Sharjah: Sharjah is all set to take centrestage as Guest of Honour at the 59th edition of Bologna Children's Book Fair (BCBF), which kicks off tomorrow (Monday, March 21) and continues until March 24 in the Italian city, Bologna. The emirate’s distinguished status at the book fair reflects Sharjah’s eminent standing amongst the knowledge cities of the world and is a testament to its experience, infrastructure, and unique vision in making culture essential to its identity.
Over the course of four days, Sharjah will shine a light and celebrate the intellectual and cultural wealth of the Emirati and Arab worlds from the heart of the Italian city of Bologna. Under the supervision of the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), the emirate is organising a series of events, workshops, art and heritage shows that reflect its monumental strides in accelerating and investing in the children's books sector.
The prestigious title of Guest of Honour at BCBF follows on the heels of a series of global achievements celebrating Sharjah and its distinctive cultural journey. The emirate was the Guest of Honour at Paris International Book Fair, New Delhi International Book Fair, São Paulo International Book Fair, and Turin International Book Fair among others.
The emirate’s multiple accomplishments, titles, and awards in recognition of its pioneering role in cultural development at the national, regional and international levels and its vital role in the advancement of the publishing sector offers great insights into the path taken to attain such prominent international status.
The journey of Sharjah’s transformation into a city that is hosted and celebrated by major knowledge cities of the world also stems from its accomplishments in the field of children's literature and the vital role played by its well-equipped libraries in every city in the emirate.
Sharjah’s vision in organising international book fairs and art festivals, its investments in developing a knowledge-based society and expanding intellectual horizons of every member of the community are also integral in bringing to fruition the emirate's cultural project.
Monumental developmental project
Sharjah operates under the guidance and vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who has prioritised the acceleration of knowledge and culture as fundamental to the emirate's developmental project. This led to the establishment in 1982 of the annual Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), which in its milestone 40th edition last year, earned the title of the world's largest book fair in terms of the sale and purchase of copyrights, and has consistently been ranked as one of the top three largest book fairs over the past 10 years.
The emirate is also home to the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival (SCRF), which is a unique platform that brings together publishers, illustrators and authors specialising in children's literature from around the world and showcases the latest and most important works of publishers in the field. In addition, the annual festival also features an expansive programming agenda of interactive edutainment workshops and cultural events.
The invaluable guidance of the Ruler of Sharjah and the tireless efforts of the emirate's institutions have yielded substantial progress that have bolstered the emirate’s presence at the global level. In 1998, Sharjah was named UNESCO Cultural Capital of the Arab World; in 2014, it was honoured as Islamic Culture Capital by UNESCO; in 2016, it was declared Capital of Arab Press; and in 2019, Sharjah was recognised as UNESCO World Book Capital.
Comprehensive cultural vision
The emirate’s developmental project is not limited to supporting the book industry alone; its cultural vision extends to all forms of arts, literature, and knowledge and includes local, Arab and human heritage. The emirate is today home to 16 museums, and hosts various exhibitions and festivals about Islamic art, Arabic calligraphy, music, and contemporary and modern fine arts. It also sponsors international awards for scientific and literary research, studies, and artwork.
Institutions participating under the banner of Sharjah at BCBF 2022 will highlight the emirate's pillars that have elevated the profile of Sharjah on the global cultural map.
“Unique developmental journey”
Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Government Relations (DGR), and head of the Sharjah Guest of Honour delegation, said: “Sharjah has a unique developmental journey, which places it at the forefront of global development experiences. This unique journey is founded on knowledge, culture, heritage, and arts, and by honing the skills of community members and strengthening societal bonds through common values and a diverse agenda of events including cultural and community activities. What the world has witnessed, over the past few decades, reinforces the emirate’s wisdom that all that is built on knowledge is sustainable and can be passed down to generations.”
The DGR Chairman added: “Being celebrated as Guest of Honour in major international book fairs, including BCBF, is a clear indicator of Sharjah’s success and accomplishments in achieving sustainable economic, societal, and cultural growth. It is also a recognition of Sharjah’s journey in facilitating access to knowledge sources for children and involving the young generations in Sharjah’s developmental and cultural programmes. It provides a nurturing environment through the launch of programmes and policies that bolster nationalistic and human values in the new generations.”
Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi emphasised that the success of the emirate's experience in cultural development places a responsibility on Sharjah’s shoulders to share its experience with communities worldwide due to the valuable lessons and solutions it provides.