Sharjah Art Foundation announces the programme for the fifth edition of Focal Point, an annual art book fair showcasing independent bookmaking from the region and around the world. The event takes place from 25 to 27 November 2022 at Bait Obaid Al Shamsi, a heritage house in Sharjah’s historical district.
Committed to expanding and experimenting with the medium of publishing, the three-day fair features a selection of printed material by artists’ presses, bookmakers, self-publishers and non-commercial cultural producers as well as artist-made products, all available for purchase. Focal Point programming includes talks, book launches, artists’ signings, workshops and musical performances.
Winners of the 2022 Publishing Grant will also be announced during the fair, and winning publications and research projects from the previous year’s grant cycle will be launched. This year, the Foundation will award a total of 30,000 USD to multiple grantees, and will also provide publishing and distribution support.
Inaugurated in 2018, Focal Point places a special focus on UAE-based publishers and functions as a critical space for knowledge sharing and community building.
The fifth edition of Focal Point consists of three main sections:
- International (works from art and independent publishers in the international art community)
- Edit (curated publications and special interest books not distributed by local retailers)
- Local (publications from within the UAE’s arts community)
Details about each section as well as more information about this edition’s programming and grants follow below:
Focal Point International Section
In the International Section, art and independent publishers from around the world showcase and distribute their books within the global publishing community.
This year’s international exhibitors are as follows:
Atelier HOKO (Singapore), Bakwa Books (Yaoundé), Bananafish Books (Shanghai), Cairo Art Book Fair (Cairo), Central Tunis (Tunis), Further Reading Press (Jakarta), Gato Negro Ediciones (Mexico City), ist publishing (Kyiv), Kawkab ElRasameen (Cairo), Arctic Art Book Fair / Mondo Books (Tromsø), Offset Projects India (New Delhi), Prameya Art Foundation (New Delhi), RAW Materials Company (Dakar), Rab-Rab Press (Helsinki), Rawdah Print (Jeddah), Reliable Copy (Bengaluru), Tanger Print Club (Tangiers), Tara Books (Chennai), The Mosaic Rooms Bookshop (London), mediabus - book society (Seoul), The 9th Art (Cairo) and Water with Water (Doha)
Focal Point Edit Section
In the Edit Section, Focal Point presents a curated selection of art journals, magazines, artist books, comics and special interest books not distributed by local retailers and bookstores.
Exhibitors include the following:
Al Nahda Al Arabia Library (Baghdad), Arts Of The Working Class (Berlin), Backbone Books (Berlin), Book Works (London), Cafè Royal books (Southport, UK), Darat Al Funun (Amman), dpr-barcelona (Barcelona), Editions Jojo (Mumbai), Errant Bodies Press (Berlin), Fanzeen Comics (Amman), Half Letter Press / Temporary Service (Chicago), Happy Potato Press (Berlin), Hangar Artistic Research (Lisbon), Idea Books (Amsterdam), Iwalewa Books (Lagos), Kaph Books (Beirut), Kayfa-Ta (Amman/Cairo), Khalid Komics (Amman), Kulte Editions (Rabat), Kyklada Press (Athens), MIT Press, Maamoul Press (Michigan), Misk Art Institute / Rizzoli: The Art Library (Riyadh), Mizna (Saint Pauls, Minnesota), Moleskin Foundation (Milan), Moniker Press (Vancouver), Mousse Publishing (Milan), Observatoire Atelier (Casablanca), Shortt Editions (Florida), SSAF (Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation) / Tulika Books (New Delhi), The Funambulist (Paris), Ugly Duckling Presse (New York), Well Gedacht Publishing (Berlin / Vienna) and Zaman books & Curating (Paris)
Focal Point Local Section
The Local Section spotlights books made by the UAE arts community—cultural institutions, galleries, publishers and nonprofit government cultural entities—together with printed matter, illustrations, zines, comics, photography, stationery and screen printing produced by independent artists.
This year’s local exhibitors are the following:
Art Jameel, Hobb, Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, Sharjah Architecture Triennial and The Africa Institute
Sharjah Art Foundation, Al Qasimi Publications, Barjeel Art Foundation, Carbon 12, Sharjah Department of Culture and Information, Emirates Fine Arts Society, Gulf Photo Plus, Kalimat Foundation, Kalimat Group, Lawrie Shabibi, Maraya Art Centre – 1971 Design Space, NYUAD Art Gallery, Sharjah Museums Authority, Tashkeel, The Third Line and Warehouse421
Abdulla AlNeyadi, Alia Al Hammadi, Ameena Alnuaimi, Amna Al Saleh, Bayan Samman, catsdraws, Dima Abou Zannad, Dima Bittard, Eezee Doodles, Eman AlRaeesi, Esraa R. Store, Fatma AlZarooni, Hari, Hessa Almarzooqi, Hessa Alzarooni, Hrag Kazanjian, Jehan Ali, Kamal - AnalogTheRoom, Khalid Mezaina, Lubna Aziz, Maha Moustafa, Maitha Al Omaira, Mariam Mohamed, Mohammed Alhussaini, Morvarid Daryayi, Nahla Tabbaa, Nasir Nasrallah, Nora Zeid, Qamise, Rasamett, Sana Haroon, Sara AlKhayyal, Shadah.ae, Shoug AlHelo, Thalath x Mouza Al Hamrani and Yesmin Choutri
Focal Point 2022 Programme
As part of the book fair, Focal Point offers a programme of new publication releases from artists, authors and winners of the SAF Publishing Grant. Learning activities for children and families as well as musical performances are also part of the fair.
