Exhibition in Abu Dhabi ’From Cinderella to Sindbad’

Research Exhibition

Cinderella – a folk tale about oppression and triumphant reward – is very famous in Germany. The fact that thousands of variants of that story are told around the globe is less known:  the young heroine known as Cinderella, Aschenputtel or Hamda can be found in tales both in Germany and the Arab Peninsula. Similarities in narrative traditions are shown and the mutual influences are traced in the exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. 

This AGYA exhibition, which was previously on display in Berlin on the Museum Island, casts a spotlight on the complex processes of cultural exchange between the Arab world and Germany through storytelling, past and present. The scope of the exhibition ranges from ancient Egyptian papyri to the tales of the Brothers Grimm, from the Arab poet Al Mutanabbi to the German playwright and novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and from the Arabian Nights to contemporary pop-up books and comics. Approximately 100 objects, including facsimiles, archival material, books and games from the collections of the ‘Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’ and other lenders such as the Goethe-Institut Gulf Region and Kalima Translation Project provide fascinating insights into 4,000 years of cultural history. The exhibition explores aspects these stories and folktales have in common, addressing the shared themes of good and evil, heroism and satire.

A special section in the exhibition area is dedicated to children’s books by Emirati authors based on Emirati folktales and stories that have been passed down through the generations. AGYA Principal Investigator and curator of the exhibition, Prof. Dr. Verena Lepper, stated:

This exhibition is especially aimed at children, and to show that the roots of modern Emirati storytelling traditions are very old, going back to antiquity, and are part of an international network. Through the exhibition we can build cultural bridges between Germany and the Arab world.

The exhibition’s agenda includes a monthly interactive workshop titled ‘Hakawati’ (The Storyteller), during which children will listen to folktales about Sindbad, Cinderella, Sinuhe, and other characters. Children can also solve puzzles based on the challenges faced by the stories’ protagonists. The exhibition also involves the ‘Common Stories’ campaign, which will be running for the entirety of April and May, with the purpose of promoting reading among children and encouraging families to read and discuss books.

‘From Cinderella to Sindbad: German and Arab Timeless Tales’ runs from 4 April to 20 September 2021 at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, which is open Saturday-Thursday from 10 am to 7 pm, and Fridays from 2 pm. The exhibition will also be made available online through a virtual gallery here.

The project is a collaborative effort between the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, the German Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the Goethe-Institute, and Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. Further, the exhibition is a research collaboration between the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection Berlin (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) and the Arab-German Young Academy for Sciences and Humanities (AGYA).

Project Title
Exhibition in Abu Dhabi ’From Cinderella to Sindbad: German and Arab Timeless Tales’
Countries Involved
Germany, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon

Welcome Address by Prof. Dr. Verena Lepper

Listen to the digital welcome address by Prof. Dr. Verena Lepper as part of the exhibition opening and learn about stories as contact points between Arab and German culture.

Video Cover