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A dozen prominent writers from the United Arab Emirates will feature in the London Book Fair’s Sharjah Market Focus Cultural Programme at the London Book Fair next month (10-12 March).

Among those featured will be performance poet Afra Atiq who is regarded as the UAE’s first spoken word artist.  Atiq has an international background which fits with the emirate’s famously diverse population and outward-looking stance.  Born in Dubai, her father is Emirati and her mother is Japanese-American. 

Atiq is an exponent of Nabati, ‘the people’s poetry.  Her work draws on the region’s historic tradition of oral poetry and brings it together with modern influences, moving between English, French and Arabic to address subjects such as feminism, body image, bullying and loss. She is a sought-after performer, scholar and vocal champion of the arts, regularly performing at festivals, schools and literary events nationally and internationally. 

 Fellow poets Khulood Al Mu’alla and Khalid Albudoor will also join the line-up, and children’s writer Dubai Abulhoul will also feature.

There will be sessions exploring Emirati writing and its place within the canon of Arabic literature, and talks looking at the influence of fairytales and folklore in Emirati writing, the use of Arabic language and dialect, and the region’s long-standing poetry tradition. Other talks will explore the challenges and opportunities of Arabic translation and literary initiatives in the UAE. 

There will also be related discussions and talks at the British Library and National Poetry Library. 

Rachel Stevens, director of literature at the British Council, said: “This year’s British Council market focus cultural programme highlights the indigenous Nabati poetry of the Gulf region, contemporary Arabic language and the role of dialect in fiction. We continue our support for literary translation networks by bringing our Arabic translation workshop to the London Book Fair, featuring a not-to-be-missed translation slam at the Literary Translation Centre.

“The British Council is delighted to be working with the London Book Fair and the Sharjah Book Authority on this programme, and we hope that publishers, translators, writers and anyone with an interest in the Gulf or Arab culture will engage with these exceptional writers, to help us better understand each other and build lasting connections for the future.”

The stylish Al Rawi bookshop from the waterfront at Sharjah will also be appearing at the fair in London’s Olympia – a special pop-up version has ben created especially for the fair.