Role of books in promoting Emirati identity spotlighted at BCBF
March 23, 2022 / 3:09 PM
Sharjah24: As part of Sharjah’s Guest of Honour cultural programme at Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2022, the Illustrators’ Café hosted an insightful panel discussion on promoting the Emirati cultural identity in children’s books and how authors can include elements of traditional culture as a tool to strengthen the social and common bonds among peoples from different cultures.
Thanking Bologna Children's Book Fair (BCBF) and Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) for the opportunity to showcase their cultural and literary vision with their international peers, Emirati authors Dubai Abulhoul and award-winning short story writer Fatima Sultan Al Mazrouei emphasised the importance of cross-cultural and multi-lateral dialogues in developing their skills and enriching their knowledge.
Fatima al Mazrouei said: “Writing for children is a challenging and sensitive task. The folktales and mythical legends I heard as a child from my grandmother, and the stories she narrated about the history of the UAE and how places and customs in society change over time, inspired me while writing books for children and shaped my choice of content.”
“The stories narrated by my grandmother forged my understanding of the Emirati cultural identity. It combined elements of history and geographical transformations and offered insights into the impact of changing customs on the social fabric and economic growth. These stories have inspired me to raise children’s awareness about the transformational development of the UAE and bring to light that these achievements are the result of continuous and relentless efforts made over decades and the outcome of collaboration and harmony with all segments of society,” she added.
Al Mazrouei emphasised that a writer bears responsibility in preserving popular and oral heritage. She said: "The stories narrated by mothers and grandmothers must be documented and archived by those involved in books, especially children's literature. These stories are part of our cultural identity and collective memory and shape the ambitious vision that have led to the great achievements we enjoy today.”
For her part, Dubai Abulhoul spoke about the cultural landscape in Sharjah and the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, that emphasised the role of books in steering development, cultural renaissance, and progress. Discussing how growing up in such an environment moulded her literary skills and motivated her to think big, Abulhoul said: “I remember my annual visits to the Sharjah International Book Fair (SBIF) as a child. That was when I realised that writers, historians and artists have a unique position in society. This is what inspired me to write for children – it was my way of expressing gratitude for all the cherished childhood memories I had with books.”
She added: “The stories and tales we hear as children have a deep impact on the stories we tell our children today. I see myself as a vehicle to transfer this wealth of history and heritage to contribute towards building a future based on knowledge and awareness.”
“As we strive to maintain our Emirati national identity, we also get to explore the geographically different identities of other cultures to whom we are bound by shared human and emotional values. I believe that in preserving our unique identity, we are also taking a step towards building a common human experience through which all cultures and civilisations can be united,” concluded Abulhoul.