Sheikh Zayed Book Award hosted a seminar entitled “Arts in contemporary Arab literature”, under the auspices of Riad Na’san Al Agha, Syrian Minister of Culture and the participation of three Award winners; Iyad Hussein Abdullah from Iraq, winner of the Award’s Arts category in its Fourth session, and Maher Radi from Egypt, winner of Award’s’ Arts category in its Third session, and Mahmoud Zain El Abedeen from Syria, winner of the Award’s Young Author category in its first session . The seminar was moderated by Mohammed Al Murr, member of Sheikh Zayed Book Award Advisory Council. Present were Salim Issa Alqattam Al Zaa’bi Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Damascus, and Mahmoud Al-Sayed, former Syrian Minister of Culture, and Mohieddin Amemor former Algerian Information Minister, and Mohamed Al Asha’ri, former Moroccan Minister of Culture, in addition to a number of specialists, representatives from Writers Union, the Academy of the Arabic Language, cultural and literary centers, and media persons.
The seminar started with Dr. Riad Na’san Al Agha welcome speech, in which he said “My words on the UAE are full of emotion because our love for UAE is a deep and sincere affection. Perhaps because we are a generation who witnessed how changed and developed in a short while. UAE has made great achievements that positively reflected on all Arabs too. The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan had spread his bountiful arms with benevolence everywhere in the world to the vulnerable who needed support”.
The Minister also praised the efforts of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and UAE leaders, who were able to maintain this rich cultural movement. He added: “Sheikh Zayed Book Award is not an Award for UAE writers only, but for all intellectuals. It believes in the comprehensive Arab culture, and does not know geographical boundaries as long as the Arabic language is the main fountain, which inspires our genius and creativity from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf. From this background, Sheikh Zayed Book Award was born in a supportive environment for culture. This Award is keen to provide a good example of utilization of funds as the largest financial support for creative literary works in the world. In addition to the award, UAE has been active in a number of strategic projects, which are focused on translation and libraries”. He concluded by saying; “I am pleased and honored that the Award selected Damascus as the venue for this event, which gathers a large crowd of the elitist Arab intellectuals who represent all Arab states.”
In his speech, Mr. Rashed Al Oraimi, Secretary General of Sheikh Zayed Book Award, praised the historical and cultural background of Damascus saying; “Damascus’s hosting of Sheikh Zayed Book Award cultural season is of great significance to the Award”. He added: “Today the Award is proud of this constellation of winners, whom we present, and their works, to the cultural arena as global ambassadors of the word and pen. They represent the hope for the renaissance of Arab culture and revival of the ancient Arab legacy”. He continued: “This year we are blessed to be in Damascus, the center of the Arab-Islamic Reign … it is here that we recall the glory of the Islamic nation fourteen centuries ago. This inspires us to put the new foundations for another Arab renaissance”.
In his speech, Mr. Al Oraimi also announced the extension of the deadline for receiving Award nominations until the fifteenth of September instead of the previously announced deadline of August 15th. This came in response to requests received by the Award from many writers, cultural institutions and publishing houses, which asked for more time because Ramadan falls this year during the month of August. Then Mohammed Al Murr started the seminar by saying that the Award’s interest in this seminar stems from the fact that the Arab library is in need of e technical and scientific books, and we need to support better quality of the final product; especially printing, rich glossy paper and better layout. Mr. Murr pointed to the importance of supporting the cultural movement and the need to involve the private sector in the various stages of book production.
The seminar discussed how contemporary Arabic writing deals with literary concepts and places them in scientific and literary perspectives. These concepts were further explored when Iyad Hussein Abdullah spoke about his winning book, “The Art of Design” which links between art and tools of life, and addresses design issues at intellectual, technical and applied levels. He said: ” the human being’s interest in the art of design is linked to the many transformations taking place in Arts manifestations, simplicity, and speed of impact and response and involvement with many of the modern techniques that fill human needs is necessary”. Mr. Abdullah explained the theory of beauty in design, and how the idea of beauty has been entrenched in the arts through various approaches, theories and views over the centuries, which lead to the idea of having museums as a record of human civilization and heritage.
This was followed by Maher Radi’s paper on the subject of light as an important element in the field of artistic creativity, and as a visual value in itself which draws the scene and determines how it integrates with the shadows resulting from it. He explained the scientific, technical and aesthetic values, which fall within the approach of photosynthesis in a movie film, and discussed how writing leads to the discovery of the artist’s approaches and development of his work. He added: “The photo has become an essential element in human life because of its essential role in communication and interaction in today’s world”.
On the other hand Mahmoud Zine El Abidine discussed his winning book “Architecture of Ottoman Mosques” and his field studies in Turkey and Syria. He explained the origin and evolution of the art of decoration and its underlying philosophy. He spoke of some selected examples of mosque architecture, including the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul from the Ottoman era, and Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi from the modern era. He spoke about the challenge he faced during his research work because of the availability of a small number of scientific references in Arab libraries, and lack of information and research on Islamic architecture. He concluded with how he was able to meet these challenges, which in turn lead to his winning of Sheikh Zayed Award for his book.
The symposium was concluded with discussion and questions by participants, which enriched the evening and stressed many of the points discussed by the lecturers about many important dimensions of culture and the development of Arab libraries.
Salem Issa Alqattam Zaabi, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Syria said “We feel good to continue the march of Arab culture initiated by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who had a strong interest in cultural issues, writers and novelists. The Award will continue to give incentives for better contributions in the areas of novel, story or poetry writing”.
It is worth mentioning that Sheikh Zayed Book Award held several cultural seminars in various world capitals such as Cairo, Kuwait, Beirut, New York, Los Angeles, Frankfurt and other cities and towns, in addition to this seminar in the Syrian capital “Damascus”, which came as part of its participation in the Damascus International Book Fair this year.