By Sam Bridge
World-famous Hay Festival reveals line-up for the first edition in Abu Dhabi, which will take place from February 25-28
The world-famous Hay Festival on Wednesday announced the line-up for the first edition of Hay Festival Abu Dhabi, which will take place in the UAE capital from February 25-28.
Supported by the UAE’s Ministry of Tolerance, the UK-based festival will feature a range of award-winning writers, journalists, historians, film-makers and artists in an international programme spanning nearly 100 events over four days.
Award-winning writers will include Nigerian Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka, Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, Filipino writer Miguel Syjuco, Pakistan’s Fatima Bhutto, Hoda Barakat from Lebanon, and two 2019 Booker Prize winners - Jokha Alharthi from Oman, winner of the Man Booker International Prize, and British writer Bernardine Evaristo.
Arabic literature past and future will be a subject for conversation, including Ahmed El Shamsy on how print culture transformed Islamic intellectual tradition, and panel discussions featuring representatives from Sharjah World Book Capital, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Abu Dhabi's longest-running book club Al Multaqa, The Department of Culture and Tourism, Sharjah Book Fair and UAE publishing house Kalimat.
Celebrated Syrian poet Adonis will participate in a celebration of his 90th birthday, with fellow poets Volker Braun, Zuleikha Aburisha, Pierre Joris, Serge Pey and Yang Lian. Other poets in conversation and reading their work include India’s Tishani Doshi, Bahrain’s Qassim Haddad and Inua Ellams from the UK.
Also in conversation will be Bulgarian-British writer Kapka Kassabova while three winners of the Nobel Prize will be sharing their experience and insights in conversations during the festival - Iranian Shirin Ebadi, Tunisian Ahmed Galai, and Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka.
Historians put some of the biggest issues of our time into context as Bettany Hughes discusses the rebuilding of Syrian heritage, Peter Frankopan talks about new silk roads, Jung Chang tells a tale of life and power in 20th century China, Shashi Tharoor discusses his Hindu identity and William Dalrymple talks about the British in India.
French physicist Christophe Galfard will be in discussion about space, time and beyond, Palestinian medical doctor Izzeldin Abulaish addresses the link between health and peace, while Oxford Professor for the Public Understanding of Science Marcus du Sautoy talks about geometry and number mysteries.
Discussing global responses to the climate emergency will be Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Director of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, the largest environmental regulator in the Arabian Gulf.
Award winning garden designer Kamelia Zaal also shares her knowledge of regional plant life in the creation of some of the UAE’s most celebrated gardens.
Film makers from the region will reflect current social and political situations in the Arab world in a series of screenings curated by Sheyma Buali, director of BBC Arabic Festival, including the Grierson Award-winning documentary, Iraq: A State of Mind, as well as a special session of short films by female directors.
Evening entertainment will include musical performances by international stars including Souad Massi, Marcel Khalife with Bachar Mar-Khalife, Lebanese indie-rock band Mashrou’ Leila and a collaboration of Senegalese and Welsh harpists Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch.
On the last night, Rooftop Rhythms are hosting The Silent Party, with five DJs playing Afrobeat, Reggae/Caribbean, and Arab Fusion music.
Hay Festival aims to establish a long-term presence in the Arabic-speaking world from its newest platform in Abu Dhabi, building on the success of its three editions in Beirut (2009-2012).
Hay Festival Abu Dhabi joins the global family of festivals and forums programmed by the Hay Festival in more than 30 locations worldwide.
The programme also reflects the diversity of communities in Abu Dhabi itself, including writers from all around the Middle East, North Africa, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, China, Nigeria and Europe.
A programme for schools will also welcome over 70 local schools, inspiring and entertaining thousands of local students aged 7-16 years in Arabic, English, Hindi and Tagalog.
Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Tolerance of the UAE, said: “The Hay Festival Abu Dhabi will be an important celebration of tolerance and cultural exchange. It will help in our quest in the UAE to build positive relationships with others.
"We are confident that the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi will be an important celebration of the values of human fraternity that have enabled the success we enjoy today in our country. It will also contribute to the growing status of the UAE as a flourishing cultural hub and an important global centre for cultural exchange.”
Peter Florence, Hay Festival director, added: “Our programme for the first Hay Festival Abu Dhabi brings together some of the most eminent voices in the region, and the world. We have four nights and four days to engage in conversation, to meet and dream, share stories and imagine the world.
"I believe this is the most exciting time in living memory for contemporary Arabic Literature, and the Festival will be a showcase for great writing from across the Arab world, a platform for inspiring voices from many languages, and a meeting place where the world of tomorrow might be shaped."For all the latest art news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.