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Inspiring activist and youngest Nobel Prize laureate Malala will take to the stage to talk about her story, her mission and her vision for the future while Elif Shafak, one of the most influential novel writers of today, will be exploring her writing and the importance of bridging the gap between the East and West.
Among the top speakers participating at the 2021 event will be the internationally acclaimed author and journalist Amin Maalouf, who will discuss his timely work Adrift: How Our World Lost Its Way, and examine recent history, the reasons why civilizations have drifted apart and how this impacts global threats.
Jameel Arts Centre will be kicking off the festival extravaganza on 29 January with a programme that includes Booker-nominated novelist Avni Doshi and many more.
The closing event at Alserkal Avenue, 13 February, is expected to attract huge interest from visitors. It will feature the vibrant performance poets Lemn Sissay, Afra Atiq, and award-winning Palestinian actor and writer Dana Dajani. Acclaimed Egyptian writer Ahmed Mourad will also be appearing at Alserkal Avenue.
The Dubai Culture & Arts Authority Emirati Focus Day ‘Spotlight on Emirati Talent’ will feature HE Hala Badri, Director General of Dubai Culture, on developing Dubai as a creative hub, and a discussion between HE Hala Badri and HE Major General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri on the proposed UAE’s ‘Golden Visa’ for creatives. There will also be panel discussion on ‘Translators Going Global’, an examination of the importance of the translation sector in the region, a look at the role of Literary Salons play in the community, a discussion on the current state of publishing in the region, poetry recitals, a workshop on writing poetry and much more.
The Festival will welcome two literary greats from the UAE, Abdul Ghaffar Hussain and Mohammed Al Murr, Vice Chairman of the National Archives, in a wide ranging and fascinating conversation.
Avni Doshi, whose debut novel Burnt Sugar was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, will appear at the InterContinental with another novelist whose debut work has received international acclaim. Derek Owusu, a British author of Ghanaian descent, won the Desmond Elliot Prize for That Reminds Me (the first novel published by Stormzy’s #Merky Books). They will be comparing notes on their writing journeys in this session, which will be livestreamed to the Bergen International Literary Festival in Norway, as part of their ‘Literature Live Around The World’ segment. This showcase of sessions from other prominent international literary events will be screened at Alserkal Avenue on Friday 12 February.
Despite the current travel restrictions affecting some countries, the programme has not lost any of its international flavour. Insights into Korean literature and cinema will be provided by Immanuel Kim, the translator of Friend by Paek Nam-nyong, one of North Korea’s most popular writers, and the only “state-sanctioned” novel to receive an English translation.
The Nigerian-British writer Oyinkan Braithwaite will be in Dubai to talk about her smash-hit novel My Sister the Serial Killer, which was shortlisted for numerous international awards and won the 2019 LA Times Award for Best Crime Thriller.
Author and screenwriter Satyarth Nayak will be celebrating the phenomenon of Bollywood star Sridevi: The Eternal Screen Goddess, hailed as the first pan-Indian female superstar who empowered a whole generation of audiences, as he journeys through her life from child star to one of the greatest movie luminaries who forever changed the narrative of Indian cinema.
Bolu Babalola is a London-based author and pop culture writer and commentator. She breathes new life into mythical love stories and folk tales from around the world, retold in vivid prose and will be taking part in the ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ panel discussion on the delicate balance between fact and fiction.
The programme also features the hugely popular Emirati singer Arqam Al Abri, who’ll be bringing his own brand of soul to the Festival.
The World Around Us
Psychologist, philosopher, sailor and navigator David Barrie will be joining the Festival virtually to reveal the wonders of animal navigation in this educational session for the whole family. He’ll be discussing the amazing ways animals – from birds and bats to sea turtles and shrimp – find their way with heritage expert Major Ali Al Suwaidi, ‘the UAE’s last pearl diver’, and what this means for conservation and research with UAE wildlife.
Living our Best Life – Health and Wellbeing
Consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon Jay Jayamohan is the star of two highly acclaimed BBC fly-on-the-wall series, Brain Doctors and Children’s Craniofacial Surgery. He’ll be discussing the challenges of life and death decision-making in his poignant, heart-breaking, and often funny memoir and also taking part in a panel considering the dangers of the anti-facts movement. With fearmongering, disinformation and dangerous conspiracy theories drowning the science, a panel of medical experts will take a scalpel to the mass of confusing data on topics from fad diets to the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr Rupy Aujla, founder of “The Doctor’s Kitchen” and author of bestselling books The Doctor’s Kitchen and Eat to Beat Illness, will be promoting the medicinal benefits of eating well, creating healthy recipes and explaining the clinical research behind them.
Wellness writer and social media activist Talal Al Buhairi will be discussing acceptance of others and a range of social topics which he examines in his book, We Will Stay Here. Enhancing mental health through writing is the goal of campaigner Heather Grace, who maintains that writing is an essential part of dealing with trauma and a tool that helps her navigate her bipolar affective disorder. Her workshop offers the chance to learn how to employ your own writing in self-discovery and self-acceptance.
