x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Emirati wins Zayed book award

Author of illustrated children's story about fictional sport will use Dh750,000 prize to publish and market volume two of novel.

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, left, presents Qais Sedki with the award for children's literature for his manga-inspired novel
Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, left, presents Qais Sedki with the award for children's literature for his manga-inspired novel

ABU DHABI // It was a labour of love that took Qais Sedki five years to finish. The hard work paid off last night when he became the first Emirati winner of a Sheikh Zayed Book Award with his debut novel picking up the Dh750,000 prize for children's literature.

Sedki, 33, whose book Siwar al Dahab (Gold Ring) was inspired and illustrated by Japanese manga artists, burst into tears when he won. "I was blown out of my seat. Of course I considered the fact I might win when I entered for the award but I had put the idea to the back of my mind. "When I heard the news I was full of happiness and pride; it was an indescribable sensation." His book tells the story of Sultan, a 15-year-old Emirati, and his falcon Majd as they compete in a fictional sport called gold ring, loosely based on traditional falconry.

"This award is recognition, which in itself is incentive to continue but the prize money couldn't have come at a better time," said Sedki, who intends to spend the prize money publishing and marketing volume two of his novel. Sedki said his award showed the Government cared about young talent. "We are a minority in our own country but we are fortunate that our Government is backing us up," he said.

"We need to hang on to our identity and produce more home-grown material for future generations. We need material in Arabic by Arabs." He was one of nine award-winnners who gathered in the Emirates Palace hotel last night for the fourth annual ceremony. The event was held in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and the awards were presented by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior.

Each winner received a gold medal, a certificate of merit and a cash prize. During his opening speech, Rashed Saleh al Oraimi, the head of the awards, said: "The development and advancement of the nation will only be made by having an elite of innovators regardless of their field of knowledge." The awards, established in the memory of Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the nation, broadly recognise cultural achievement.

A of Dh7 million is distributed among authors from various fields, translators, publishers and distributors. Iyad al Husseini, from Iraq, who won the arts category for his book The Art of Design said: "Words are not sufficient to describe the honour of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award. It carries a noble prestige." Albert Habib Mutlaq, from Lebanon, who won the translation award for his book The Animal Encyclopedia, said: "I have heard many times people explain this book award as if it is the Arab version of the Nobel Prize because there is no discrimination of categories except on merit."

The final award, the cultural personality of the year, a cash prize of Dh1 million, was awarded to Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed, the Ruler of Sharjah, for his promotion of Arabic literature in the UAE and the Gulf. Although the awards are international, the vast majority are regional nominations, with 95 per cent of this year's 620 nominations coming from the Arab world. @Email:aseaman@thenational.ae