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DLF 2019: Celebrating free thinking in Bangladesh

  • Published at 06:48 am November 7th, 2019
Guests at the Dhaka Literary Festival (DLF) inaugurate the progam on November 7, 2019 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid, Bangladesh-born British author Monica Ali and Bangla Academy Director General Habibullah Sirazi inaugurated the festival with the DLF directors

The ninth edition of the Dhaka Lit Fest has opened to great fanfare at the Bangla Academy on Thursday.

A culmination of tireless efforts to make Dhaka a global literary hub, the Dhaka Lit Fest in 2019, commenced with reaffirmed commitments to the nurture of literature and continuing to establish Bangladesh as a literary lodestone.

Chief guest State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid, special guest Bangladesh-born British author Monica Ali of “Brick Lane” fame, and Bangla Academy Director General Habibullah Sirazi inaugurated the festival with the directors Sadaf Saaz, Ahsan Akbar, and Kazi Anis Ahmed.

Dhaka Lit Fest inaugural ceremony | Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

The opening ceremony ushered in acclaimed dance troupe Shadhona, whose performance to the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore in smoke and shadow enthralled the audience for over half an hour.

Sadaf Saaz said: “We hope the Dhaka Lit Fest is a place where people here are of varying perspectives to respect tolerance, understanding, humility, and empathy.

“We hope it is place for reaffirmation, support core values of pluralism, secularism, democracy, freedom to express, and diversity. We want to draw upon the strength of our identities but not be constricted or judged or stereotyped by them. We want to draw from our heritage yet not let it stagnate us. We want our children to grow up too, in a world of books and wonder, where they can nurture their imagination and value knowledge.” 

She also said the Dhaka Lit Fest will also honour small languages, noting that the year 2019 is the year of small languages. Sadaf further stressed that this year’s Dhaka Lit Fest was dedicated to the upcoming birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Ahsan Akbar said: “Dhaka Lit Fest is where fiction meets science, science meets poetry, poetry meets art. At a time when populism and politics is on the rise across the globe, the importance of free discussions such as this cannot be over concise. Our festival is not about finding one answer but start appreciating our differences and celebrate our freedom.”

Audience at the Dhaka Lit Fest inaugural ceremony on Thursday, November 7, 2019 | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Kazi Anis Ahmed said: “We organize DLF to celebrate thinking. We believe that by coming together here, our exchanges can contribute to free thinking. We believe the DLF can help Bangladesh and its people to grow as examples of free thinking.

“We have always been able to freely discuss issues without any restrictions. Nobody has ever come to us and prevented us from discussing anything."

He also said: “We believe in passion, we believe in cultural diversities within our own cultural diversities. DLF 2019 will help strengthen free thinking in Bangladesh.

 “You may wonder why we are gathered physically here today in this digital era. Because power resides in crowds. Crowds are the only thing that can stand with power. We see right now from Lebanon to Hong Kong, and in many other places around the world. That kind of political protests are also happening in some campuses in our country. Maybe the ultimate expression of people’s power. Their power of coming together in interaction to integrate our beliefs of free thinking, free exchange, free expressions that we came together to reaffirm our values and celebrate in person."

State Minister Khalid said: “The Hay Festival introduced world literature to Bangladesh, and the Dhaka Lit Fest is taking Bangla Literature to the world. The Ministry of Cultural Affairs has decided to help the Dhaka Lit Fest become bigger and better in the future.

“However, many of our achievements are being overshadowed by the Rohingya crisis. We urge the global community to help resolve this issue as swiftly as possible.”

Author Monica Ali, who made her first visit to Bangladesh after leaving in 1971 as a three-year-old toddler, said she was grateful and honoured to be back.

“Bangladesh has always exerted a kind of invisible force on me. Sometimes I’ve turned away from it, and sometimes I’ve actively sought it out.”

Habibullah Siraji said: “Dhaka Lit Fest helps build connections among people, connections among generations.”

Dhaka Lit Fest will run from Thursday to Saturday, 10am to 7:30pm.

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