Hussein.
Food lovers are in for a new culinary journey with 10 chefs and experts from nine countries who will lead 35 activities throughout SIBF 2021. Notable participants include Korean-American chef Judy Joo, Malaysian chef Sherson Lian, Indian chef Kunal Kapur, and Lebanese Lina Saad.
The Illustrators Survival Corner, a project in collaboration with Bologna Children's Book Fair curated by Mimaster Illustrazione, will hold three hands-on workshops and master classes for aspiring illustrators, designers and art directors who will be taught to use image design and creativity tools, learn international best practices and will benefit from professional portfolio reviews.
200 librarians and experts from 20 countries along with 17 speakers from 10 countries will convene at the 8th edition of the Sharjah International Library Conference (SILC).
Held in collaboration with the American Library Association (ALA) from November 9-11, the preconference workshops and the two-day conference will take place in a hybrid format.
An international group of librarians and experts will lead the conference discussions, which will centre around new trends and technologies, establishing collaborations and networks, enhancing leadership skills, and developing and promoting new services for their respective communities.
More than 520 publishing professionals, agents and authors, and 35 speakers will take part in the 11th SIBF Publishers Conference, taking place at Expo Centre Sharjah from Oct.31 - Nov.2.
The three-day event will host 8 panel discussions on the key issues and challenges facing the publishing sector in the region and around the world. Participating publishers will get the opportunity to apply for the $300,000 SIBF Translation Grant.
The hugely popular ‘Matchmaking’ sessions will be held on all three days of the conference for the convenience of publishers and industry professionals to discuss buying and selling of rights and strike new deals, especially in the Arab market.
A brand-new feature of the SIBF programme, a two-day National Libraries Summit, will be organised at the SBA headquarters in Sharjah on November 8–9. The theme of the summit is ‘Attend, Interact and Influence’ and will be attended by 60 participants from 20 counties and 20 national libraries from around the world who will be engaging in several discussions and four networking meetings.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary, SBA will launch Sharjah International Book Fair Smart App compatible with both Android and iOS devices. The app will allow users to view the entire activities roster, view participating publishers and titles available and plan journeys by setting personalised notifications for upcoming activities.
Noting that his address was a tribute to SIBF, Inigo de Palacio, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to the UAE said: “The Sharjah International Book Fair is the most relevant book fair in the Arab region. I’ve been informed that more than 77 countries participated in the 2019 edition, which welcomed over 2 million visitors. This is outstanding! These numbers are a testimony to the cultural vision and leadership of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah”.
Palacio thanked Sharjah for accepting LIBER Book Fair 2019’s invitation to be Guest of Honour (GoH) and said, “Spain is reciprocating Sharjah’s generosity by coming to SIBF 2021 as guest of honour”.
“A highlight of Spain’s guest of honour programme is a high-level visit by our Minister of Culture and Sports. Following SBA’s recent visit to Madrid, this new opportunity will be a significant milestone in Emirati–Spanish cooperation. Through our participation in SIBF 2021, we will be proudly representing not just Spain, but a community of more than 560 million people worldwide,” he continued.
Mohammed Hassan Khalaf, Director General of Sharjah Broadcasting Authority, said: “The Sharjah Broadcasting Authority has a clear vision based on the directives of the Sharjah Ruler that media is a machinery for positive change. We work in partnership with entities like SBA to make the emirate’s projects a success. Let’s congratulate all Emiratis and readers worldwide on the occasion of the 40th edition of SIBF, which has transcended its role as a book fair to become a cultural representation of Sharjah and the UAE – a message from the UAE and the Arab nation, which believes in the intrinsic value of books in offering a foundation for advancement.”
He added that three channels and studios of the SBA will dedicatedly broadcast the book fair’s 11-day activities and events in a comprehensive manner via 14 programmes. Apart from this, there will be live coverage and reporting on SIBF 2021 by the authority daily in addition to author interviews, games, competitions, and more.
Brigadier General Dr. Ahmed Saeed Al Naour, Director-General of Central Operations, Sharjah Police, noted: “We are working committedly to translate the national security strategy of our wise leadership. His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah is keen on reinforcing the emirate’s status as a hub for civilisational enlightenment by attracting the most brilliant intellectual minds here. As we recover from the global pandemic, Sharjah Police promises to protect and safeguard the book fair and its visitors from the beginning until the very end.”
For his part, Abdul Aziz Hamad Taryam, CEO Adviser and General Manager, Northern Emirates, Etisalat, said: “With the 40th edition of SIBF, Sharjah renews its commitment to extend and strengthen bridges of communication with other cultures of the world. This edition coincides with the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s formation and reinforces the nation’s aspirations to provide an environment that promotes our culture as well as leading cultural innovation. At Etisalat, we are honoured to offer our support to the book fair once again. Our continued support to this key event reflects our commitment to promoting reading and holistic cultural development in the UAE society.”
Khoula Al Mujaini, General Coordinator of SIBF, said: “The thought behind selecting this edition’s theme for SIBF 'There’s always a right book', was that the messages we sent out to the world with our recent global campaign ‘Into Books’, will find its way to realisation as every SIBF 2021 visitor finds a book to fuel their interests and passions.”
Strict health and safety protocols will be adhered to throughout the 11-day event.
The gesture reflects the Sharjah Ruler’s keenness to promote locally-produced literature within the UAE’s book industry by supporting Emirati writers and intellectuals, and ultimately enhancing their presence in libraries.
The hybrid offline – online model of SIBF 2020 themed ‘The World Reads from Sharjah’ and organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), offered 1,024 publishers from 73 nations a much-needed opportunity to showcase millions of titles including 80,000 new releases to a physical audience of 382,000 people who visited the book fair.
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