At Sharjah’s Reading Festival: A New Animation Conference

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Three events in May will coincide in Sharjah, flanking the Children’s Reading Festival with conferences on animation and bookselling.

Ahmed Al Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, and Khoula Al Mujaini – who coordinates the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival – hold a news conference to announce the show’s 2023 plans. Image: SBA

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Al Ameri: ‘Our Aspirations and Hopes’
Having last year opened its new International Booksellers Conference, Ahmed Al Ameri‘s Sharjah Book Authority this year is standing up a new animation conference to coincide with the 11th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival.

The three events’ dates are scheduled to dovetail in early May, with the reading festival as the anchor.

Al Ameri on Wednesday (April 12) joined the reading festival’s general coordinator, Khoula Al Mujaini, in announcing a roster of 512 featured guests from 66 nations. They’re to stage as many as 1,658 workshops and other sessions during the 12-day festival which is themed this year “Train Your Brain.”

As the reading festival gets underway on May 3, Al Mujaini announced, the first Sharjah Animation Conference will open as a three-day set of activities on the sidelines of the children’s show.

The animation program has been developed in collaboration with Lilium and in partnership with Bergamo Animation Days in Italy. Of special interest, orchestral performances are anticipated for the opening and closing of the conference, with symphonic interpretations of film music, in association with Walt Disney Studios and Studio Ghibli. These performances are to feature the specialized work of the 60-piece Florence Pops Orchestra.

Early information on the animation component shared with Publishing Perspectives indicates that there’s to be an exhibition of the work of Antonio Lupatelli in his 70-year career as well as workshops and presentations from such industry players as Frank Falcone of Guru Studio; creative director (Fortiche Production) Pascal Charrue;  and Japanese character designer and producer Mamoru Yokota. Also planned are masterclasses, workshops, film screenings, and business networking meetings for publishers and producers.

Featured speakers listed so far are John Nevarez, film-story artist and Oscar winner for Coco; Sandro Cleuzo, the animator and character designer and Annie Award winner for Mary Poppins Returns; and Takahiro Yoshimatsu, the animator and director of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z.

Pietro Pinetti

Pietro Pinetti, the animation conference’s artistic director, was quoted, saying, “Our intention is for Sharjah to become the animation capital of the Arab world, attracting professionals and young people from all over the Middle East.

“A platform like Sharjah Animation Conference presents a great new opportunity for enabling exchange between the Arab and Western worlds, particularly here in Sharjah, which has been investing in culture and young people for a long time.

“It’s no coincidence that the emirate is the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates. Just this year, Bergamo is, together with the neighboring city of Brescia, the Italian capital of culture–another common touch point between the Bergamo Animation Days and Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival.”

Image: Sharjah Animation Conference

Al Mujaini: ‘The Ones Who Will Shape the Future’

In a prepared statement at Wednesday’s news conference, Al Ameri pointed to the concept of a “reading emirate” pursued by Sharjah’s ruling Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi “and with the support and guidance of his wife, Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi” who has overseen development of the emirate’s  family affairs council, “we chose to invest our efforts in raising awareness of the new generations a top priority, and the foundations of our long-standing cultural project with its local, Arab, and global dimensions.

Ahmed Al Ameri

“Our first goal and project,” Al Ameri said, “is to provide children, adolescents, and youth with the tools of sound thinking, and to open the doors of learning, skills acquisition, invention, and innovation for them. We are confident that what they will think will determine our fate and shape our future. That’s why the new edition of the festival this year came under the slogan ‘Train Your Brain’ to complement the ongoing efforts to promote the awareness, knowledge, and skills of our children.

“We wanted to tell the world that the minds being shaped among us today are the first guarantee for all our aspirations and hopes.”

Mansour Al Hassani

Mansour Al Hassani, the book authority’s publishers services director, said, “The concordance of the booksellers conference with the festival presents a renewed occasion to amplify both the Arab and global publishing market.

“It offers an exceptional prospect for the exchange of direct sales agreements between publishers and book distributors, featuring the participation of distinguished figures, experts, and specialists from the publishing realm.”

Al Hassani went on to say that the reading festival is expected to field 141 publishers, 93 of them from the Arab world and 48 of the from the international industry outside the region.

The United Arab Emirates is to be represented by 77 publishers, with Lebanon having 12 presses involved. Other countries that are strongly engaged in the programming and events are the United Kingdom, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Australia, India, Pakistan, Algeria, and Iraq.

Khoula Al Mujaini

Speaking to some of the interess of the organizers in the program’s impact on young readers, Al Mujaini said, “Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival reflects Sharjah’s commitment to invest in children because they’re the ones who will shape the future.

“Investing in them is an investment in the prosperity and progress of our society, hence, the importance of this event, which we are keen on bolstering as an open space for children to express themselves and instill the love of books in them.”

One  of the key events of the reading festival, Publishing Perspectives understands, is to be an 11th iteration of the show’s illustration award program. Some 1,300 submissions have been made from 280 participants in 46 nations.

While programming has yet to be officially released for the booksellers’ conference, the event this year is expected to have as many as 383 book distributors in attendance, with 223 from 52 nations and 160 from 17 Arab world markets.

It’s anticipated that there will be an emphasis on children’s literature and an examination of the region’s book distribution hurdles during the course of the conference.

Kids at an event in the 2019 Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival. Image: SBA

More on Sharjah Book Authority and its programming is here, more on Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival is here, and more on publishing issues and trends in the Arab world is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.