Saturday, January 19, 2019

International Prize for Arabic Fiction holds emerging writers' workshop in Sharjah

group photo from the IPAF Nadwa 2019 

IPAF hosts 10th UAE Nadwa 
Writers’ workshop is held in Sharjah, the World Book Capital for 2019, led by acclaimed Arab writers Iman Humaydan and Muhsin al-Ramli with new support of Department of Culture - Sharjah Government 

Over the  past week a group of eight emerging Arab authors - five women, and three men - has gathered in Sharjah to take part in the 10th International Prize for Arabic Fiction’s annual Nadwa. The workshop, which ran from 8th to 15th January, brought together writers from Iraq, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Syria and the UAE. It was sponsored by the Department of Culture - Sharjah Government and took place at the Marbella Resort.

Salha Obeid (UAE)

Sharjah, which has a growing publishing industry and has become a hub in the UAE for book events and organisations, was recently named World Book Capital for the year 2019 by UNESCO for its ongoing efforts to promote books and literacy.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. It is sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and run with the support, as its mentor, of the Booker Prize Foundation in London.

Iman Humaydan (Lebanon)

This year’s Nadwa was led by two mentors including acclaimed writer of Arabic literature: Iman Humaydan, Lebanese novelist, researcher, and President of PEN Lebanon; and Muhsin Al-Ramli, twice IPAF longlisted Iraqi-Spanish writer, poet and academic. This week the English translation by Luke Leafgren of Al-Ramli’s novel, The President’s Gardens, won the 2018 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.

Muhsin Al-Ramli (Iraq)

The eight participating writers range in age from 25 to 48 years old and were identified by IPAF as emerging talents, following an application process They are Hasan Akram (Iraq), Yasmin Haj (Palestine), Mamoun Sharaa (Syria), Salha Obeid (UAE), Laila Abdullah (Oman), Wiam Al Madadi (Morocco), Ibrahim Hendal (Kuwait), Eman Al Yousuf (UAE).

Eman Al Yousuf (UAE)

The workshop, which aims to hone their writing skills, involved daily group discussions as well as the opportunity for one-on-one guidance with mentors. The group also attended the 17th Sharjah Arabic Poetry Festival where they met His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.

The annual workshop has nurtured a number of writers who have gone on to be longlisted, shortlisted and also winners of  IPAF. These include Mohammed Hasan Alwan, Mansoura Ez Eldin, Mohammed Rabie, Ahmed Saadawi, and Shahla Ujayli, who is one of this year’s IPAF longlisted authors.

Laila Abdullah (Oman)

Iman Humaydan, novelist and Nadwa mentor, said: “It was an indescribable, deep delight and joy for me to witness the positive and fruitful interaction between this special group of creative talents: new, confident, aspiring writers. I would like to highlight the importance of this wonderful Nadwa, in providing a creative space for emerging writers. I am extremely optimistic about the impact of this important annual project, which offers new writers not only a space to write, but also the chance to form friendships in which culture and creativity are openly shared between participants coming from different Arab countries.” 

Khalid Muslit, co-ordinator and supervisor of the Nadwa from Department of Culture — Sharjah Government, said: “Holding the workshop of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in Sharjah emirate is a unique experience and opportunity for emerging intellectuals. Sharjah embraces young writers and artists and is internationally recognised as a beacon of culture. It has been chosen as the World Book Capital 2019 by the international jury of UNESCO. The workshop offers young talented writers the chance to refine their skills as they write short stories and novels which enrich literary life and will be a valuable addition to Arabic and non-Arabic bookshops.” 



Iman Humaydan is a Lebanese novelist and researcher, born in 1956. She is the author of four novels, all have been published in English: B as in Beirut (1997), Wild Mulberries (2001), Other Lives (2010) and The Weight of Paradise (2016). Her novels have also been translated into French, German, Italian and Dutch. From 2007 to 2014, she taught Creative Writing as part of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, USA, and she has given several workshops in different European universities. Since 2015, she has taught Creative Writing at the University of Paris 8 in France. It is the first time this subject has been taught in the Arabic language at the university. Humaydan is a founding member of Lebanese PEN, currently its president, and a board member of International Pen. She is working on her fifth novel.

