Today is opening day for The Archive (@TheArchiveDubai) a new library and meet-up space in Dubai.
In a recent piece in The National, Egyptian novelist Nasser Iraq “Extols the Literary Potential of Dubai,” telling the newspaper that “there is a great opportunity for Gulf writers to showcase their work because there is an appetite from abroad to learn about this region.”
As Iraq noted, “There are not many novels coming out of here because they normally come from countries with a long and deep history in this art.” But new literary crucibles are popping up regularly: Today is the launch of “The Archive,” a library, cafe, and park. Sarah Malki, librarian and program manager, answered a few questions about the space.
ArabLit: Can you tell me about the background of this project? How did it get started? What’s its mission? Who is sponsoring it?
Sarah Malki: The Archive is a project that started as a vision by Ahmed and Rashid Bin Shabib of Brownbook Magazine, who are also sponsoring the project. As founders of Brownbook Magazine, and many other ventures (The Pavilion and Shelter), the mission behind all of their projects is to dispel the negative views of the Middle East and North African region by educating people on the positive aspects of this region whether it is through, art, culture and in the case of The Archive, specifically, it is through literature. As such, The Archive’s mission is to provide a platform to promote a diverse and active cultural community, nurture a new generation into literature and education while at the same time, create a space of exploration and entertainment.
AL: Who can enter the library/ read books there / take books out? How does it work?
SM: Anyone genuinely interested in engaging in the library’s activities and the books can enter the library and read the books of course. The books however, cannot be taken out of The Archive or borrowed. They will be able to read the books there. We also have a system where if someone would like to request a book they feel is missing in the collection, they can fill out a form and we will order it to add to the collection so long as it fits the Middle East and North African region.
AL: How were the initial books chosen for the library collection? What languages are they in? How many books are available? How will new books be acquired?
SM: The books were all hand-picked, a chunk of them were curated by Koenig books, we have books in English, Arabic, Farsi and Turkish as well as Arabic children’s books. Currently we have 500 books and are looking to build our collection to around 2,500 books over time. Around 100 books will be acquired per month through recommendations from our visitors as well as continuous research on both the old and new within the region. We also receive and accept donations.
AL: What sorts of events is the space encouraging / hoping to encourage?
SM: The Archive’s program is categorized into four different sub categories, Look, Read, Play and Create, all of which, except Play, interact very closely with the literature and the books within The Archive. Many of our events will be artist/architecture talks as well as book launches and book publishing programs that allow the community to directly interact with artists/architects/authors/etc and their books. The idea behind The Archive and the events is to allow people that take part in the workshops or talks to not only feel like they have listened and learned in one session, but to be able to re-engage and use what they have learned by coming back to The Archive and using the books on the topic of the workshop or talk as we will have the relevant books.
AL: What are you most excited about, in terms of what this brings to the community?
SM: We are most excited about bringing back education and literature to the community. We are really hoping to encourage people to take part in these sort of workshops and activities. We are also looking forward to bringing the community together, this is an opportunity for students and visitors alike to get a chance to meet artists etc and we would like to bring that to the community to encourage all types of art (design, architecture, art, photography etc) initiatives within the community, the country and wider region.