Paris-based Syrian poet Adonis on Thursday opened the seventh edition of Dhaka Literary Festival (DLF) amid much festivity and a dreary drizzle that failed to diminish in anyway the enthusiasm of the participants who have come from different countries.
Since 2012, the country’s biggest literary extravaganza is being organised every year on the historical grounds of Bangla Academy, with a view to promoting Bangladeshi literature and cultural heritage in the global arena and creating a bridge between native and international literati.
The event was inaugurated at 11:30am on Thursday at an overcrowded Abdul Karim Sahitya Bisharad Auditorium. The English iteration of the Bangla graphic novel on Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, titled “Mujib,” was also unveiled there.
At the ceremony, DLF Director Sadaf Saaz said: “We are very happy arranging the seventh edition of the programme successively. More than 200 local and international luminaries have gathered at the event to participate and exchange ideas in over 90 sessions.”
Apart from Adonis and Saaz, DLF Directors Kazi Anis Ahmed, Ahsan Akbar, Radwan Mujib Siddiq Bobby, one of the grandsons of Bangabandhu, and Bangla Academy Director General Shamsuzzaman Khan were also present at the inauguration.
Ahsan Akbar in his short speech welcomed the audience in joining the festival braving the rain and said the theme of this year’s event was – “Saying no to barrier.”
Addressing the inauguration ceremony, Kazi Anis said: “Our aim is to patronise the arts and literature. Bangla is the seventh most spoken language in the world and the country has its own culture. However, not many are aware of the culture of our country, and we also do not take enough from the culture of other countries.
“Keeping this in mind, we have arranged this year’s festival in a way so that our esteemed international guests can learn something from us and we can learn something from them. It is an international festival, but truly one of the few genuinely bilingual international festival.”
Earlier, the festivities began with a beating of drums and the rhythmic tapping of dancing feet as the Manipuri Theatre’s “Pung Cholom” set the hearts of early birds racing and made short work of any early morning lethargy.
The dull weather could not avert the book and literature aficionados from thronging the venue and participating in different sessions. A number of students and children were seen gathering in the bookstalls and buying books of their favourite writers.
Tasmiah Ahmed, a ninth grader from Scholastica school, told the Dhaka Tribune: “I am very happy finding my favourite writers in this festival. I have bought Nausheen Eusuf’s poetry book ‘Not Elegy, But Eros’ from a stall here.”
Graphic novel ‘Mujib’ unveiled
Poet Adonis at the inaugural session on Thursday also unveiled the first part of the English iteration of graphic novel “Mujib,” based on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s biography “The Unfinished Memoirs.”
The graphic novel series follows the journey of an ordinary young boy who grows up to lead his country from childhood to the political awakenings, reads the novel’s back cover.
Syrian poet Adonis, third from right, unveiled the English iteration of the first part of graphic novel 'Mujib' at the inauguration ceremony | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune
After the successful publications of three of the 12-part graphic novel series in Bangla, the translated version of the first part has now been published for global readers, allowing them to learn more about Bangabandhu, the architect of Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971.
The DLF directors at the session also declared that the DLF inauguration programme every year from now on would include unveiling of a new book.
With the aim to present the inspiring life story of Bangabandhu before future generations, non-profit organisation Centre for Research and Information (CRI) published the graphic novel’s Bangla version. Bangabandhu’s grandson Radwan Mujib Siddiq Bobby is the head of strategy and programmes at the CRI.
Dhaka Translation Centre has published the English version of “Mujib” and it is available at the festival.
After the inaugural ceremony, a plenary discussion titled “Mujib: Taking History to the Next Generation” on the graphic novel was also held at the Abdul Karim Sahitya Bisharad Auditorium.
During the session, Bobby said: “The objective of publishing the graphic novel series is to attract the country’s young and future generations in learning more about the memoirs of Bangabandhu.”
The novel’s cartoonist Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy, Online Editor of prestigious British literary magazine Granta Luke Neim and University of Liberal Arts teacher Arzoo Ismail also participated in the discussion and discussed diverse aspects of “Mujib” with the session’s moderator journalist Jerry Pinto.
Before this session, Bangladesh’s leading poet in English Kaiser Haq had held another plenary with Adonis at the same venue, where the greatest living Arabic poet shared his views on poetry, philosophy, fundamentalism and his own works.
The opening day also saw 24 other sessions at different venues and spots on Bangla Academy premises. They were participated and attended by the literary intelligentsia and literature aficionados from both Bangladesh and across the world.