Muhsin Al-Ramli is an Iraqi-Spanish writer, poet, academic and translator, born in northern Iraq in 1967. He has lived in Madrid since 1995 and received his doctorate in Literature and Philosophy from Madrid University. He writes in both Arabic and Spanish. Since 1985, he has worked as a cultural journalist for the Arab, Spanish and Latin American press, and has translated many literary works from Arabic into Spanish and vice versa. He has published more than thirty books, ranging from short stories to poetry, plays, translations and novels.

Al-Ramli's novels include: Scattered Crumbs (2000), whose English translation won the 2002 American Translation Award sponsored by the University of Arkansas Press. His novels Fingers of Dates (2009) and The President’s Gardens (2012) reached the IPAF longlist in 2010 and 2013. The English edition of The President’s Gardens translated by Luke Leafgren won the 2016 Pen Translates Award and the 2018 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. His novel The Wolf of Love and Books (2015) was shortlisted for the 2015 Sheikh Zayed Book Award. His most recent book is Children and Shoes (2018). Most of his works have been translated into other languages. He is the co-founder (in 1997) and co-director of the publishing house and philosophical and cultural review Alwah in Spain, and has run creative writing workshops in Spain, Mexico, Kuwait and the UAE. He currently teaches at Saint Louis University, the American University in Madrid.


Hasan Akram graduated from Al-Qadisiya University, Iraq, with a BA in Biology. For the past few years, he has worked as an editor and trustee of the Iraqi publishing house Dar alRafidain. His most recent literary project was editing and writing the introduction to The Encyclopedia Man, by acclaimed Iraqi writer Hasan Blasim and published by Dar al-Rafidain. He was a participant in a creative writing workshop run by Ahmed Saadawi, winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Aged 25, he is the youngest author taking part in this year’s Nadwa. Akram was born in Basra, Iraq, in 1993.

Yasmin Haj is a Palestinian writer, editor and translator. She completed her Masters in Comparative Literature at Toronto University. She is a founder of the “Dalala” co-operative for translating literary, critical and academic writing from and into English and Arabic. She has written articles for the “Palestine” supplement of the Lebanese Al-Safir newspaper. She lives in Paris. Yasmin Haj was born in Nazareth in 1988.

Mamoun Sharaa is a Syrian writer, researcher and editor. He graduated from the Agricultural College of Damascus University. From 2001-12, he worked at the Ministry of Culture in Damascus. Since 2013, he has been an editor at the publishing house Dar al-Kutub run by the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi. He has two published works: Bibliography of the Theatre in the Arabic Language (2010) and Bibliography of the Cinema in the Arabic Language (2012). His book Encyclopedia of Winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature will be published soon. Sharaa was born in Syria in 1970.

Salha Obeid is an Emirati writer. Her first book of short stories, Alzheimers, was published in 2010 and was translated into German the following year. Her next two collections were: Postman of Happiness (2012) and iPad of Life in the Manner of Zorba (2014). Her third book An Implicitly White Lock of Hair (2015) won the 2016 Al Owais Award for Creative Writing. She is a member of the council of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and the Association of Emirati Women Writers, and founder of the “Society of the Intellectual” project. She was awarded the Young Emiratis Prize (creative writing category) in 2017, for her literary work. Her first novel, Maybe It’s a Joke, was published in 2018.

Laila Abdullah (formerly known as Laila al-Baloushi) is an Omani writer. She has previously published a blog called I Breathe Calmly and had a weekly column in various Omani and Arab newspapers, including the Emirati Al-Ru’ya, the Omani Al-Ru’ya and the London-based AlArab. In 2014 she published two books, Hypothetical Love Letters between Henry Miller and Anais Nin and Worries of the World’s Room, which won the 2015 Muscat Prize for the best collection of articles. In 2016, she published a short story collection entitled My Narrative Beings, which won the Muscat Short Story Prize of that year. Her book A Sofa, a Book and a Cup of Coffee, about reading, was published under her new writing name in 2018. She is also the author of two children’s books and a novel, Pharaoh’s Notebook (2018). Some of her poetry has been translated into several languages, including Polish and Spanish. Abdullah was born in 1982.

