Is this cutest representation of Qatar ever? Why I fell in love with it but should Qatar…?
Surrey, GB -- (SBWIRE) -- 07/08/2013 -- When we think about the small, rich gulf state of Qatar what do most of us envision? Qatar is a rapidly growing state with more foreign workers that natives. The ruling family of Qatar are devoted to creating a dynamic and progressive country which is respected globally for its grandiose cultural vision and progressive political aspirations. The vision of Qatar as a gas and oil gulf state, and as a country which spends phenomenal amounts on art here in the West is not an image that I have ever considered as cute! Though, I may be in awe of Qatar’s fantastic museums and wonderful places of culture I must confess I have never seen or heard anyone describe a celebration of Qatar or the Qatari people as cute. That is until now.
Recently, a colourful children’s book captured my attention while visiting a friend at his family in London. What caught my attention were the unique images on the front cover. It was as if I had seen aliens. What were they? They were beautifully illustrated images of children from different cultures together in friendship. So you may ask; what’s the big deal? Well, firstly in thirty something years on earth I had never seen a children’s book with characters from such diverse backgrounds as Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Trinidad and of course Qatar. Yes, there are now Arabic translations of popular English translations and the odd view children’s books written by native Arab authors but to see an English children’s picture book after all these years with a smiling Arabic character in traditional clothes as well was a pleasant surprise. I was even more surprised when I open this plethora of colour and felicity as each character invited me to explore his and her country of origin, from places to music and even a language guide. But, what stood out most in this book was how Qatar appeared to be represented as this uber cool and seriously cute place.
Being of Arabic descent, I was excited to see what could be a shining beacon of hope for not just my children but all the children that would read this book. That is that they could see a sweet, cute and positive image of Arabs rather than the common media portrayal linking them with violence, intolerance and terrorism. Though I had been fortunate enough to watch Arabic Sesame Street and the Arabic cartoon series Sinbad, thanks to VHS, I never actually read any Arabic children’s books such as the ones in Global Friendship as they really didn’t exist. After thirty years nothing much has changed, though after my new found cute discovery I realised that countries such as Qatar, the Emirates and few other Arabic countries are trying to address the problem of the lack of Arabic books available for children that are of a high standard. So there are more children’s books about monsters than there are about Arabs and certainly Qataris. So after my initial shock and evening discussion with my friend about the Amara Para Global Friendship book, the need for more representation of Arabic characters in children’s books I order the book with the Qatari characters in it.
My four year daughter and I have had endless evenings of education and fun going through this book. More importantly, my daughter sees children she can identify with and see the language of her grandparents celebrated in her mother tongue more than I could ever have experienced as a child growing up in the early 80s. She has learnt about places in Qatar, the flag, musical traditions, its location and typography and its beautiful language, Arabic. The exuberant colours and simple yet detailed images made it even more delightful for us to read. The information was informative but not too much as to confuse with too much information. I learnt things about other countries as book that I think most other parents would be embarrassed to say in front of their children that they didn’t know. I certainly, didn’t know any Malay or Kweyol.
My daughter has become absolutely fascinated by the different characters in the book. It will soon be another dog eared favourite on my daughter’s book shelf. I must say what a treat. This book goes far beyond the typical friendship stories aimed at 3 -6 year olds because there is so much more for children to learn not just about Qatar but also other parts of the world. My daughter asked whether we could get an Amara Para Arab toy which made me ask; have the relevant Qatar authorities heard or seen this book? I don’t whether it is coincidental but I did notice that the aim of the Amara Para books is to use art to celebrate and teach more about global culture and diversity. This sounds very much like Qatar’s vision for the celebration and promotion of art as expressed by Shaikha Al Mayassah. The author, H Aitoro is soon to release an Arabic version of the Global Friendship volume 4 by early autumn alongside French and Spanish translations. I wonder whether Qatar will fall in love with this cutest representation of their country as my daughter and I did.
You can find the Amara Para, Global Friendship series at www.amarapara.com www.amazon.com www.amazon.co.uk