Sunday, February 18, 2018
Etisalat Award For Arabic Children's Literature Holds Introductory Session For Egyptian Publishers In Cairo
02-08-2018

One of the region’s most celebrated literary awards for Arabic children’s literature, the UAE-based Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature (Etisalat Award) was recently in Cairo, Egypt, to share its cultural vision with Egyptian and Arab publishers and media on the sidelines of its participation at the 49th annual Cairo International Book Fair.

The Etisalat Award is organised by the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) and sponsored by the Etisalat Group. Moderated by media figure, Mohammed AbdoBadawi, the sessiontouched upon various aspects of Arabic children’s literature, the role of the Etisalat Award in recognising regional literary excellence, and general trends in the global children’s book market.

Welcoming all of the session’s attendees, the UAEBBY President, Marwa Al Aqroubi, said: “Being here in Cairo, one of the region’s cultural giants, makes us nostalgic about an exciting childhood smitten by the great authors of this country. Our generation has grown up reading KamelAl Kilani and Abdel Wahab El Messiri, and comprehended the aesthetics of Arabic language and literature through Hafez Ibrahim’s and Ahmed Shawqi’s poems, andNaguib Mahfouz’s prose.”

 

“The Etisalat Award was launched in 2009 by SheikhaBodour Al Qasimi, Founder and Patron of the UAEBBY, with the key theme ‘Nurture their Imagination… Encourage their Dreams’. The award’s ongoing objective is to support and encourage children’s books authors, illustrators and publishers to offerhigh quality books with quality content andillustrations. The award also aims to foster an environment that ignites and supports children’s imaginations and instill in them a love of reading.”

Eman Mohammed, Programs and Award Executive at the UAEBBY, listed theAward’s details,highlighting the many developments it has experienced since inception. First valued at AED 1,000,000, and given to a single book in the first four editions, the Etisalat Award grew to feature five categories starting its fifth edition, which helped recognise all contributors to children’s literature – authors, illustrators and publishers. In 2017, it introduced the ‘Digital Book App of the Year’ category, taking the cumulative value of the Awards up to AED 1,200,000.

Eman underscored that from 88competing booksin 2010, the number shot up to 145 entries last year – indicating an over 60% increase in the number of submitted titles. With 21 digital book applications competing in the recently introduced Digital Book App category, the total number of submissions at 166 last year, reflected an over 88.5% increase in the quantity of competing entities in eight years. 

Since its inception, a total of 99 books were shortlisted to win over the years, out of which 27 books have won the award, with Egypt coming in the second place after Lebanon in terms of number of submissions.

Among those who attended the session were Dr. YasmineMotawy, Etisalat Award jury member and member of the Directors Board of the ‘EgyptianBoard on Books for Young People; and Tamer Said, Etisalat Award jury member and Managing Director of Kalimat Group – the UAE’s first publisher dedicated solely to Arabic language publishing.

Also participating were Balsam Saad, MD, Balsam Publishing House, whose book Getting Out of the Bubble won the 2015 edition of the Award; Amira Abu Al Majd, MD, Dar El Shorouk publishinghouse, who won the 2010 edition’s award for her work, The Black Dot; Dalia Ibrahim, CEO of Nahdet MisrPublishing House, and winner of the Etisalat Award 2017 for her book Screaming Behind Doors, and the Children’s Book Award 2014 for another work of hers titled, Sticks of Racemes. They have all been part of the Etisalat Award jury in different editions.

Elaborating on the qualities the jury seeks in entries submitted, Dr. YasmineMotawy, remarked: “We lay special emphasis on quality of editing, as children’s literaturemust display a high degree of honesty, creativity, veracity and relevance. Good literature is timeless, like a piece of music that can be enjoyed for centuries.”

She pointed out that the jury pays a great deal of attention to theaesthetic aspects of literature with a focus on the visual element, and looks for harmony among text, layout and illustration.

Tamer Said noted that books dealing with the refugee crisis in the region, which have been crafted to appeal to the sensibilities of young readers, captured his attention most. These books constituted10% of the total submissions in 2017.

The Award has offered much-needed patronage to several up and coming publishers and authors, which is something Said underlined, highlighting the importance such awards in offering financial and moral support to literary works. He haspredicted that the Etisalat Award is working to achieve internationalstatus in the coming years, and is taking steady and prompt steps towards the same.

Amira Abu Al Majd underscored that the awards aim to shed light on Arabic children’s literature, saying: “Until recently, there were no publishing houses in the region dedicated to children's literature, and now we see a significant increase in the number of publishers dedicated to children’s books, thanks to the support the Etisalat Award has offered them since 2009.”

Abu Al Majdattributed the lack of children's literature to the high cost of producing children’s books, rationalising the importance of children’s literary awards like the Etisalat Award – an incentive for authors, illustrators and publishers to further their creative projects.

For her part, Balsam Saad recalled the momentwhen she received the award in 2015, saying: “That moment when I was announced the winner was amazing, especially as a debutant. I was overjoyed as I was surrounded by book experts and specialists in the field, making it an important moment in my professional career.”

“Financially, the award has motivated me and other winners to focus on producing more quality books. However, distribution still needs more efforts and the media’s emphasis on publicisingchildren's literature furthered,” Saademphasised.

For her part, Dalia Ibrahim, said: “I managed to win the prize despite difficult political conditions that dominated Egypt in 2012 following the January 25 revolution, as well as tough competition by four works from Lebanon. When I was invited to attend the awards ceremony, I did not expect to win at all, and was surprised to hear my name being announced among the winners.”

Ibrahim expressed her profound gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and SheikhaBodourbint Sultan Al Qasimi, Founder and CEO of Kalimat Group, for their support to children’s literature through the Etisalat Award and their fundamental role in elevating all creative fields.

The jurors underscored that award goes beyond providing a platform for authors, illustrators and publishers; it plays the role of a cultural institution that offers patronage toliterary talents and contributes to building a generation of talented authors who nurture the Arabic children’s book industry in the Arab world. They pointed out that the Etisalat Award has dedicated a special programme titled ‘Warsha’,tailor-made for participants who did not win, and other talented authors, illustrators and publishers. It aims to train them on the techniques of building narrative works creatively and further elevate their talents and hone their skills to enrich the Arabic children’s books industry.


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