by Rana Asfour
Calligraphy is a visual art, related to writing in which - and this is a personal observation - every cursive letter seems to harbour in its folds a story of its own. Calligraphy, from the Greek words kallos (beauty) and graphos (writing), refers to the harmonious proportion of both letters within a word and words on a page. It is the most esteemed art form in the Islamic world.
According to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art website, The first calligraphic script to gain prominence in Qur'ans and on architecture and portable works of art was kufic, which features angular letters, horizontal format, and thick extended strokes. Eventually, variations of kufic emerged. Examples range from letters intertwined with floral ornament (floriated kufic) to letters that appear to be woven into knots.
Kufic is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts and consists of a modified form of the old Nabataean script. It developed around the end of the 7th century in Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name.
If this has sparked an interest and you live in Abu Dhabi, then rejoice! Taking place this weekend at Art Central in Boutik Mall, on Reem Island, is a calligraphy pop up workshop by renowned instructor Nafi Hakki.This is an introductory 2-hour session for anyone wanting to explore the different types of scripts and styles of Arabic calligraphy. Booking is essential. Maybe we'll bump into each other there!
And for those who'd like a brush with calligraphy from the comfort of a comfortable sofa, here are book titles that have calligraphy involved one way or the other in their plot. Enjoy!
by Rana Asfour
Although a man with an extremely busy schedule, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has taken it upon himself to get most Arab children, well a million of them to be exact, to read 50 books each.
The Arab Reading Challenge which was announced in September of last year by HH through his Twitter account, pledges more than US$3 million (Dh11m) in rewards for teachers, pupils and their families – and $1m for the top school.
Only yesterday, HH took to Twitter again to ask the public for its opinion on how best to get children and the community reading (check out #ReadingYear). One answer that stood out for me and was one of those reported by the UAE’s National newspaper this morning, was KDSL Kevin Simpson’s announcement that, come March, the successful ‘Real Men Read’ campaign is to launch in Dubai. The campaign relies on a community effort to encourage children – mainly boys – to pick up books and read for enjoyment.
According to their website, KDSL (Know.Do.Serve.Learn) is a UAE-based education company focused on providing professional development to American curriculum educators in the MENA region. It was founded by Kevin Simpson and Alison Burrows who bring more than twenty five years of combined experience in the fields of education and training.
The ‘Real Men Read’ is a fantastic program created by Minnesota library media specialist at Spring Lake Park High School, Tori Jensen. Its aim was to create posters featuring male teachers, librarians, and administrators posing with their favourite book, magazine or newspaper. The message was clear: ‘real men are readers and proud of it too!’ The program has since then been hugely successful adopted by various high schools across the US.
In a great article published by educationworld.com entitled ‘Male Teachers Show That Real Men Read’, it is quite evident why such a program has found an appeal with both educators and young students –particularly boys. Jensen, a ‘reluctant reader’ as a child has ‘always been interested in getting reluctant readers to read – especially boys’, she says.
‘Among the factors that discourage boys from reading as they get older’, Jensen said, ‘is that they don’t perceive reading as a male activity -- since most of the people urging them to read are women. Also, many boys prefer reading non-fiction works, which rarely are assigned in class, so they don’t see that as real reading’, she added.
Other factors she lists include situations whereby educators often look down upon topics that are favoured by boys such as sports, horror, comics, graphic novels and non-fiction.
It will be interesting to monitor what Dubai’s based KDSL has in mind for their March launch and whether they plan to implement the program for Arabic as well as English speaking students.
by Rana Asfour
'The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend' is a novel about Sara Lindqvist from Sweden, pen pal to Amy, an American and resident of Broken Wheel in Iowa - 'a dilapidated town named after a mistake and intent on doing its best to live up to its name'. The two women had met online when Sara had bought a book from Amy through an online secondhand bookshop where private individuals could also sell books. When Amy had declined to take any payment for her book, Sara had plucked up the courage to send a book in thanks, and things had continued from there.
Soon, Amy and Sara are sending each other letters - although the novel is written in the time of email- in which they discuss books, and the people in the little town of Broken Wheel; Wonderful funny letters that are to Sara 'the lifeline in an existence that had otherwise started to seem overwhelmingly pointless'.
When, at Amy's insistence, Sara finally accepts an invitation to visit and stay with Amy both are excited that they will finally get to meet face to face.
Sara is a heroine who believes that 'as long as she has books and money, nothing could be a catastrophe' and so it is books - a bookshop to be precise- she naturally turns to for guidance when she gets to Broken Wheel and discovers that an unpredictable turn of events has managed to bring about the shattering of her well-laid plans - Amy has died. Finding herself utterly alone in a dead woman’s house in the middle of nowhere was not the holiday Sara had in mind.