Wiam Al Madadi is a Moroccan novelist and short story writer. She is currently studying for her doctorate in translation at the College of Arts and Human Sciences, Abdel Malik Al Saadi University, Tetouan. She has a number of published research papers, translations and articles, as well as literary work ranging from poetry to short stories, novels and children’s books. She has won several prizes, including the 2010 Moroccan Writers’ Union Prize for the Short Story for her 2010 collection Whiteness; the 2012 Dar al-Watan Prize for the Very Short Story for her story ‘Who Stole the Mona Lisa’s Smile?’ and the 2015 Al-Tayeb Salih International Award for Creative Writing (first prize) for her 2015 novel The Gypsy. Al Madadi was born in 1989.

Ibrahim Hendal is a Kuwaiti writer. He has been writing in Kuwaiti newspapers and Arab media since 2010, and participated in the first Cairo Literary Festival in 2015. In 2012, he published a short story collection entitled Borges and Me, and in 2017 his novel Coloured Cities came out. He is currently working on another short story collection. He has founded several reading clubs and cultural forums, including the “Qadimun” forum and the “Diwan” reading club. Hendal was born in 1985.

Eman Al Yousuf is an Emirati writer. She is a chemical engineer and certified coach in graphology. She has published three short story collections and two novels: The Window that Saw (2014) and Guard of the Sun (2015), which won the 2016 Emirates Novel Award. Her third novel The Resurrection of Others will be available soon. She has also published a book of literary interviews with female Emirati writers, Bread and Ink (2015). She has a weekly column in the Emirati newspaper ‘Al-Ru’ya’, called ‘Woman of the Pen’ and a monthly literary column called ‘Under the Ink’ in the Emirates Culture Magazine. Her short story The Teapot and I was made into a play and was the UAE submission at the fifth Gulf Festival for Art and Literature. She wrote the first short feminist Emirati film, Ghafa, directed by Aisha Alzaabi, and she is the first Emirati woman to be chosen for the University of Iowa’s international writing programme in the United States. Al Yousuf was born in 1987.

IPAF 2019 Longlist 
Last week the longlist for the 12th prize was announced and includes 16 novels selected by the judges from 134 entries, all published in Arabic between July 2017 and June 2018. The full 2019 longlist, listed in alphabetical order by author surname, is Women Without Trace by Mohammed Abi Samra, Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate by Omaima Abdullah Al-Khamis, The Night Mail by Hoda Barakat, Women of the Five Senses by Jalal Bargas, The Commandments by Adel Esmat, Mohammed's Brothers by Maysalun Hadi, Black Foam by Huji Jaber, The Outcast by Inaam Kachachi, May — The Nights of Isis Copia by Waciny Laredj, What Sin Caused her to Die? by Mohammed Al-Maazuz, I Killed My Mother in Order to Live by May Menassa, Western Mediterranean by Mbarek Rabi, Me and Haim by Habib Sayah, Summer with the Enemy by Shahla Ujayli, The Mexican Wife by Iman Yehia and Cold White Sun by Kafa Al-Zou’bi.

The shortlist will be announced on 5 February, and the winner will be revealed on 23 April.

Susannah Tarbush - report based on press release issued on behalf of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) by Four Communications. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

New book brings the works of Palestinian artist Nabil Anani to a wider audience

Stunning collection of images and words celebrates a Palestinian master of composition, colour and symbolism 

by Susannah Tarbush, London
(an Arabic version of this article appeared in Al-Hayat newspaper on 15 January 2019)

The Palestinian artist Nabil Anani, born in the town of Latroun in 1943, has had a long and productive career as a painter, ceramicist, sculptor and art teacher. He has taken part in group and solo exhibitions in many parts of the world and his works are held in museums and private collections.

