London, June 12 (IANS) India’s popular Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) has completed five years of its presence here in what was a bespoke programme for UK audiences, featuring dialogues and debates from across the South Asian region.
The London leg of the literary event “Zee JLF at The British Library” took place from June 8 to 10 and over 100 writers, scholars, thinkers and journalists participated in the extravaganza, highlighting the cultural and social diversity of South Asia and shedding new light on its current relationship with the UK.
The programmes were curated by co-directors and writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple.
“This June saw a memorable edition of Zee JLF at The British Library, covering an enormous range of themes and subjects. A weekend of blue skies and overflowing audiences, attentive and engaged as they listened to writers and thinkers from South Asia, UK, and around the world,” Gokhale told IANS.
The JLF is produced by Teamwork Arts, which presents over 25 highly acclaimed performing arts, visual arts and literary festivals in over 40 cities around the world.
“Zee JLF at The British Library brought together different viewpoints on issues ranging from magic and realism to art and history. Over 100 speakers were welcomed by enthusiastic audiences who contributed to discussions. (It was) a celebration of the written word which celebrated cultures from across the world,” Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts and producer of JLF told IANS.
The weekend saw debates on several contemporary political issues.
In the wake of Brexit, a panel of political experts discussed the changing role of the Commonwealth and the part that countries like India might play in the coming years.
“Cricket and Nationalism” examined how political tensions in South Asia have transformed the nature and personality of the game, while “Exile and Insurgency” considered how to provide the full picture of conflicts in the Middle East and Myanmar by getting close to insurgent groups and resistant fighters.
The programme’s literary discussions featured various poetry components ranging from the pre-modern Sufi genre to contemporary legends such as Jan Nisar, Kaifi and Tishani Doshi.
A session titled “Translations…An Equal Music” delved into how translation in literature impacts access to and understanding of individual and national narratives, while “The Fictional Leap” explored the literary reconstruction of the past and the leap of faith into historical fiction.
There were also discussions on the impact of the British Empire through sessions on Lady Edwina Mountbatten, based on the novel “The Last Vicereine” by Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang; “Railways and the Raj”, which explored the chequered role of the rail network in India; and “Indian Princes Versus the Raj”, which refuted the dim view often held of the Maharajas during Empire.
Questions of contemporary identity were tackled in sessions like “Islam and Modernity”, which looked at the Muslim divorce practice of triple talaq that has recently been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India, and “Culture and Continuity: Sites of Memory”, which examined how histories, material culture and social ethnography can be showcased through real and virtual spaces.
Speakers at this year’s edition included Bollywood power couple Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar; former Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid; John Zubrzycki, who has written “Empire of Enchantment”, which explores the untold history of Indian magic; Robin Jeffrey, author of “Waste of a Nation”, that examines garbage and growth in India;
Head of Google’s Cultural Institute Suhair Khan; railway historian Christian Wolmar; South Korean author Suki Kim; American investigative journalist Katherine Boo; retired English cricketer Mike Brearley; and award-winning British-Zambian poet Kayo Chingonyi, also participated in the three-day event.