House of Wisdom celebrates Emirati, Italian folkloric heritageat SIBF 2022 with ‘Folktales Reimagined’ illustration exhibition

House of Wisdom celebrates Emirati, Italian folkloric heritage
at SIBF 2022 with ‘Folktales Reimagined’ illustration exhibition

The exhibition features cross-cultural renditions of popular folktale characters by UAE and Italian artists


Sharjah, November 03, 2022

Sharjah’s iconic House of Wisdom (HoW) has added an exciting and culturally enriching offering to Italy’s celebration of Guest of Honour at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) this year, with its ‘Folktales Reimagined’ illustration exhibition – a UAE-Italy cross-cultural creative project by HoW in collaboration with the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY). 

After receiving widespread acclaim at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair earlier this year, the exhibition, featuring captivating illustrations by five artists each from the UAE and Italy, who have pushed the boundaries of their creative prowess to recreate popular characters from each other’s folkloric heritage, the HoW-UAEBBY collaboration is being brought over to SIBF 2022 for the eyes of UAE’s and regional audiences. 

The exhibition will run through the duration of the book fair, November 2-13, in Expo Center Sharjah, and seeks to promote intercultural dialogue and appreciation as well as fuel the exchange of ideas between the UAE and Italy. The artwork will be on display through an interactive screen enabling viewers to access comprehensive information on the illustrations and brief descriptions of the illustrators in Arabic, Italian and English.

Marwa Al Aqroubi, HoW’s Executive Director, noted: “Across cultures and generations, young children enter the world of stories through folklore, much before they start reading. The value of folktales in shaping our lives and sensibilities, therefore, cannot be overstated. ‘Folktales Reimagined’ is the outcome of a bold and heartfelt undertaking by 10 artists in the UAE and Italy, who immersed themselves in a culture very different to theirs to create the art featured in this exhibition”. 

“By bringing the exhibition to the Sharjah International Book Fair, which receives millions of visitors each year, we seek to promote cross-cultural appreciation amongst the fair’s visitors in line with the goals of the book fair as well as those championed by Sharjah,” she added.

A new generation of UAE artists retelling the stories of Italy’s past 

Award-winning artist Ayesha Jassim Albadi, who participated in a silent book workshop hosted by UAEBBY in 2017, illustrated ‘Apple Girl’, the story of a beautiful princess locked inside an apple; while Salama Al Nuaimi, an interdisciplinary artist working with digital and various media, worked on ‘Bellinda and the Monster’, a tale of a handsome knight trapped in the body of a monster.

Shaikha Al-Shamsi, a self-taught artist who draws inspiration from the world of fantasy, has heightened the Sicilian legend of ‘Colapesce’, with her characteristic flowy lines and daydream-like scenes.

Khadija Al-Mulla, who has enhanced her skills through workshops hosted by UAEBBY and Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival illustrated ‘The Crab Prince’, while Mariam Al Binali, whose works are characterised by unique lines and colours, embellished the story of a greedy young girl in ‘Uncle Wolf’.

A modern rendition of generations-old UAE’s folktales by Italian illustrators

Umm Assibian’, or ‘The Mother of Boys’, a frightening story of an imaginary night creature that deterred children from leaving their homes unattended at night is brought to life by Milan-based Francesca, whose books have been published across Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East.

Naples-born Nunzio Montuori has reimagined the popular story of ‘Umm Addwais’ or ‘The Mother of the Sickle’; Alessandra Santelli, who collaborates with several Italian and foreign publishers, has illustrated the story of ‘Baba Daryah’ or ‘Father of the Sea’ – a character whose name signals terror to sailors out at sea; Anita Barghigiani, from Pisa, chose the story of ‘Himaratu Alqailah’ or ‘The Siesta’s FemaleDonkey’ – a tale ofa monstrous half-human and half-animal creature; and accomplished illustrator Martina Gianlorenzi has lent her artistic touch to ‘Baeer Bu Kharitah’ or ‘The Camel with a Sack’ –  a symbolic story of desert life in the UAE.

‘Folktales Reimagined’ was born out of creative partnerships built during the year-long tenure of Sharjah World Book Capital (SWBC) 2019, and stems from the partnership between UAEBBY and House of Wisdom to pursue SWBC’s goals of honouring cultural heritage and fostering cross-cultural collaboration.

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