"I am very happy to be here to inaugurate this festival,” said Sir Vidia, making the first visit of a Literature Nobel laureate to Bangladesh.
The presence of a writer of Sir Vidia’s stature, headlining a star-studded cast of intellectual and literary heavyweights, underlined the growing prestige and importance of this annual literary gathering.
This year, more than ever before, the festival showcases the best of Bangladeshi literature and culture alongside an impressive collection of the best writing talents from all over the world.
“Dhaka Lit Fest has emerged as a unique learning opportunity for people around the world," Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor said at the opening ceremony on Thursday. "I hope the festival will help create a secular and liberal society as well as generate opportunities to learn about world culture.”
Finance Minister AMA Muhith, the chief guest of the opening ceremony, said the DLF has "expanded our horizon in the world of literature”.
[caption id="attachment_34083" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
Sir Vidia graced the sixth installment of the annual literary congregation in spite of his ailing health Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune
Director General of Bangla Academy Shamsuzzaman Khan, festival directors Sadaf Saaz, Ahsan Akbar and Kazi Anis Ahmed also delivered eloquent speeches at the inaugural ceremony.
“Dhaka Lit Fest is a place to dream, to inspire, to nurture an open mind, and to discuss difficult subjects that affect us deeply with respect and openness," Sadaf Saaz said. "It is a place to give us the space and scope to think in a world where the spaces are shrinking.”
Also read- Dhaka Lit Fest kicks off Thursday
Kazi Anis Ahmed discussed the festival highlights and the evolution of the festival over the years. He focused especially on the role of translation and how the goal of the festival was to bring Bangladeshi and foreign writers together so that they could learn from and inspire one another.
“Language is no longer a barrier but a bridge,” he said, adding that unique and original novels about the 1971 Liberation War are being published in English.
Ahsan Akbar emphasised the importance of foreign friends partaking in this celebration.
“We want to connect Bangladesh with the rest of the world, and bring the world here. This festival belongs to the people who live in Dhaka, who love Dhaka. This festival is all about love and light.”
Also see- Dhaka Lit Fest in pictures
The 2016 festival will feature American-Indian poet Vijay Seshadri, who won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; 2016 Man Booker International Prize winner Deborah Smith; and 2014 European Union Prize for Literature winner, Evie Wyld.
It will also honour the recently departed Syed Shamsul Haq, one of the giants of modern Bangladeshi literature.
[caption id="attachment_34084" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
A motley crew of volunteers march on to their designated spots in the festival to extend all possible assistance to visitors Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune
The event is hosting around 200 talents of diverse origins, with over 60 prominent personalities representing 18 different countries taking part in the three-day extravaganza.
The weekend promises cultural and children's programmes, poetry sessions, film screenings, performances and a vast number of panels featuring celebrated personalities.
Traditional Bangladeshi musical programmes showcasing Pala Gaan and Jaari Gaan were some of the highlights visitors enjoyed the most on the opening day.
The inauguration ceremony began with Rabindra Sangeet presented by Shurer Dhara directed by Rezwana Chowdhury Bannya. A dance performance accompanied the songs presented both in Bangla and Sanskrit.