UAEBBY and IBBY Italy shed light on children’s book culture

SHARJAH, 19th April, 2018 (WAM) — Through its Guest of Honour, GoH, programme at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, SCRF, every year, the UAE Board on Books for Young People, UAEBBY, has been furthering its efforts to enrich the local literary and cultural landscape through an international exchange with national sections of the International Board on Books for Young People, IBBY, around the world.

IBBY Italy is under the spotlight at SCRF 2018 and rolled out the first few activities part of the GoH cultural programme on Wednesday.

The highlight of the day was a discussion titled “The Children’s Book Culture in Italy” featuring Dr. Marcella Terrusi, Representative of IBBY Italy, and award-winning author of the first international critique on silent books and researcher on “silent” or wordless books and children’s literature; Elena Pasoli, Manager of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair; children’s book expert, Grazia Gotti, and Emirati author and illustrator, Alia Al Shamsi.

Highlighting the importance of illustrations in children’s books, irrespective of the era they were written in, Gotti said, “I would like to mention the Adventures of Pinocchio, which was not a literary novel but just a tale in a children’s magazine. It took Italy time to realise that it was seeing a masterpiece in the making. There was no king or queen, just a wooden doll with a long nose. His iconic illustrations depict the passage of time, technological developments, the transformation of images from black and white to colour, and so on. In essence, what I am saying is, the language of images is as old and culturally important as the written novel itself.

“We have met some close friends and made some new ones in just one day here in Sharjah. The introduction of IBBY Italy in the UAE is the start of a new era of cultural collaboration between the two nations and we have a lot of work to do together. To me this story is an endless story; it is a story of hope.”

Shedding light on the role of IBBY Italy in helping Bologna Book Fair become one of the most prominent literary events for children in the western world, Pasoli said, “Bologna Book Fair was established in 1964. The two organisations, Bologna Book Fair and IBBY Italy are somehow sisters. We have learnt a lot from them; the fact that they were involved with the fair from the very beginning helped us understand the importance of a dialogue between cultures. Today, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is not just about the business of selling and exchanging copyrights. It is a meeting place for ideas, for the birth of new projects, and a lot more about the cultural side of literature and society.”

Terrusi added, “The central idea of IBBY Italy is to build bridges between cultures a goal we share with the UAEBBY, to build tools and exchange stories in order to build a new world. Being the guest of honour in Sharjah is historic for us.”

Alia Al Shamsi said she was brought up in a multicultural environment from an early age when her mother of Italian origin gave her a copy of Pinocchio to read in Arabic.

Another activity by IBBY Italy, as part of the GoH programme, was a lecture on silent books by Dr. Terrusi that was delivered to students of the College of Fine Arts and Design at the University of Sharjah.

“I had the honour and pleasure of being invited to the University of Sharjah. I was amazed by the architecture of the university. It really tells me something about the future of education and the new direction in which the world is going. I come from Bologna where the university of the west was born, so it was truly emotional for me to be able to see how much the institution has evolved,” she said.

The UAEBBY Guest of Honour programme is organised this year in partnership with the Italian General Consulate in the UAE and ICE School Dubai.

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