CIKU KIMERIA
AUTHOR FROM KENYA

This was my first time in Asia and I am now filled with a great desire to go back and see even more of this lovely continent. My three highlights from the festival.

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DREAMING A MOVEABLE FEAST
Neeman Sobhan - Commonwealth Writer

I haven’t woken up yet from the euphoric three days of the Dhaka Literary Festival (DLF). Before I sink back into my reveries, I must congratulate the directors of the festival, Sadaf Saaz, Ahsan Akbar and K. Anis Ahmed, for pulling off this event with such resounding success. This despite the security alerts after the recent attacks on local writers and publishers, and tensions in the city surrounding the execution of war criminals and the resulting, last minute cancellations by some guest writers. The rest, flocked to Dhaka fearlessly and gave the support and sparkle that makes any ‘Woodstock of the mind’ memorable.

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NO EXCUSES, NO APOLOGIES, NO REGRETS
Munize Manzur (Commonwealth Writer)

Ask a historian and this is the answer you’ll get. Ask a politician and it’s the same. NGO social worker? Yes. An educator? Oh yes. Ask any of them to name one commonality for Bangladeshis through the ages and they will say: ‘Resilience’.

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The DLF story
K. Anis Ahmed

Books are to be read, first and foremost. But for book lovers, discussing them is a big part of their enduring pleasure. And that is the original inspiration for the Dhaka Lit Fest. It began its journey in 2011 as Hay Festival Dhaka. In that inaugural year, it was held as a small, one-day trial event on the lawns of the British Council, all decked out with charming bamboo-thatch stalls.

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Dhaka Lit Fest – The Audience’s View 1
Ishraq Dhaly

In less than two weeks, Dhaka Lit Fest will take place in Bangla Academy. The pre-festival excitement made me want to write about Bangladesh, about how, historically, this land and her people have always been enlightened by liberal ideals, and how the Dhaka Lit Fest is an organic evolution of such liberal practices making its own space in our lives and our literature.

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Down With the Establishment

Art, true art, is beholden to no one. It is this power, or at least this potential, that makes it a target of censorship. Regimes that are determined to shape the narrative have always been determined to stifle creative voices. Hitler’s book burnings and Mao’s Cultural Revolution are indelible parts of their legacies. Less publicised, but just as efficient, were Truman and Eisenhower’s blacklists against left-leaning writers and artists in Hollywood. Regardless of the methods that were used, the goal has always been the same – to stifle the scope for criticism carried by artistic expression and freedom.

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Reading the news with a conscience
Niaz Alam

It says much about Jon Snow, the acclaimed British television journalist speaking at the Dhaka Lit Fest this month, that at the age of 68, he shows no signs of slowing down. Although the longest running presenter of Channel 4’s flagship ITN news program, he is far from drifting into a cosy retirement. His range of interests and involvement with numerous civil society organisations appear broader and more active than ever.

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A celebration of Words
Tarif Sharafi

Words. What do they mean to us? What are they really? Words are a means to make our thoughts and imaginations manifest. A means to preserve and disseminate our legacy. Words, especially in written form, are an attribute uniquely inherent in us humans. And as such, written words are the most potent expression of what it is to be human. It is our greatest invention, for this invention has helped us discover who we are, the world that surrounds us, how we view the world and each other, and share our views indiscriminately.

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Discovery De: “Polite” Society and Shobhaa
Shehtaz Huq

I first came across Shobhaa De back in March, when Homi Andjania’s short film/public service announcement about female empowerment in India, starring Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, started making the rounds on social media. Cue De’s NDTV article, “Dear Deepika, Great Hair and Exposed Bra Strap are Not Empowerment.”

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Harold Varmus and the politics of science and society
Niaz Alam

A paradox of modern life is that, while science and technology become ever more integral to people’s lives, scientists themselves often still lag behind in battles for public attention. In part, this is a by-product of the scientific method’s intrinsic desire for objectivity and evidence. The public, and scientists themselves, naturally expect science to be neutral and above the affray of mere politics.

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Pens of resistance
Ikhtisad Ahmed

George Orwell is one of the most referenced writers in socio-political conversations all over the world. His particular brand of polemic in fiction has made him a mainstay in the activist lexicon, quoted and paraphrased in the words that are disseminated by those seeking to speak truth to power. Bengal and Bangladesh have used literature to do precisely that since long before Orwell and his disciples populated the world.

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The Selling of Innocents: The Need for an Insider’s Lens
Shehtaz Huq

I watched Zana Briski’s 2004 Oscar-winning documentary Born into Brothels as part of a film and media studies course. During the post-viewing discussion, my classmates waxed lyrical on the resilience of the children, the despair that they endured daily, and how the power of photography could pave their way out of the brothels and into New York City.

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Being a writer in Bangladesh
Zubier Abdullah

In a recent interview acclaimed author Zia Haider Rahman, who visiting Dhaka for the literary festival last year, mentioned something about being a Bangladeshi writer that would hamper a few dreams. He said that if he had published his novel “In the Light of What we know” in Bangladesh, it wouldn’t have been the same book. Instead it would have been censored and edited till it was almost unrecognizable, nor would it have received the kind of acclaim that it has received so far.

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The ‘other’ side of the coin
S. N. Rasul

Meike Ziervogel’s session, “No One Too Small For History,” is only one of the many interesting sessions on the first day of the forthcoming Dhaka Lit Fest. She, herself, is many things. First and foremost, a novelist, she was also, once, a journalist for Agence France-Presse, and now runs a publishing house, Peirene Press, and has an established literary Salon in London.

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In defence of liberalism
Niaz Alam

Last month’s murder of Malleshappa Kalburgi, the 76-year-old academic who was shot dead in his home in Karnataka, after receiving death threats for criticisms of idol worship in Hinduism, sent shock waves around India. The distinguished Indian writer, Nayantara Sahgal who will be speaking at the Dhaka Lit Fest in November, has been prominent among the over 40 Indian novelists, poets and playwrights who returned their awards to India’s premier literary institution, the Sahitya Akademi (National Academy of Letters), in protest.

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Cultural pluralism in Bangladesh
Shuprova Tasneem

Bengali culture has always been synonymous with pluralism, and centuries of multi-layered influences have created a vast array of local traditions that are anything but homogenous. Our traditions are influenced by our livelihoods, by ethnicities and localities, by religious and spiritual beliefs and of course, by language. In turn, all of these different frontiers are influenced by each other, and are constantly evolving and reshaping themselves to form the wonderfully multifaceted culture of Bangladesh.

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Patterns in the dark
S. N. Rasul

As Sudeep Sen prepares to discuss his latest collection of poetry at this year’s Dhaka Lit Fest, there is much for fans and newcomers alike to look forward to in his sessions. Sen has been publishing poetry for over 30 years. Over the course of his long career, he has seen both commercial – not only in Bangladesh – but also critical acclaim all around the world, with his books translated into over 25 languages.

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Speaking the art
Syeda Samira Sadeque

It started off with four members awkwardly staring at each other and wondering how long the meeting would last. And it ended up turning into a journey – that continued for months, to climaxing into the very first show in just six months. That is how Ampersand, a spoken word group in Dhaka, began. In the space we built for four months, we have been brewing poetry, peace and protests through our spoken word art.

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