Hay festival ends

Staff Correspondent

Three-day international literary gathering Hay Festival ended in Dhaka on Saturday with launching of several volumes and 30 panel discussions on literary discourses inviting a large gathering of literature enthusiasts and children as well.
The last day festival began with spiritual songs and ended through a traditional Kabir Larai (contest of poets).
Tortured Truths, volume of columns by Rahnuma Ahmed, was launched in the morning. It is the first volume of a five-part series ‘Exercising Freedom.’
Rahnuma said that her columns were based on everyday experiences around the society and how control was imposed on individual’s freedom from family to state level. She recalled her column on thwarting of forced marriage of a Bangladeshi-origin British girl.
She said freedom was neither an abstraction nor a commodity nor something deliverable by occupying forces. One must exercise freedom instead of merely having aspirations for freedom.
The book divided into two parts — Writing Under a State of Emergency and Elections and After — features 50 columns and public lectures. The writer proposed re-thinking the expression ‘military-installed caretaker government’ in describing the state of emergency rule of Fakhruddin-Moeenuddin and preferred the expression ‘consortium government’ to portray it as it was constituted by a combination of national and international forces — the military leadership, civil society by design, and Western diplomats.
Lubna Marium and Shireen Huq also spoke at the launching of Tortured Truths.
The Six Season Review, a journal of English literature, was also launched on the day alongside the English novel by Syed Waliullah, The Ugly Asian. Its Bengali translation ‘Kadarya Asiya’ was published earlier.
The concluding day marked four panel discussions on children and presence of school-students in their uniforms added vigour to the festivity. Writer Muhammad Zafar Iqbal had a talk with children on how to write stories and Nuhash Humayun also discussed with children on comic characters.
Film directors Catherine Masud and Nasiruddin Yousuff shared their experiences in developing screenplays of their movies and the adversities they faced in the making of films in the session Celluloid Blues moderated by Lotte Hoek.
Nasiruddin said that he had blended his wartime experience with Nishiddha Loban of Syed Shamsul Huq in making screenplay of his film Guerrilla.
Catherine said that she and Tareq Masud had to work hard in translating childhood experiences of Tareq in film Matir Mayna.
Nasiruddin said that he had faced adversaries from censor board but reality was in a society like Bangladesh censorship always remained in the psyche of every director.
Expression of sexuality in literature became topic in the Commonwealth Writers Conversation on ‘the untold story’ where women writers shared their experience in dealing with issues which were considered as a taboo in local society.
They were of the opinion that there should be some public space for women to speak out their untold stories and women should open up more.
Firdous Azim said that such issue was discussed by Taslima Nasreen and her writings resonated amongst women across the country but after she became so controversial, very few came forward to speak on the issue.
She said that she even remained cautious while teaching literature in classrooms so that her remarks did not hurt the sentiment of the students who visibly seemed to be religious and their numbers were increasing.
Faustina Pereira said that there were significant developments over the issue over the years as now there were code of conduct on sexual harassment and awareness campaigns were on by various organisations.
Shuchi Karim said that on expression of sexuality, urban middle class people were so guarded in literature and other forms of art but the expression of people from rural areas were comparatively explicit.
Delwar Hossain, Lotte Hoek and Safia Azim pointed to the changes in Bangladeshi societies in flux. Lotte discussed on insertion of cut-piece of porn clippings while exhibiting mainstream movies in theatres and Safia pointed to rapid changing messages in rickshaw and truck paintings.

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