Work of Emirati illustrators stuns Italians in Bologna - GulfToday

Work of Emirati illustrators stuns Italians in Bologna


The exhibition provides an understanding of the way in which local artists and illustrators in the UAE creatively portray authentic Emirati identity.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

Sharjah has curated the works of 20 Emirati illustrators in a special exhibition, ‘Insight, Reflect’ to turn the spotlight on a key component of the UAE’s contemporary children’s literature sector. The exhibition is one of the many cultural offerings of Sharjah’s Guest of Honour programme at the Bologna Children’s Book fair (BCBF) 2022.

From collage, charcoal and pastel artworks to other distinct styles and materials employed by UAE’s local artists to bring children’s stories to life and spark young imagination, the exhibition has offered thousands of visitors a unique window into the styles and techniques of contemporary artists in Sharjah’s and the UAE’s rapidly flourishing children’s literature sector.

Located in the Main Hall of the book fair, ‘Insight, Reflect’ features a curation of the works of artists Nasser Nasrallah, Khaled Al Banna, Khalid Mezaina, Wafa Ibrahim, Aisha Al Bloushi, Alia Al Baadi, Ammar Al Attar, Asma Al Husseini, Asma Bin Kalban, Mariam Al Shamsi, Budoor Al Muhairi, Eman Al Raesi, Fatima Al Ameri, Khadija Al Mulla, Latifa Al Ketbi, Mariam Al Binali, Maitha Al Khayat, Salama Al Nuaimi, Sanaa Al Falasi, and Shaikha Al Shamsi.

A key objective of the exhibition is to offer literary and cultural enthusiasts an understanding of the way in which local artists and illustrators in the UAE creatively portray authentic Emirati identity in the way they build a story’s characters, their physical attributes, expressions, clothing as well as the colours and other accents they use to complete and finetune them. The displayed works include Emirati women in traditional garments and the burqa; UAE’s local environmental elements including the coastal areas, mountains and the desert; traditional ships and other elements that hark back to the roots of the nation.

KNOWLEDGE WITHOUT BORDERS: Folktales, myths, and legends, and how they impact children’s personalities was the focus of a fascinating discussion led by the Sharjah-based cultural initiative, Knowledge without Borders (KwB), recently at the ongoing 59th Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF) where the emirate is being hosted as Guest of Honour.  

Held at the Sharjah pavilion, the session was led by Maryam Al Qasimi, novelist and founder of Aram Publishing; Aisha Maghawour, Secretary General of the Arab Forum of Children’s Book Publishers; Italian writer Gracia Goethe, member of the Italy chapter of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY); and was moderated by Mariam AlHammadi, manager of KWB.

Emphasising the similarities in folktales across cultures, Maryam Al Qasimi said: “We all listened to folktales, whether from our region or Arabic translations of stories in other languages. Despite the differences related in setting or social structures, all these stories upheld similar moral values for children. This is what makes folktales an effective tool to develop young readers’ personalities, nurture their national identity and inculcate noble human values in them.”

Goethe noted: “Since we are discussing the importance of folktales in a cultural event hosted by Italy, it is necessary to mention the great Italian writer Italo Calvino who initiated a project to create an anthology of folktales from all regions and cities in Italy. Such efforts positively impact generations of readers as folktales are not only part of our past, but also of our present and future because they have always inspired us to be positive in the face of adversity. Folktales strengthen the relationship between human beings; they help them deal with their feelings such as fear, love, anxiety and hope.”

“I am very impressed by Arab culture and the efforts of Sharjah in particular. I aspire to open a library featuring multilingual resources in the emirate to offer children and youth the best books from around the world,” she added.

On her part, Aisha Maghawour said: “Folktales are not only for entertainment, but an effective tool for education, learning human values, and shaping positive behaviour in children and adults alike. They are not completely imaginary but rather a reflection of individual and collective human experiences.”

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