‘Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body’ is a ubiquous citation but only a selected few do put this lip service into action.
The Karachi literature Festival 2013 is such atypical occurrence which would not only be a delight to voracious reads; but would appease the budding readers too.
Launched in 2010, the annual Karachi Literature Festival is open to all and free. The first of its kind in Pakistan, it brings together and celebrates Pakistani and international authors writing in diverse languages. It features creative writing workshops, debates, discussions, lectures, mushairah, a book fair, book launches, readings, signings, and more. In 2013 the Festival moves to a new, more accessible venue in the heart of Karachi where, for the first time, a Children’s Literature Festival will be held in parallel under the Karachi Literature Festival umbrella.
Directed by Ameena Saiyid, co-founded by Ameena Saiyid and Asif Farrukhi, and produced by Oxford University Press, the festival has grown rapidly. Attendance rose from roughly 5,000 in 2010 to 10,000 in 2011, to 15,000 in 2012.
In 2013 twelve countries and nine languages will be represented: Nepal, India, Palestine, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Canada, US, UK and Pakistan. The languages in which the authors write include Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Russian, French, English, Italian, Swedish and German.
The Karachi Literature Festival Prize goes to the best non-fiction book in English by a Pakistani / Pakistani-origin author published in the preceding year. Zubeida Mustafa, Ghazi Salahuddin and Dr. Jaffer Ahmad juried this award in 2011, which came with a cash prize of Rs. 100,000. In 2013 this award has a new name, (Karachi Literature Festival – Coca Cola prize), and comes with an increased sum of Rs. 150,000.
The Festival also celebrates music, dance, film, puppetry, theater and other related arts. 2010 featured “Song of Mohenjodaro” (dance drama) and “Insha ka Intezaar,” an Urdu play based on Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” by Tehrik-e-Niswan. 2011 began with a homage to Khusro by Sheema Kermani’s group, featured Ajoka’s performances of sections of Shahid Nadeem’s Bulha (Punjabi play) and Dara (Urdu play), and culminated with a tribute to Faiz for his birth centennial, with literary and music favourites like Zehra Nigah, Tina Sani, Laal (band), Raza Rumi and Ali Sethi. In 2012 members of Arcola Theatre and Punchdrunk Enrichment (UK) celebrated Dickens’ birth bicentennial with a theatrical session inspired by his work, “The Uncommercial Traveller.” Manto’s birth centennial was celebrated with a talk by his niece and renowned historian, Ayesha Jalal, a talk that “was a first of its kind and a prelude to her forthcoming book” on Manto (Raza Rumi). 2012 featured puppet and muppet shows by Rafi Peer (all day, every day), films, a satire session with Ali Saeed and Saad Haroon, and dance and music by Nritaal and Junoon.
In 2013 this celebration of arts related to literature — dance, film, theatre, puppetry, photography, spoken word poetry, the Art of Book Making for children (by Varda Nisar) — continues with even greater gusto.
We can hope this epochal event leaves strides in the literary arenas. May it urge youngsters to take up pens as the powerful most weapons.
Let us read, dialogue and share ideas not to boast, but to eradicate evils of our society.