SHARJAH, Should there be boundaries set to writing about indigenous cultures in an age of multiculturism? This was a question that two authors from very diverse cultures and backgrounds attempted to answer during a panel discussion on the inaugural day of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2019.

Mariam Al Zarouni, Emirati author of books for young adults and a teacher for 13 years, discussing her book ‘Letter from Harvard’, said that even while welcoming other cultures she believed that authors should not shy away from writing about their own culture. She said: “In fact, as a child I knew a British national who worked in the UAE Army for many years, wore the kandoura and when he retired chose to stay on in UAE because he had integrated so much into our society. He even donated one of his kidneys to an Emirati friend. That was one of the incidents that influenced me hugely and gave me the idea of integrating our culture in my books.”

Ruby Lovell, a British citizen of Sri Lankan descent, said she began writing precisely because she wanted her children to know about the Sri Lankan culture which they only experienced on occasional visits to her home country. “While shopping for books for them, I found that there was nothing that interested both of us. That started me on my writing career, and I thought of using my books to teach them about the Sri Lankan culture that they found quaint. So, the background for most of my books is the culture I had imbibed as a child. This in no way interferes with the notion of multiculturism. It only makes our culture richer.”

Al Zarouni said: “You cannot merge cultural identities. Cultures should be nurtured because they are your identity. Negating your culture will rob you of your cultural identity. We can accept other cultures, learn from them and even borrow from them. But our own culture will remain our unifying factor.”

Lovell opined that writing about one’s culture was as important as writing an interesting story, because that was the only way of keeping it alive for immigrant generations. “But yes, writers need to write about other cultures too,” she concluded.

SCRF is one of the most important cultural events dedicated to children in the UAE and greater Arab region. It has gone beyond being a book exhibition and developed into an integrated event that contributes to enriching the knowledge of visitors with science and literature.

The 11-day cultural extravaganza for children and young adults organised by Sharjah Book Authority,SBA, is being held at Expo Centre Sharjah, from 17th to 27th April, under the theme ‘Discover Knowledge’.

Source: WAM – Emirates News Agency