Sheikh Zayed Book Award Opens up Cultural Dialogue in London
Abu Dhabi, September 20, 2017 – The Sheikh Zayed Book Award held a seminar on "Exploring the Arab Culture in Other Languages" at the Lanesborough Hotel in London on Wednesday 20th September, which brought together an assembly of authors, publishers and translators.
The seminar commenced with a welcoming speech delivered by Mr. Abdullah Majed Al Ali, Acting Executive Director National Library Sector at the Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture & Tourism. Mr. Al Ali touched on the role of the Department in fostering cultural initiatives, which span across Sheikh Zayed Book Award; the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF); as well as Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, alongside numerous initiatives in arts, such as Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim Museum Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum. And he noted: “Through all of these leading initiatives, Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture & Tourism aims to extend outreach towards other cultures to encourage dialogue, and bring creativity into the spotlight. We aim to celebrate intellectual, literary and critical works that enriched Arab and international cultural, literary and social life, not to mention reviving the publishing industry and catalyse the translation movement.”
During the seminar, Ms. Margaret Obank, publisher at Banipal magazine commented: "The Sheikh Zayed Book Award and Banipal have much in common since a central feature of the SZBA is cultural dialogue – dialogue that will enrich experience and knowledge of the other."
Ms. Dheyaa Al-Kaabi, a member of Sheikh Zayed Book Award Scientific Committee, elaborated on the role of Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s category for Arabic Culture in Other Languages in bringing depth to the cultural exchange between Arabic and other languages, via the winning titles in this category. “Yet the role of the Award in this dimension has not been limited to this category; the Cultural Personality of the Year Award has also named prominent figures in orientalism,” she added.
Representing the winners of the category, Prof. Marina Warner, inaugural winner of the SZBA Arab Culture in Other Languages Award, presented her experience with the book that earned her the prize. The book tells the story of the Arabian Nights in Western Civilisation from a thoroughly new and, until recently, little understood angle. Warner reverted to numerous references, not only within Arabic and Islamic literature, but across other cultures with similar narrations in mythography storytelling.
In previous years, the Arab Culture in Other Languages category of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award has celebrated the splendid achievements of exceptional writers, intellectuals, and cultural figure from around the world as winners, including Italian historian Mario Liverani, French/Egyptian researcher Rushdie Rashed, Prof. David Wirmer from Germany, and scholar Sugita Hideaki from Japan.
Biographies of Keynote Participants
HAITHAM AL-ZUBAIDI – MODERATOR
Dr. Haitham Al-Zubaidi is the Al Arab Group Chairman and Executive Editor of Al-Arab newspaper, The Arab Weekly and the London-published cultural magazine Al Jadeed. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Arabic-English news site Middle East Online. Al-Zubaidi holds a Bachelor’s degree in engineering from Baghdad University and a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. degree from Imperial College London.
MARGARET OBANK – SPEAKER
Margaret Obank is a British publisher, known for her contribution to the dissemination of contemporary Arabic literature in English translation. She studied philosophy and English literature at Leeds University and linguistics at Birkbeck, University of London, and worked as a teacher and in printing and publishing for many years, before founding Banipal magazine with her husband, the Iraqi author Samuel Shimon. A journal exclusively devoted to publishing modern Arabic literature in English translation, Banipal’s first issue was published in February 1998, with 2017 marking its 20th year of publication. Obank also established the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature (which administers the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation), the Banipal-Arab British Centre Library of Modern Arab Literature, and Banipal Books. She is a trustee of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
PROFESSOR DAME MARINA WARNER – SPEAKER
Marina Warner is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, historian and mythographer, who has won the prestigious Sheikh Zayed Book Award for her work on the magic of the Arabian Nights; Stranger Magic (2011). She is a Quondam Fellow of All Souls, Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London, a Fellow of the British Academy, a Contributing Editor to the London Review of Books, and President of the Royal Society of Literature. She recently published Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale (Oxford University Press) and a collection of short stories, Fly Away Home (Salt). Her essays on art, Forms of Enchantment, will be brought out by Thames & Hudson in 2018. She is at work on a book about her childhood in Cairo.
DR DHEYAA AL KAABI – SPEAKER
Dr. Dheya Al Kaabi is a member of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award Scientific Committee. She is an assistant professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Bahrain with more than 13 years of experience in academic teaching. She specialises in literary criticism and narratology. Dr. Al Kaabi has received first prize in the field of criticism and critical studies in theatre and arts. Some of her books on the subject include The Discourse of Feigning Madness in the Old Arabic Narrative Works, Polemic Discourse in Arabic Culture and Arabic Oral Narratives.
ABOUT SHEIKH ZAYED BOOK AWARD
The Sheikh Zayed Book Award is presented annually to writers, intellectuals and publishers as well as to young talent whose writings and translations of humanities have scholarly and objectively enriched Arab cultural, literary and social life. The award was established in memory of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE for over 30 years (1971–2004). The award consists of nine categories designed to recognise and drive cultural achievement in a way that reflects culture in its broadest sense. The award is open to any individual contributing to the region’s cultural development.
The first award was in 2007. The total value of the prizes is Dh 7,000,000.
ABOUT BANIPAL PUBLISHING
Banipal Publishing promotes and celebrates the publication of contemporary Arab authors in original English or in English translation, and encourages, in the UK and beyond, readership of Arab writers and poets. Founded in 1998, Banipal’s three cornerstones are that Arab literature is an essential part of world culture and human civilisation; that dialogue between different cultures needs to be continually deepened; and that the joy and enlightenment to be gained from reading beautiful poetry and imaginative writing is an integral part of human existence.
Banipal Publishing is the publisher of Banipal Magazine of Modern Arab Literature. It also publishes works of poetry and fiction by Arab authors.