The 2013 South Asian Literature Festival in London brings yet another exciting programme, this year coloured with rich diversity in art forms
The history, journey, and the rising future of a region can be explored through many different forms, but none more poignant than through its literature. It is with this aim of celebrating the language, culture and literary heritage of the Indian subcontinent that the South Asian Literature Festival returns to London. Now in its fourth year, this Festival has already hosted more than 150 events and provided a platform for over 200 writers, speakers and performers across multiple venues in the UK. Running from 23rd October to 1st November, this fortnight of events and discussions will focus on the major themes of Indo-Caribbean literature, the ‘Other’ in Asian Britain, Partition writings and Mythology.
The Festival opens today with the event mapping the photographic history of Asian Britain. Examining the journey of Asian migrants to the UK from the subcontinent, the Caribbean and East Africa, this event draws on film, music, business and the suffragist movement to present a poignant historical account. Present at the event will be British Asian personalities from the arts, business, politics and sport including the first female Asian law student at Oxford, the first Indian RAF pilots, and the first Asian MP. South Asians have had a presence in Britain for centuries and this event will explore the mutual exchange of cultures that has taken place throughout this time.
For the first time this year, the Festival will also explore the influence of South Asia on Caribbean literature, seen most prominently in the work of V.S. Naipaul. American Author Gaiutra Bahadur will launch her new book Coolie Woman, which was the name given by the British to the million labourers they had recruited to work on sugar plantations. From the other side of the globe, Bengali literature is also represented at this Festival. Notably acclaimed authors Kunal Basu and Kaiser Haq will debate how the ‘Bangla Sahityo’ has influenced the South Asian literary canon, followed by a musical performance by Indo-Jazz artist Arun Ghosh.
The Festival will also feature a number of book launches, including the launch of Jaspreet Singh’s new book Helium, which examines the after effects of Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the riots that followed. Other book launches include Rosie Thomas’ Bombay Before Hollywood and Noorul Hasan’s The Poetry of Meena Kumari.
As well as literature, the Festival also diverges into different art forms and their ability to tell a story. The Symposium ‘From Floor to Ceiling’ examines the depth behind ‘folk’ and ‘tribal’ arts which take place within the domestic space of floors and ceilings. These floor and wall drawings are temporary and therefore difficult to study and document. In addition the creators hardly see themselves as artists, but the event will take this marginalised art form and explore the ways in which it is used to share stories of folklore, myths and epics through many generations. In this way it plays an important part in preserving a heritage not just of visual art, but of storytelling too.
Journalism is also covered; Reporting Across Borders discusses the preconceptions that writers and journalists have to work against by using the Partition of India, which led to the creation of Pakistan, as a subject. This arrangement is still the cause of much tension in the subcontinent and this is discussed by The New York Times correspondent Declan Walsh and Executive President of The Times Group in India, Rahul Kansal.
Festival Directors Bhavit Mehta and Jon Slack commented, “This is our fourth year and we’ve explored deeper and wider to find the stories and debates that are defining the region. These can range from the thriving metropolises in prize-winning fiction to the media’s role in reporting on tensions across borders, not to mention the continued musings on Asians in today’s Britain. What we have is a programme that draws on viewpoints from a wide-range of writings and includes important critical voices which we hope offers something for everyone.”
This is merely a preview of the events that will take place at the end of October as part of the Festival. Many more events are due to be confirmed but the programme so far has already demonstrated that the unique factor is its brazen expansion and representation of the storytelling ability of other art forms. The Festival strives to represent photography, paintings and music as well as literature in its attempt to truly characterise even the marginal and undocumented stories from the region. In this manner the South Asian Literature Festival effectively proves that it is not just words that have the ability to tell a story.
The South Asian Literature Festival will run from 23rd October to 1st November 2013. Tickets for events are now available through www.southasianlitfest.com and a full program of events will be available on the website shortly.
Image from: South Asian Literature Festival
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