Also appearing will be Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai, the Co-founder and board member of the Malala Fund that champions girls’ rights to education all over the world
Behavioural specialist, leadership coach and author Thomas Erikson, author of the runaway bestseller Surrounded by Idiots, will be giving insights into how we can communicate more effectively with our colleagues, even when, as he identifies in his latest book, we are ‘Surrounded by Psychopaths.’ He will be joined by self-development author, editorial cartoonist and public speaker Sherif Arafa to address the challenges of cross-cultural communication and the always challenging art of getting on with people.
Bringing her knowledge of how to make companies smarter and faster is Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of one of the world’s leading digital media knowledge companies, Big Think. She’ll be expanding on some of the strategies she shares in her book, Digital Goddess: The Unfiltered Lessons of a Female Entrepreneur.
In a year which has seen dramatic changes to the world of business, Dubai-based Andy Fieldhouse, author of Amazon bestseller Getting Teamwork Right, and Mimi Nicklin, empathy advocate and the internationally bestselling author of Softening the Edge, explain how to adapt to the new working environment and build more empathetic cooperative workplaces.
Focus on the Arab World
Fiction from the Arab world features two Egyptian novelists who have had work longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction Prize. Hisham El Kheshen, author of the best-selling novel Graphite, is at the Festival with his latest novel Lebon’s Friendship and Egyptian novelist Rasha Adly, who has been longlisted twice for IPAF, with her most recent book, On the Edge of the Night. Kuwaiti writerAbdullah Al Busais will be in conversation, discussing psychology and philosophy within fiction, and the impact of conflict on character.
There is also Omani author Huda Hamed, Lebanese novelist Mounir El Hayek, and Nasser Iraq, an Egyptian novelist and short story writer whose book Azbakeya won the Katara Grand Prize for Arabic Novel in 2016. The programme also features Alawiya Sobh, Lebanese author of four novels, including An Taashak Al-Hayat (To Love Life), which was longlisted for Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Literature.
Walaa Kamal is an Egyptian writer and translator who has published several books including My Days with Cairokee, his account of his time on the road with this famous Egyptian band. In ‘Social Stereotypes – How the Digital World is Changing your Reality’ he’ll be joined by Talal Al Buhairi and Max of Arabia as they take a look at tradition through a modern lens and assess how social media corrupts our perception of the real world. Al Buhairi will also examine how the media handles crises and the impact news and social media reporting has on the community’s experience of a life-changing event.
Habib Al Mulla, one of the UAE’s most renowned legal personalities, giving us a glimpse of different attitudes to cuisine with his book My Journey to the World of Restaurants.
Poetry is always a hugely popular and cherished part of the festival and this year will be no exception with performances by Amal Al Sahlawi, Shamma Al Bastaki, and Zeina Hashem Beck.
YA and Children’s programme
Top YA author Ali Sparkes will be in Dubai, as will Sam Copeland, a real treat for middle graders and the author of the hilarious and phenomenally popular Charlie Changes Into a Chicken. He’ll be at the Festival with his new book, Uma and the Answer to Absolutely Everything.
Ben Bailey Smith, aka Doc Brown, is a British actor, rapper, comedian and screenwriter, and creator of the BAFTA-nominated CBBC comedy 4 O’Clock Club. There’ll be mischief and mayhem as he brings his hip character from I am Bear and Bear Moves to Dubai, conjured up by bold illustrations from Sav Akyüz, as they invite everyone to join in the dance moves of this hilarious purple bear.
‘Are cats liquid or solid?’ Is just one of the silly questions asked by award-winning scientist Isabel Thomas who shows that when it comes to science, silly questions can lead to serious science, in her highly interactive sessions guaranteed to be gallons of fun.
Festival favourite Julia Johnson will be bringing her latest book The Pearl Diver’s Son to the Festival, as will Maitha Al Khayat. There is also Syrian writer and director Obada Takla, who has published many stories for children including I am an Emirati Child and Puppets’ Girl which won the My Book Award in 2017. The prolific Sanaa Chabbani is a Lebanese writer for children and young adults whose titles include The Battle of Antara Bin Shaddad, the Scheherazade’s Story series and most recently An Unexpected Visit is also featured, along with YA writer Zayed AlMarzooqi and Ameera BuKadra, an Emirati author for children and young adults. Magic Phil will be bringing his own brand of festival fun to Alserkal Avenue.
The Festival is a fierce champion of locally based writers and this year is introducing a new feature, the LitFest Launchpad, giving UAE-based authors a chance to launch their latest book to audiences. As always there will be creative writing workshops and chats and advice from industry professionals such as publisher Allison K Williams, author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro From Blank Page to Book.
The Emirates LitFest Writing Prize, formerly known as the Montegrappa, is a highlight of the year for aspiring writers in the GCC, and the winners will be announced at the big Festival weekend at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City. Judged by respected UK literary agent Luigi Bonomi, the competition has put many previous finalists on the road to publishing success.
The education programme featuring children’s authors will be available to schools from 7 February, while the finals of the schools and competitions will take place in March, with prize-giving events for the winners