The Flying Saucer (Arabic): Sci-fi enthusiasts, writers and artists are invited to gather for a discussion of the sci-fi genre in a casual setting. They will also explore the new book The Flying Saucer with its authors.
Corniche 4 (Arabic and English): In this meetup, sketch artists, both hobbyists and professionals, are invited to share, critique and discover each other’s work and build a network of peers in Sharjah. The discussion will be followed by the launch of the fourth edition of Corniche, an annual publication bringing together artists and illustrators specialising in comics from Sharjah and the wider region.
State of Cinema (Arabic): Translator and author Bakhita Al Ameri discusses her translation project State of Cinema, a compilation of manifestos from filmmakers and theorists.
Landwalks: Across Palestine and South Africa (English): Tomà Berlanda and Meghan Ho-Tong speak about their publication Landwalks: Across Palestine and South Africa, which explores embodied ways of knowing land and reclamation of collective landscape through artistic practices and research.
(Fine) Arts Dissertations Series (English): Bengaluru-based publishers Reliable Copy (Nihaal Faizel and Sarasija Subramanian) present facsimiles of artist books made by Pushpamala N. and Praneet Soi as part of their master’s study at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.
How to Not Build a Nation (English): The Forest Curriculum (Abhijan Toto) and Yonaz Kristy talk about an eight-part experimental and research-oriented zine publication from artists and collaborators across south and southeast Asia on how nation-states reproduce colonial and pre-colonial acts of violence.
Khalil Rabah: Falling Forward / Works (1995–2025) (English): Artist Khalil Rabah and editor Anthony Downey trace the process of making Rabah’s first major monograph, Falling Forward / Works (1995–2025), which offers a comprehensive selection of his 25-year practice and exhibition materials.
Learning Activities: Workshops, book hauls, artist meetups and book readings
Basics of Illustrating Workshop (Arabic and English): Young people between the ages of 11 and 16 will enjoy this workshop with graphic designer and children’s book illustrator Wafa Ibrahim, who will explain the fundamentals of illustrative art and share her projects and experiences.
Visual Diary Workshop (Arabic and English): Children aged 6 to 10 will create a personal planner on recycled paper, adding drawings and using bookbinding techniques.
Book Haul Meetup (Arabic and English): Guests are encouraged to bring their favourite Focal Point purchases and share them with fellow art book enthusiasts in an engaging session of feedback, discussion and discovery.
Aisha’s Pearl Book Reading (English): Storyteller and illustrator Maitha Al Khayyat will conduct a reading of the beautifully illustrated children’s book Aisha’s Pearl, written by Julia Johnson.
Majd’s Box Book Reading (Arabic): Children and young adults of all ages are welcome to join Omar Al Obedli for a reading of Majd’s Box, co-authored by Kifah Bu Ali and Toqa Al Hamrany.
Hosny & Friends: Sharing his Nubian heritage, Alexandria-born oud player Hosny jams live with his bandmates.
Sways N Edges: The trio explores funk and soul through popular covers and original jams.
Adiga: Formed in 2016, Dubai-based group Adiga brings traditional rustic sounds from Sudan to the present. Blending nostalgia with the current musical soundscape, the trio adds a modern experimental twist to the classic Sudanese tone.
Sharjah Art Foundation Publishing Grant
The Publishing Grant invites cultural producers in the following fields to submit project proposals: art and cultural scholars, translators, writers, editors, independent publishers and publishing houses, collectives and non-profit institutions. Projects should contribute to the production of original ideas and critical thinking and take an experimental and innovative approach to publishing.
The grant is committed to supporting printed matter that stands out for its intellectual, graphic and material qualities. While the final project must be presented in a printed format, an e-book version or digital reading component is encouraged.
Visiting Focal Point
Dates: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 25, 26 and 27 November 2022
Venue: Bait Obaid Al Shamsi, Arts Square
Timings: 4:00 pm–10:00 pm
Admission is free, but registration is required. Book your tickets at ticket.sharjahart.org.
About Sharjah Art Foundation
Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and the surrounding region, in dialogue with the international arts community. The Foundation advances an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art, preserves and celebrates the distinct culture of the region, and encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art. The Foundation’s core initiatives include the long-running Sharjah Biennial, featuring contemporary artists from around the world; the annual March Meeting, a convening of international arts professionals and artists; grants and residencies for artists, curators and cultural producers; ambitious and experimental commissions; and a range of travelling exhibitions and scholarly publications.
Sharjah is the third largest of the seven United Arab Emirates, and the only one bridging the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Reflecting the deep commitment to the arts, architectural preservation and cultural education embraced by its ruler, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Sharjah is home to more than 20 museums and has long been known as the cultural hub of the United Arab Emirates. It was named UNESCO's Arab Capital of Culture for 1998 and the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2019.
Alyazeyah Al Marri
Sharjah Art Foundation