By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
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Koukis: A Collaboration ‘in the Making for Two Years’As the 42nd Sharjah International Book Fair continues its run in the United Arab Emirates through Sunday (November 12), the Sharjah Book Authority has taken the opportunity to formalize its agreement to appear as Guest of Honor Sharjah at the 2024 Thessaloniki International Book Fair (May 16 to 19), a public-facing fair which will have its 20th iteration in the spring.
In announcing the newly signed agreement today (November 7), Sharjah Book Authority CEO Ahmed Al Ameri led the UAE team and Nikos Koukis, president of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, was on hand for the Greek team, as was Nopi Chatzigeorgiou, the Thessaloniki Book Fair coordinator.
Also on hand from the Sharjah group was Khoula Al Mujaini, the Book Authority’s director of events and marketing and a key figure in the direction of the book fair, itself.
The Thessaloniki fair is an interesting one, not only for its leadership in Greece among such events but also for its audience of intensely interested, closely listening audiences for programming. While reporting from the show this spring, we found the turnout to be highly engaged with Chatzigeorgiou’s programming and eager to take part in discussions and debates with panelists, especially on some of the most serious political as well as literary issues.
This year’s guest of honor was the United States, with a pavilion positioned at the center of the Thessaloniki show’s main hall. The event also offered a roomy rights center, a special stage for professional program events, and another stage for fair-wide presentations, near a transmission station for live broadcasts from the site.
Al Ameri: ‘A Comprehensive Agenda’
In speaking for the Sharjah team at the signing in the UAE, Al Ameri said, “Sharjah’s participation in the Thessaloniki International Book Fair represents a fresh opportunity for Emirati and Arab culture to engage in profound dialogue with Europe.
“Europe, renowned for its Greek civilization and roots extending across the Mediterranean basin, serves as a natural bridge for this cultural exchange.
The vision of Sharjah’s Sheikh Sultan “emphasizes that nations and civilizations may diverge in interests and aspirations, yet they converge when it comes to the power of books. Books are a cornerstone in community development, the pursuit of aspirations, and the attainment of holistic development goals.”Ahmed Al Ameri, Sharjah Book Authority
“This recognition stands as a testament to the vision of Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. His vision emphasizes that nations and civilizations may diverge in interests and aspirations, yet they converge when it comes to the power of books. Books are a cornerstone in community development, the pursuit of aspirations, and the attainment of holistic development goals.
“Greece’s celebration of Sharjah’s contributions to Arab and global culture encapsulates the enduring and profound connections between Sharjah’s cultural institutions and their counterparts. Simultaneously, it provides a new platform for forging partnerships and cultural cooperation.
“This cooperation is instrumental in driving our objectives to preserve our achievements, embody our cultural values, and promote literature, arts, and creativity as potent instruments for impactful and far-reaching communication. This communication extends beyond official institutions and initiatives, reaching individuals and societies, and ultimately influencing various vital sectors shared between Sharjah and Greek cities.
“Under the guidance of Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, chair of the Book Authority, we eagerly anticipate presenting a comprehensive agenda that mirrors the emirate’s status as a leading cultural city. We’ll narrate its journey of accomplishments as the capital of Arab and Islamic Cultures, World Book Capital, and home to the world’s largest book fair since 2020.”
Koukis: ‘In the Making for Two Years’
Koukis, in speaking for the Hellenic Foundation, said, “We are deeply honored that Sharjah has graciously accepted our invitation to be the guest of honor at the 20th edition of the Thessaloniki International Book Fair.
“This collaboration has been in the making for two years, and we’re confident that celebrating Sharjah will open up new avenues of communication. It will strengthen cultural bonds between Greece, Sharjah, the UAE, and the Arab world.
“We have every confidence that the partnership between the Greek Foundation for Culture and the Sharjah Book Authority will yield the desired results.”
Chatzigeorgiou: ‘A Strong Idea Becoming True’
Nopi Chatzigeorgiou, who participated extensively in the Sharjah Publishing Conference, spoke at the signing ceremony in her capacity as the Thessaloniki show’s coordinator, pointing out that the presence of an Arab state as guest of honor is unprecedented at this city’s book fair on the Aegean Sea’s Thermaic Gulf.
“It’s exciting to watch a strong idea become true,” she said, “and this one was meaningful from the beginning—the first participation as guest of honor of an arab country in Thessaloniki Book Fair.
“We have so much in common and so much to share, history is a witness of our parallel paths through the centuries. ”
She used the word dialogue—which has a special place in the terminology of her professional program at the Thessaloniki fair—in describing the two paths of content and activity in the show’s framework.
“We’re already at work on the program,” she said, “in two directions: the cultural, focusing on poetry, children’s books, fiction, and nonfiction; and the professional, with special initiatives to facilitate the publishers from both sides to buy rights, to translate, to publish books. This is what we all want and expect at the end of the day, to have books published between the two countries, opening the dialogue with understanding and inclusivity.”
Al Mujaini: ‘Deep-Rooted Historical Relations’
And for Sharjah, Al Mujaini said, “Every time Sharjah is celebrated as a guest at international book fairs, we strive to provide a vivid and comprehensive portrayal of Emirati and Arab culture.
“Therefore, during our participation in the Thessaloniki International Book Fair 2024, we’ll be keen on translating the deep-rooted historical relations between Arab and Greek cultures and convey the values that reflect the UAE’s cultural identity—whether through writers and other creative personnel or our music and folk heritage–and the ongoing intellectual and cultural movement in Sharjah and the UAE in authorship, publishing, translation, and advancing libraries.”
Thessaloniki’s fair features work not only from Greece but also from the Balkans, Western Europe, and the Southeastern Mediterranean.
In addition to the Hellenic Foundation, it has organizational support and cooperation from TIF-HelExpo, the Central Macedonian Regional authorities, and the City of Thessaloniki, in alignment with the Greek ministry of culture and sports.
More from Publishing Perspectives on the Sharjah Book Authority is here, more on the Sharjah International book Fair is here, and more on the book publishing industry in the United Arab Emirates is here. More from Publishing Perspectives on Greece is here, more on the Thessaloniki International Book Fair is here, more on guest of honor programs at publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here, and more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here.