And yet, according to two of his biggest admirers, Sulieman Mleahat and Martin Mulloy, Aman has not fully received the recognition he deserves. Their determination to bring Anani to wider public attention has now resulted in the publication in London, by Saqi Books, of the beautiful book Nabil Anani: Palestine, Land and People. The book is co-edited by Mleahat and Mulloy, who have been friends since the days when Mleahat lived in London and they were introduced to each other by a mutual friend.

The 176-page volume contains high-quality reproductions of more than 150 works by Anani. The cover illustration is Ananis 2013 painting Palestinian Village.

The pictures in the book are grouped into three sections: Land, People, and Mixed Media. They are complemented by substantial essays from six leading Middle Eastern art historians: Rana Anani, Lara Khaldi, Bashir Makhoul, Nada Shabout, Dr Housni Alkhateeb Shehadeh and Dr Tina Sherwell.

The images show the range and variety of Ananis work, and his immense talents in composition, use of colour, and symbolism. Many are in fresh, bright colours while others are in more sombre hues. Some echo a continuing Palestinian identity and tradition, others are more directly political such as the haunting images of Palestinians queueing at the checkpoint at Qalandia, or standing in a line waiting to see their relatives in prison, as in the 2015 painting Visiting Hour.

Visiting Hour (2015) © Nabil Anani

Anani works in many media in addition to paint, including wool, embroidery, plaster, leather, wood, leather, copper, dyes, and concrete. The works vary greatly in size. Some are relatively small, other are large and extend over double pages of the book, such as the striking and graceful mosaic mural Ramallah Martyrs Memorial (2013).  

The Palestinian prize-winning poet Mourid Barghouti has contributed a characteristically eloquent foreword to the volume. He writes:

In a society living in catastrophic conditions, the artist does not have the luxury of being preoccupied with a single vision. Perhaps this can clarify the enigma of Nabil Anani, the artist and sculptor who opened his eyes to the Palestinian Nakba, which continues to generate more Nakbas."

Barghouti adds: "The works of Nabil Anani simultaneously perform the roles of the novelist, poet, historian, architect, musician and restorer of memory.  His works grasp at moments from people’s lives, their hills, olive groves, homes, their grandmothers’ embroidered gowns, their weddings and funerals, as if their creator fears the demise of all these things.

Bride (2005) © Nabil Anani

“In his paintings, Anani is a novelist because he tells the story of a group of people too brutalized to tell their own story. He is a poet when he seizes a single detail here and there: a glancing eye, the tilt of a neck or miles of threatened trees; the frailty in a body in one instance, its amazing power in another. He is a historian when he chronicles through art the events of Palestinian life, its joys and sorrows, the various ways it disappears in spite of joy, and manifests itself in spite of death.”

According to Barghouti, Anani, the genuine artisan, desires to be unambiguous in his celebration of Palestinian art and nature, as if he were hosting a celebration in which life itself is the guest of honour.

The books Palestinian co-editor Sulieman Mleahat lived in the UK for 28 years after winning a scholarship at the age of ten to the famous Pestalozzi International Village for young people in East Sussex, in the south of England.

He did his university and postgraduate studies in international development in the UK and then, wanting to work with Palestinian refugees, returned to live in Ramallah eight years ago. He is an education and arts specialist working with the non-governmental organisation (NGO) American Near East Refugee Aid in Palestine (ANERA) establishing kindergarten schools and training teachers. At the same time Mleahat supports Palestinian artists in exhibiting their work and has curated in many exhibitions in Ramallah and participated in many art fairs in the Middle East.

Nabil Anani in his studio in Ramallah, 2017

Martin Mulloy had a career in publishing, and was for ten years a director at the BBC. He has lived and worked in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and travelled widely throughout the region. He now works independently pursing educational and media projects in China and elsewhere.

The two co-editors describe their initiation and implementation of the Anani book project as a labour of love for us both The seeds of the project lie in an exhibition of Ananis solo calligraphic exhibition Art Into Script held in 2007 in the gallery of the legendary Foyles bookshop in central London. The two subsequently travelled to Ramallah to meet Anani in his home and studio.

