Afra Atiq, Lemn Sissay, and Carlos Gomez bring the power of poetry in next edition of the ‘Literary Conversations Across Borders

Session date: Saturday 20 June 2020

Session timing: UAE 19.30 hours (UK 16.30 hours, New York USA, 11.30 hours)

United Arab Emirates –  15 June 2020: An outstanding live digital event bringing together top poets Lemn Sissay, Afra Atiq and Carlos Gomez has been organised by the Emirates Literature Foundation as part of the Literary Conversation Across Borders series. The session will take place on Saturday 20 June at 19.30pm (UAE).

“All three of these exceptional performance poets have taken part in the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, but this will be the first occasion where they have appeared together,” said Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation. “They are all charismatic performers, never failing to evoke an emotional response from their audience and this exhilarating event is really one not to be missed. It perfectly encapsulates the ‘Literary Conversations Across Borders’ project, bringing together the UAE, UK and USA in celebration of the power of poetry.”

Dr. Afra Atiq is an Emirati scholar and poet, recently completing her PhD in Media and Creative Industries. Her artistic work explores a broad range of topics which include heritage, culture, identity, legacy, self-acceptance, grief, and almost everything in between. She writes and performs in a blend of English, Arabic, and French and has been featured on numerous international platforms and locally showcased her work, notably at the Dubai Opera, Louvre Abu Dhabi, PublisHer summit in Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi Art.

Lemn Sissay  is British and Ethiopian and a BAFTA-nominated, award-winning international writer and broadcaster. He has written collections of poetry and plays, and his critically acclaimed memoir, My Name is Why was published last year. His series of Landmark poems are visible on buildings in London, Manchester, Huddersfield and Addis Ababa. In 2019, Lemn was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize, given to writers who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel speech, ‘cast an unflinching, unswerving gaze upon the world’. He was appointed MBE for services to literature in 2014.

Carlos Andrés Gómez is a multi-award winning Colombian-American poet from New York City, and author of Hijito, selected by Eduardo C. Corral as the 2018 Broken River Prize winner, and the memoir Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood. A star of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, TV One’s Verses and Flow, and Spike Lee’s no. 1 box office movie Inside Man with Denzel Washington, Carlos recently partnered with John Legend on Senior Orientation, a programme to counteract bullying and champion inclusive masculinity among high school students.

The ‘Literary Conversations Across Borders’ project is a new initiative to promote international cultural understanding through the power of books and words launched by the UAE Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy and the Emirates Literature Foundation.

The inaugural event saw more than 3,500 people from 46 countries register and able to tune  in to the live event with Indian politician Shashi Tharoor and His Excellency Zaki Nusseibeh Minister of State: Office of  Public and Cultural Diplomacy, in a debate  on how the events of 2020 will change the course of history.

Other sessions included H.E. Omar Ghobash and journalist Lesley Hazleton  as they  debated the impact of the pandemic on faith and belief systems, and celebrated environmentalist Dr. Jane Goodall and H. E. Mariam bint Mohammed Al Mheiri Minister of State for Food Security on how the pandemic might influence global food supply challenges and the natural world.

There will be eight sessions in this first Literary Conversations Across Borders series. Further details and more authors will be announced shortly.

The session will take place on Saturday 20 June 2020 at UAE 19.30 hours  (UK 16.30 hours, New York USA, 11.30 hours)

The Poets

Lemn Sissay Google the name “lemn Sissay” and all the returning hits will be about him because there is only one Lemn Sissay in the world. Lemn Sissay is a BAFTA nominated award winning writer, international poet, performer playwright, artist and broadcaster. He has read on stage throughout the world: from The Library of Congress in The United States to The University of Addis Ababa, from Singapore to Sri Lanka, Bangalore to Dubai, from Bali to Greenland AND Wigan library. He was awarded an MBE for services to literature by The Queen of England. Along with Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie and Margaret Atwood he won a Pen Pinter Prize in 2019. He is Chancellor of The University of Manchester and an Honorary Doctor from The Universities of Huddersfield, Manchester, Kent and Brunei. He is Dr Dr Dr Dr Lemn Sissay. He was the first poet commissioned to write for the London Olympics and poet of the FA Cup.

Dr Afra Atiq is an Emirati scholar and poet. She has a completed her PhD in Media and Creative Industries at UAE University, where her research focused on social media and the Arab literary ecosystem. Her research sheds light on the the role social media plays within the literary sector. Dr. Afra also has a master’s degree in diplomacy and her research on education, reading, and social media has been published in international journals.

She has won the Special Achievement Award at the Arab Women Awards in 2018, and the 2017 Abu Dhabi Music and Art Foundation Creativity Award. Her artistic work explores a broad range of topics which include heritage, culture, identity, legacy, self-acceptance, grief, and almost everything in between. She writes and performs in a blend of English, Arabic, and French.

She has been featured on numerous international platforms including in Kuwait, Jordan, India, Germany, and the UK. Locally, she has showcased her work, most notably, on the Dubai Opera, Louvre Abu Dhabi, PublisHer summit in Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi Art.

Community and education are at the core of everything Dr. Afra does and she dedicates much of her time to educational visits and community collaborations. She’s a founding member of Untitled Chapters – a community for Emirati women writers. She collaborated with MKS Jewellery and conducted workshops on self-expression, through voice and poetry, at the Emirati-Jordanian Refugee Camp in Jordan. It is these activities that drive Dr. Afra’s purpose.

Carlos Andrés Gómez is a Colombian-American poet from New York City, and author of Hijito, selected by Eduardo C. Corral as the 2018 Broken River Prize winner, and the memoir Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood. Winner of the Atlanta Review International Poetry Prize, Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry, Gómez’s writing appears, or is forthcoming, in many publications including the New England ReviewBeloit Poetry Journal, and CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape.

A star of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, TV One’s Verses and Flow, and Spike Lee’s no. 1 box office movie Inside Man with Denzel Washington, Carlos recently partnered with John Legend on Senior Orientation, a programme to counteract bullying and champion inclusive masculinity among high school students.

About the Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy (OPCD)

The Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy (OPCD) is a coordinating entity that supports the objectives of United Arab Emirates diplomatic missions around the world through arts and culture programming, research and content design. OPCD is dedicated to promoting UAE heritage and values and facilitating cross-cultural dialogue in the service of improved global cooperation and international prosperity.

About the Emirates Literature Foundation:

The Emirates Literature Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation which supports and nurtures a love of literature in the United Arab Emirates and the region, through a programme of varied cultural initiatives.

Established in 2013 by Royal Decree issued by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Foundation aims to foster a love for literature, with a focus on the Arabic language.

In line with the National Reading Policy of the UAE, the Foundation has implemented several long-term projects including the School Librarian of the Year Award and the annual Arabic Language Week, as well as conducting year-round student education programmes, book clubs and creative writing courses. The Foundation’s previous initiatives included the 2016 Dubai Translation Conference and the 2017 Dubai International Publishing Conference, which hosted a number of international participants.

The Foundation is also the governing body of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the UAE’s premier literary festival, which will be held 2– 6 February, 2021.

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