However, in no time at all, Sara's life and passion for books are soon interlacing with the various lives of the town's peculiar residents (poor George, fierce Grace, buttoned-up Caroline and Amy’s guarded nephew Tom) who find themselves drawn to the Swedish girl and her impromptu bookshop. As Sara falls in love with the town and possibly one of its residents, she is unaware that her new 'friends' are collectively hatching an incredulous plan to keep her permanently in their midst.
I've loved maybe a handful of people in my entire life, compared with tens or maybe even hundreds of books - and here I'm counting only those books I've really loved, the kind that make you smile regardless of what else is happening in your life, that you always turn back to like an old friend and can remember exactly where you first 'met' them - I'm sure you know what I'm talking about' - Sara, 'The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend'.
'The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend' is one of the sweetest, funniest, touchingly sentimental reads this winter. Released this January, 'The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend' is a novel that weaves a captivating tale about the magical healing 'power of books' that exists even in today's digitally-charged age. This is a book lover's dream read with references galore to famous literary classics as well as contemporary favourites. There are enough titles packed into this short book to help a budding book club create a reading list for 2016 - if still struggling to make a list of their own that is. There's even a short - don't panic, it's not boring - mention regarding the history of Penguin - the publishers not the bird.
The characters that Katarina Bivald has created are believable, loveable, strong and easily identifiable far away from the fantasy of the book. This is a feel good book by all accounts - something that is welcome given the heightened sadness the world has experienced of late - and yet it is not free of sadness. As Sara explains in the novel, 'People often thought that feel-good novels were happy, banal stories, but a real feel-good tale wasn't worth the name unless it involved a couple of murders, accidents, catastrophes, or deaths'.
Whatever readers may decide that the book is about - love, family, loneliness, death, relationships, values and yes books - it is doubtful that any will argue that it is one written completely and utterly from the heart about the mystical charms of a bookshop!
A series or a sequel to follow? One can only hope!
For a chance to win a FREE copy, click below:
Sponsors of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Take Coffee & Tea To A Whole New Level in The UAE
For the third year running, Costa Coffee is a proud sponsor of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai – and this year, the brand is celebrating with the launch of ‘The Costa Debate.’
The debate, a competition that brings together people’s mutual love of literature, invites fans to showcase their creative abilities by writing a short, 300 word blurb on where they stand on one very important issue: Coffee vs. Tea, to be in with a chance of winning a 4-day trip for two to the Costa Roastery in London, UK. One runner-up will also be selected to receive a year’s supply of free coffee.
Closing date for the competition is Feb 10 and entries can be submitted online at www.emirateslitfest.com/costadebate. Entries are welcome in both English and Arabic. The competition is open to anyone over 14 years of age and of any nationality who is currently resident in the UAE.
Competition Terms and Conditions:
You can also visit Costa Coffee’s social media pages to share your support for the #CostaDebate and join in celebrating the 8th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature!
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) has revealed the longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2016 prize. Those selected were chosen from 159 entries from 18 countries, all published within the last 12 months. The highest number of 2016 longlisted authors came from Egypt and Palestine.
Two of this year’s longlisted authors have been shortlisted for the prize previously: Rabai al-Madhoun and Mohamed Mansi Qandil both appeared on the IPAF shortlist in 2010, with al-Madhoun’s book, 'The Lady from Tel Aviv', now available in English translation from Telegram Books. Taleb Alrefai was also Chair of Judges for IPAF that year.
The list includes a number of younger writers and debut novelists. Three longlisted writers are under the age of 40, and first novels by Tareq Bakari and Abdennour Mezzine have been included. In addition, two of the longlisted authors – Mohamed Rabie and Shahla Ujayli – have previously participated in IPAF’s annual nadwa, or writers’ workshop, for emerging writers with promise. Ujayli worked on a section of her longlisted book, 'A Sky Close to Our House', during the 2014 nadwa.
