x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Emirati women's exhibit has global appeal

The Facets of Emirati Women International Travelling Exhibition, photo compositions accompanied 50-word stories, is touring the world.

DUBAI // An exhibition presenting the thoughts, feelings and experiences of Emirati women has created so much interest that there are plans to translate the works into a number of languages and publish them in book form.

The Facets of Emirati Women International Travelling Exhibition, which consists of photographic compositions accompanied by 50-word stories written in English by Emirati students, is currently touring Bucharest, Romania, and Japan.

It has already gone to Britain, the Czech Republic, Italy and Greece.

The Zayed University initiative is so popular in Japan that academics there have translated the works into Japanese and published them.

An Arabic edition has been completed and is due to be printed soon. Organiser Peter Hassall said work was under way on Chinese and Greek versions. French, Turkish, Spanish, Persian and Italian editions are also in the pipeline.

One Japanese academic, Professor Yuko Takeshita, wrote of the exhibition: "Those who saw and read the Emirati students' works were truly impressed by the words written so far away, and overwhelmed by those beautiful photos that went along with the stories."

Organisers believe the exhibition is a hit because, while many people in other countries have heard of the UAE, they know little about the lives of Emiratis, and the exhibition offers an opportunity to learn more.

"People in Japan really like the stories. They think there is a lot of things going on in them," said Mr Hassall, from the department of languages at the university's Dubai campus. "There's a lot that they find meaningful and they are very interested in Emiratis and the UAE.

"The whole world is fascinated by the UAE - everybody knows about it. The thing is, people don't really know what makes Emiratis tick, and this is giving them an insight."

The exhibition grew out of the Extremely Short Story Competition, which Mr Hassall launched at the university in 2003. Entrants write a piece that is exactly 50 words long and can be fact or fiction, poetry or prose, or a mixture.

A number of books have been published featuring works entered over the years and the exhibition is based on the most recent volume.

Male students could take part but most of the works are by women.

Last year, a special competition was held to mark the UAE's 40th anniversary. Entrants were required to write 40 words and the submissions are currently on show at Zayed University's Abu Dhabi campus.

One of those who participated was Munira Abdulaziz Al Jasmi, 19, a business student from Sharjah.

She said: "Writing 40 words sounds easy but when you write it, it is very difficult. Writing 2,000 words is easier than writing 40.

"The most difficult thing is that you had to write exactly 40 words, and finding that meaningful word so it makes sense and makes a great story, this was a challenge."

Students from across the Gulf were invited to take part in another recent competition, which had the theme, "Our memories, dreams and futures".

Graphic art students at the university are creating illustrations for a book based on the works, and it is hoped that this will form the basis of another travelling exhibition.

One of the students, Maha Bin Fares, 20, from Dubai, said: "I feel more connected to Middle East people - we have the same stories, the same feelings, our ideas are the same. So getting the opportunity to create collages that reflect the voices of people from my community and the region I live in is good."

Another student, Fatma Al Hashemi, 20, also from Dubai, said: "It's good to show other people how we live, how we think.

"We are attached to our religion and culture but we know how to express ourselves in other ways. So we are not in a box, we are out there, we show people who we are."

csimpson@thenational.ae