A breathtaking display of readings, dance, music and poetry marked the opening of the fourth annual Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2012 at the Al Mamzar Theatre, Dubai Cultural and Scientific Association, on Tuesday.
More than 120 authors are participating in the five days of celebration of literature which includes an array of literary activities including author interactions, workshops for adults and children and cultural events.
Talking about the festival's theme of ‘Identity', Isobel Abulhoul, festival director, said: "The big questions about personal identity — "Who Am I?" Who are You? … Where do I fit? are the ones which, as thinking humans, we all strive to answer. For many writers, the answers are what compels them to write and this, in itself, makes the case for basing the theme of the Literary Festival on this concept.
"In Dubai we are characterised by its ability to be home to every nationality under the sun. We can be ourselves and yet find a new self which belongs to Dubai. We are Indian, or Emirati or British or French or Kenyan or Japanese. But we also become someone else — a part of Dubai. We adopt new words from several different languages and learn about new foods, social customs and habits. We open our minds to new ways of looking at life," she said.
She said a core vision of the festival is to help improve literacy rates in the region through various student competitions and education days and giving people a chance to meet inspirational writers.
One of the Arab world's best loved poets, Mourid Barghouti read an excerpt from Midnight. "It is quite interesting to see an enthusiastic group of men and women who are interested in literature. Another positive thing is that it is multicultural and we are seeing writers from across the world. Restriction is damaging to culture, if we confine [it] we would probably jump into sweeping generalisations. This kind of openness to different cultures is very positive," the author told Gulf News at the festival.
Charles Dickens was honoured with a reading from Great Expectations in Arabic by Emirati actor Ebrahim Ustadi. He was joined by top selling British author, David Nicholls, who has recently completed a new screen version of the English classic on the occasion of the 200th birthday of the great novelist and social commentator.
The guests were greeted on arrival by Youla dancers and a vibrant performance began with flag carrying scouts paying tribute to the 30 home countries of this year's participating authors.
More than 500 local performers and school children captivated the audience which included Shaikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Saeed Al Nabouda, Acting Director General, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, senior government officials, diplomats, representatives from major business and educational institutions and others.
The boys and girls who performed were dressed in the native costumes of the countries they represented.
The opening ceremony was brought to a rousing close with the first public performance of this year's festival anthem; Al Bab Al Maftouh (The Open Door).The anthem was composed by Yousuf Khan with the assistance of Salem Belyouha.
The opening night kicked off with pure entertainment courtesy of one of the greatest broadcasters of all time, Terry Wogan, and a celebration of music and poetry from four international poets Imtiaz Dharker, John Agard, Yang Lian, and Daljit Nagra.
The Irish Dance Group's performance served as a welcome to Wogan, who was born in Limerick, Ireland. Known for his wit and good humour, Wogan has been the most listened-to broadcaster in Europe raking eight million listeners across the continent.
In conversation with Bernard Creed, Wogan took the festival goers to a trip down memory lane, through the highlights of his five-decade TV and radio career.
And as expected, Wogan cracked jokes, mostly Irish jokes, in between the conversation and never failed to make the audience laugh. "It's been an honour to stand up here to make an idiot of myself," he joked.
The love of language was also highlighted through poetry by four acclaimed poets Imtiaz Dharker, John Agard, Yang Lian, and Daljit Nagra.