The full 2016 longlist:
'Here' by Taleb Alrefai, Kuwait, Platinum Books
'Hymns of Temptation' by Laila al-Atrash, Palestine/Jordan, Difaf Publications
'Numedia' by Tareq Bakari, Morocco, Dar al-Adab
'The Temple of Silken Fingers' by Ibrahim Farghali, Egypt, Al-Ikhtilef
'People of the Palms' by Janan Jasim Halawi, Iraq, Saqi Books
'Mariam's Journey' by Mahmoud Hasan al-Jasim, Syria, Dar Tanweer, Egypt
'Desertified Waters' by Hazim Kamaledin, Iraq, Fadaat
'Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba' by Rabai al-Madhoun, Palestine, Maktabat Kul Shee
'Letters of the Storm' by Abdennour Mezzine, Morocco, Slaiki Akhawayn Publications
'Warsaw a Little While Ago' by Ahmed Muhsin, Lebanon, Hachette Antoine
'The Prophecy of Saqqa' by Hamed al-Nazir, Sudan, Dar Tanweer, Tunis
'The Black Brigade' by Mohamed Mansi Qandil, Egypt, Dar al-Shorouq
'Mercury' by Mohamed Rabie, Egypt, Dar Tanweer, Lebanon
'Praise for the Women of the Family' by Mahmoud Shukair, Palestine, Hachette Antoine
'A Sky Close to Our House' by Shahla Ujayli, Syria, Difaf Publications
'The Guard of the Dead' by George Yaraq, Lebanon, Difaf Publications
The books were selected by a panel of five judges, whose names will be announced in Muscat, Oman, on Tuesday 9 February 2016, at the same time as the 2016 shortlist of six titles.
This is the ninth year of the Prize, which is recognised as the leading prize for literary fiction in the Arab world. The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2016 will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 26 April 2016, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The six shortlisted finalists will receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. It is run with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) in the UAE.
Matt de la Pena's and Christian Robinson's "Last Stop on Market Street" nearly made history twice Monday. The illustrated exploration of race and class through the eyes of a boy and his grandmother won the Newbery Medal for the best children's book of 2015, making de la Pena the first Hispanic writer to receive the 94-year-old prize, one of the most cherished among children's writers. It came close to another rare coup by finishing as a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal for the top illustrated book.
"I hope all the brilliant Hispanic writers of the past and present view this as a recognition of our diverse community and that it inspires young Hispanics coming up to read their way through the world and consider a path in the arts," de la Pena said in a statement released through his publisher, Penguin Young Readers.
The winner of the Caldecott Medal was "Finding Winnie," the story behind A.A. Milne's famous literary creation Winnie the Pooh, illustrated by Sophie Blackall and written by Lindsay Mattick.
The Newbery and Caldecott awards were announced by the American Library Association, which has gathered in Boston for its annual midwinter meeting.
Ta-Nehisi Coates' "Between the World and Me," winner last fall of the National Book Award, was among 10 recipients of the Alex prize for adult books that appeal to teen readers. Coates' book is an open letter to his teenage son about racism and police violence. The association also handed out two lifetime achievement awards for a former Caldecott winner, the illustrator Jerry Pinckney. Another lifetime achievement honour was given to novelist David Levithan, who works as editorial director at Scholastic.
Rita Williams-Garcia won her second Coretta Scott King Award in three years for the best book by a black writer. Williams-Garcia was cited for "Gone Crazy in Alabama" the third of a trilogy about the Gaither sisters. Laura Ruby's "Bone Gap" won the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. The Belpre award for best Latino/Latina book was given to "Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir," written by Margarita Engle. Rafael Lopez won the Belpre illustrator prize for "The Drum Dream Girl," written by Margarita Engle.
Source: Associated Press
As Part Of The Dubai International Program For Writing Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation Launches Workshop Led by Tunisian Writer Wafa Mezghani
Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF), a leader in the dissemination and transfer and localisation of knowledge, has launched the second phase of the Writing category as part of its Dubai International Program for Writing, featuring a workshop led by Tunisian writer Wafa Mezghani. The workshop, which will be conducted over six months, will offer training to 10 Emirati writers to enhance their talents in the field of writing for children.
On the occasion, His Excellency Jamal bin Huwaireb, Managing Director of MBRF, said: “The Dubai International Program for Writing, which was launched under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Foundation, aims through its categories – Writing and Writers Exchange – to produce a generation of youth talent in the field of writing. Our effort is to provide training to refine their literary capabilities with the help of a group of experts and pioneers in various fields of writing from the Arab world.”
Tunisian writer Wafa Mezghani commended MBRF’s efforts in the dissemination of knowledge and the promotion of writing capacity for youth talent. “Investing in children means investing in the future. The UAE and its institutions have realised the importance of preparing for the future, and has therefore introduced programmes and initiatives that improve the talents and potential of the UAE and Arab children,” she said.
The workshop on Writing for Children comes within the strategy to encourage creative writing in this field in order to enrich the Arabic library with content that encourages innovation and builds the character and knowledge of the children of the 21st century. The workshop will improve the quality of writing by inspiring creative ideas and offering advanced education mechanisms to stimulate the imagination of the participants.
The author Wafa Mezghani – the mentor of the Children’s Literature Writing Workshop – specialises in children’s literature in the Arab World; she is a teacher in the Tunisian University and a researcher in the children and women culture. Mezghani was also the Head of Research Department in Children Culture till 2013, and the Head of the International Board on Books for Young People- Tunisia (TUNiBBy), and she is jury member of many children’s book competitions.