Amid top Italian officials, authors, literary experts and an abundance of cultural enthusiasts, Sharjah was unveiled as guest of honour at the Turin International Book Fair (TIBF 2019), Thursday.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of the Department of Government Relations (DoGR), Sharjah, and Head of Sharjah Delegation at the fair, reiterated the emirate’s unstinting efforts in forging and strengthening relations with other cities and nations worldwide, by assuming a central role in their literary events, like the one the emirate is currently playing in one of Italy’s leading book fairs.
"We are gathered today to celebrate books, the medium through which we have shared culture for over 500 years. Our discussions began last year with a mission to join our cities of culture, education and innovation, and the time has come to unveil this new partnership. I thank our friends in Turin, for receiving Sharjah as guest of honour at one of the most important literary platforms in Italy and Europe," Sheikh Fahim noted.
"We have brought UAE’s and the Arab world’s recent accomplishments in the literary and cultural fields in a carefully-crafted programme for the book fair’s visitors and participating publishers. Speaking of accomplishments, I must mention one that Sharjah is being admired for globally. The emirate has begun its yearlong reign as UNESCO World Book Capital 2019 under the theme, ‘Open Books. Open Minds’, Sheikh Fahim added.
He shed light on the unwavering leadership and guidance of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, being the central force behind receiving this unparalleled distinction, saying: "The celebration’s theme showcases values that Sharjah and the UAE are built on. It reflects His Highness’s understanding that culture and cultural exchange is the solution to many of today’s challenges and books are at the heart of this journey.
"It is because of books that we could establish world class education; it is because of books that we learn to play music; it is because of books that as a student of theatre, I learnt about Commedia Dell Arte long before I visited Italy. "It is because of books that we are here today," Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi concluded.
Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), said: "The celebration of Sharjah as a special guest at this reputable literary platform is a recognition of both our cultural achievements and our desire to open new windows of dialogue with the world, under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi.
"SBA is going from strength to strength to forge partnerships and build cultural bridges that will take Sharjah’s efforts to protect and promote human heritage, translation efforts and the overall development of the book as a centre of knowledge dissemination and exchange."
Opening remarks were also extended by Alberto Bonisoli, Italian Minister of Culture, who said: "Turin International Book Fair is a place for everyone, because here we have thousands of books that represent a diversity of ideas – all are equally important and each of them can find expression. The Book Fair is a powerful instrument for those who are hungry for culture: books allow the free circulation of ideas, and this way, people can develop a critical spirit and an open mind to confront everything is seen as different and far."
These ideas were echoed by Nicola Lagioia, Artistic Director of Turin Book Fair, who said: "Turin International Book Fair is a place for exchanges, confrontation, for sharing, for celebration. It involves hundreds of thousands of people and it is a virtuous example for the whole country. It is an experience that unites us all."
After the opening ceremony, an Italian delegation led by Chiara Appendino, Mayor of Turin, visited the Sharjah pavilion and toured around to sample all the different cultural and literary offerings that the emirate is showcasing at the pavilion. This includes 57 Italian translations of Emirati titles and a selection of traditional Emirati crafts.
During her tour, Appendino remarked: "The collaboration between Sharjah and Turin started with my visit to Sharjah International Book Fair last year. Our common target is undoubtedly to create a bridge between our two cities and our cultures, as we are both international symbols of the books."
Supervised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), the emirate’s pavilion is hosting a series of activities through the duration of TIBF 2019, which runs until May 13. The programme includes seminars, workshops and cultural shows including traditional Emirati dances and songs during the 5-day event. In the days that follow, 57 Emirati book titles translated into Italian for the first time will be launched – one of the main highlights of Sharjah’s participation, the aim of which is to introduce Italians to the culture of the UAE and larger Arab region.
Local entities from Sharjah participating are Emirates Writers Union, Sharjah World Book Capital Office, Sharjah Broadcasting Authority, Emirates Publishers Association, Sharjah Publishing City, Sharjah Department of Culture, Sharjah Heritage Institute, The UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY), Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council (Irthi), Al Qasimi Publications, Kalimat Group, Knowledge without Borders (KwB), and its literary initiative - ‘1001 Titles’.