UAE’s Rich Folk Tale Tradition and its Growing Silent Books Market Showcased at Sao Paulo Book Fair

The UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY), the United Arab Emirate’s national section of International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), have flown to Brazil with a number of folk tales and silent books from the emirates, to share them at one of the Latin world most prominent cultural events, the 25th Sao Paulo International Book Fair.

The UAEBBY organised two discussion sessions on folk tales and silent books (Known in Brazil as Imagine Books) as part of Sharjah’s cultural programme at the publishing biennial, which celebrated the emirate and its cultural achievements as the fair’s Guest of Honour.

The first session investigated the history of folk tales in UAE’s oral tradition, its sources and types. Moderated by Marwa Obaid Al Aqroubi, President of the UAEBBY, the panel comprised HE Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Musallam, Chairman of Sharjah Institute for Heritage; Marco Haurélio, author and Brazilian folk tales specialist.

The session investigated characteristics of folk tales, and offered the audience a detailed account of the types that originated in the UAE and the role it plays in fostering the values that were instilled in local community. The similarities between folk tales and heritage stories from around the world, and its diverse representations within the cultural context of a community and nation were also highlighted.

The panel shed light on the role played by the UAEBBY in documenting and publishing folk tales, and underscored the timeless educational and cultural value of folklore in the way it is passed down to every generation, which forms common bonds of identity and community ethics based on their positive values and messages.

The panel on ‘Silent Books’ featured Emirati author and publisher Dr. Alyazia Alsuwaidi; illustrator Maya Fidaoui and Brazilian illustrator, Roseangela Bizerra. The session was moderated by Brazilian publisher, Karine Pansa. They highlighted the key role of these illustration-only books in sparking children’s imagination and enhancing their capabilities. The session discussed the reasons behind the popularity of imagine books in Brazil, and how to make the most of it in educating kids in general, and its impact on refugee children’s education.

The audiences engaged with both sessions and noted that a boost to the imagine books’ production will play a key role in enabling the publishing sector achieve its targeted objectives at cultural, humanitarian and commercial levels.

Marwa Al Aqroubi, President of the UAEBBY said: “Sharjah’s participation at the Sao Paulo Book Biennial is another big effort by the emirate to build bridges of communication between cultures and promote cultural dialogue among civilisations.

The UAEBBY is committed to representing the UAE at all international cultural events, and highlighting its achievements in children’s literature at national and regional levels. We are also shedding light on the UAE’s cultural initiatives and efforts to promote the publishing industry and foster exchanges among different peoples and civilizations.”

She explained that their participation is in line with Sharjah’s efforts to strengthen cultural cooperation between Brazil and the UAE, and offer Latin American publishers an opportunity to learn about the enormous potential of the UAE’s publishing market, as well as the history and authenticity of the UAE in general and Sharjah in particular.

“We wanted to also highlight the emirate’s role in supporting imagine books industry as part of its efforts to promote cultural appreciation and humanitarian work,” Al Aqroubi added.

UAEBBY is the national branch of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Operating in more than 77 countries, IBBY is the main board based in Switzerland and founded in 1953. The organisation is an international network of institutions and individuals from around the world who are committed to promoting and encouraging the culture of reading and bringing children and books together.