The International Festival of Arabic Language and Culture was held under the theme “Bridges of Babel” by the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy.
Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
In line with the vision of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, in strengthening the presence of the Arabic language and culture on a global scale, the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) sponsored the 6th edition of the International Festival of Arabic Language and Culture, which was held by the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy.
The festival was held under the theme “Bridges of Babel” which discussed how translation contributed to building civilisations; and brought together industry experts to explore the significance of the Arabic language and its vast intellectual output in various cultures over the ages.
During the festival’s opening ceremony, Ahmed Bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA, delivered a keynote speech in the presence of esteemed guests including Mohammed Hassan Khalaf, Director-General of the Sharjah Broadcasting Authority; Dr. Mohammed Safi Al Mosteghanemi, Secretary-General of the Arabic Language Academy (ALA); Franco Agnelli, President of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart; Mario Gatti, Director of the University; Giovanni Gobber, Dean of the Faculty of Linguistic Sciences and Foreign Literatures, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart; and Dr. Wael Farouq, Professor of Language, Arabic Literature and Islamic Studies, Catholic University.
During his speech, Al Ameri conveyed the greetings of Sheikh Sultan who has tirelessly supported the Arabic language, not only as the language of the Arabs but as a language for dialogue, science, cultural exchange, and its role in building bridges between civilizations and nations.
Descendants of the Arabic language
Al Ameri added, “We are proud to be the descendants of the Arabic language, which has provided humanity with great sciences and immortal literature. Its intellectual additions have been pivotal in civilisations’ development over the past thousand years, providing the world with the foundations of algebra, geometry, astronomy, navigation, and architecture.
Its library was the primary reference for all the innovations we enjoy today, from aeroplanes to cameras and telephones to the internet.” Al Ameri praised the theme for this year’s festival, saying, “Sharjah, under the vision of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, believes in translation as an engine for showcasing the human commonalities that unite the peoples and civilisations of the world.
For this purpose, the authority launched the Sharjah International Book Fair Translation Grant, as well as the ‘Turjuman Award’, the world’s largest translation award, and translated many Arab and Emirati works into numerous languages.”
Mario Gatti, Director of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, extended his gratitude to Sharjah, saying, “We thank the Emirate of Sharjah, represented by SBA, for its great efforts in sponsoring the festival and its keenness on its success. We hope this year’s edition reveals the true impact of translation from the Arabic language on the cultural renaissance of the world and demonstrates the importance of the Arabic language on human knowledge in general.”
Dr. Wael Farouq, Professor of Language, Arabic Literature and Islamic Studies, Catholic University, stressed that Sharjah’s massive efforts succeeded in reaching different countries around the world, showcasing the beauty and richness of Arab culture and language. He noted that these efforts were the driving force for the university to present a project and festival that highlights the status of the language and sheds light on Arab culture and its significant contributions to literature, science, and art on a global level.
In the opening session of the festival, Giovanni Gobber, Dean of the Faculty of Linguistic Sciences and Foreign Literatures, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, spoke about the importance of translation and its role in bringing people and cultures together.He pointed out that communication with others begins with understanding them, and this is achieved through reading their intellectual, literary, and artistic works. Remarking on this, Gobber said, “Translation is not only limited to understanding others but also understanding the differences.”
He directed a message to translators, saying: “The translated works should retain their original cultural context.” The festival, which is regarded as the leading event celebrating the Arabic language in Europe, featured a series of discussions and sessions where participants highlighted the importance of translation and its impact on different fields. During its participation, the Sharjah Book Authority emphasised the importance of showcasing Arabic literature in giving the opportunity for people to gain a deeper understanding of Arab culture.
The authority has previously translated a selection of works by prominent Emirati and Arab writers across various literary genres, including poetry, novels, theatre, history, and criticism, translated into Italian. The 3-day cultural event is organised by the Catholic University of Milan’s Arabic Language Research Institute (CARA), the Language Service Centre (SeLdA), and SBA.