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Linking Young Minds Together
    Volume 5 | Issue 45| November 27, 2011 |


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Thou Shall Speak Literature

Sumaiya Ahsan Bushra
Photos: Amirul Rajiv

Speakers conductions various sessions at the festival.

The notion to do something larger than life, something magnanimous, something that will be remembered by everyone who witnessed it-Hay Festival 2011 kicked off in the most sophisticated manner for the first time in Bangladesh at the British Council, Dhaka. The motive of the organisers of the event was to bring together writers and readers from Britain and Bangladesh to show respect and pay tribute to Rabindranath Tagore on his 150th anniversary. The theme was to share big ideas and big stories with some of the most famous writers from home and abroad and to celebrate the possibility of changing the ways people think, in a way wrestling with new ways to understand the workings of the dynamic world. This belief was voiced by Tahmima Anam and Sadaf Saaz Siddiqi, Lyndy Cooke and Peter Florence, producers of the Hay Festival.

The entire day was packed with programmes starting quite early in the morning. The inauguration ceremony welcomed the festival-goers, with an opening address by the Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University and the British Council Country Director Rosemary Arnott, Hay Festival Director Peter Florence, Editor of The Daily Star Mahfuz Anam, The British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Robert Gibson and Advisor to the Prime Minister Dr Gowher Rizvi.

Several programmes took place simultaneously both indoor and outdoor. The Pleasures and Trials of Translation was an attention-grabbing segment

with Selina Hossain, Jon Gower and Fakrul Alam on the spotlight.

The crowd enjoying the programme.

Supported by the Red Shift Open Mic was the Hay Festival Dhaka Competition, which opened up doors to budding young writers. The works of several university going students were selected prior to the programme and this section provided them a platform to express their inner talent through the mode of poetry and flash fiction.

Unique in nature was the session on Man, Woman, Life, Love: Stories from Africa and the Caribbean, where Jan Blake, one of UK's leading story tellers shared stories and folklores of West Africa. She spoke about the power of Jamaican Creole and how it is misinterpreted amongst a lot of people, who do not understand the essence of the language. She rounded up by sharing a fascinating story about Yemaya, the goddess of sea. Her eloquent story telling techniques, with bits of singing not only amazed the crowd but also left them (audience) humming to the beats of the African voice.

Outdoor sessions on the lawn were particularly more exciting.

Diamonds in the Rough, with Tiffany Murray and Shazia Omar, chaired by Anis Ahmed was a session much enjoyed by the younger crowd. Murray's book Diamond Star and Halo had intrigued a number of young audience as the author spoke about her literary inspiration being the protagonist of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff. She explained how the hero in her novel and Wuthering Heights were similar but the primary difference between the two heroes was that her hero was a rockstar. Murray also spoke about her musical inspiration and her love for music which led her to write the so-called 'bad' lyrics in her novel. Shazia Omar drew on similar points, focusing on music being a key factor in her novel as well. She aims to show the mystical connection between heroine drugs and music, both of which are religiously practised by her main character.

In a question and answer session of the same segment, a number of questions were posed to the authors of the novels. Question on tips for being a good writer was answered by both the authors. Murray explained that it is important to follow and imitate other writers but it is not always essential to echo their thoughts. Omar on the other hand, said that it is essential for writers to believe in themselves.

Overall, the event was well organised. Even though, it took place on a weekday, the turnout was exceptional. However, a number of private university students, who currently study literature or are in some way related to this field of study could not make it due to the timing problem as most of them had classes and examinations. For those who have missed it, it was an experience to be cherished and hopefully, the organisers will not forget to include them next time.

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