Lynn Gaspard, publisher of Saqi Books, was enthusiastic about Mleahat and Mulloys proposal for a book on Anani. Publication was made possible by sponsorship from the A M Qattan Foundation, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), Palestinian Ministry of Culture, the Palestinian Museum, and Paltel.

The books six illuminating essays explore many facets of Ananis work and life. Bashir Makhoul's essay is entitled The Inability to Forget and the Promise of Memory. He writes that Anani has made an outstanding contribution to the development of Palestinian art, and he has played an explicit role in the construction of a modern national identity, particularly in relation to national memory.

Anani is constructing a visual narrative from a memory that is living in the menacing shadows cast by the trauma of the Nakba and its continuation in the occupation and ongoing Israeli colonisation of Palestine.

There is a continuous need in the work to search for traces of the past, to seek restoration, draw conclusions and pass on messages and symbols of what has been lost in the hope that the Palestinians will one day find it . This idyllic re-imagining of the past imbued with nostalgia becomes a speculative image of the future an aspiration for what is to come rather than a memorial for the past. 

In 2012 Anani started a series of works Life Before 1948 based on photographs taken of families around Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century.  by photographers including the Palestinian Khalil Raad. “What really haunts me about these photographs, and what I think Anani captures in his paintings, is the fact that they were taken before the Nakba, They are pictures of unity, of undivided families in a homeland that was about to be torn apart by war and colonial occupation.”

Ayyoub family from Safad (1948) 2014 © Nabil Anani

In her essay How Childhood Captivated an Artist the artists daughter Rana Anani writes of Nabils childhood in Halhul, where his parents moved in 1942. Halhul is particularly known for its grape production.

Whenever Anani speaks of his childhood in Halhul, his eyes sparkle and his face lights up with great passion, writes Rana. We cannot underestimate the extent of the influence of his childhood in that village on the art he was to produce later in life.

In 1965 Ananis father sent him to university in Cairo, but was furious when he found out Nabil had insisted on registering at art college, and he cut off his finding. Nabils sister Adla who was working in Kuwait, then supported him financially. Anani graduated in Fine Art from Alexandria University in 1969 and returned to Palestine to join UNRWA as an art teacher.

Dr Tina Sherwell examines Ananis work in the 1970s and 1980s under the harsh restrictions of the Israel occupation, which imposed censorship on artists. In this atmosphere Anani had his first exhibition at the YMCA in Jerusalem in 1972 and at this time he met the artist Sliman Mansour who would become a lifelong friend and colleague. Anani was very active in the formation of the League of Palestinian Artists.

Motherhood II (1995)  © Nabil Anani

During the first intifada which started in December 1987, The New Visions Group was set up by Anani, Tayseer Barakat, Sliman Mansour and Vera Tamari. With a Palestinian shunning of imported Israeli products, including oil paints and canvas these artists began to work with natural local materials such as wood, clay, mud and leather. Lara Khaldi notes how the New Visions Group moved away from committed art into more experimental work.

Nadia Shabout in her chapter Modernism, Palestine and the Arab World writes: It is particularly interesting to understand the intersection of imagination between a Palestinian artist like Anani and, for example, the Iraqi Dia al-Azzawi whose work engaged with Palestine frequently.

Housni Alkhateeb Shehadas essay History, Calligraphy and Landscape in the Works of Nabil Anani (2000 2017) examines Ananis art works within their political context. He writes: Undoubtedly. Nabil Ananis close engagement with the exhausting political situation has for years been reflected in his works.   He examines Ananis love of calligraphy and the recurring appearance of landscape and olive trees in his work. The olive tree is perhaps the most important symbol used by Anani in various works of drawing, painting, sculpture and other genres.

At a time when interest in Palestinian arts and culture is growing, in Palestine itself and far beyond, the publication of Nabil Anani: Palestine, Land and People is very much to be welcomed. It is truly one of the most moving and visually-stunning books to have appeared in 2018.