The Kerala Literature Festival (KLF) went online on Friday.
The festival, which grew in stature and popularity since its first edition in 2016, would continue through the rest of the year on YouTube and elsewhere on social media. The sixth edition was scheduled to be held in January this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the organisers to cancel it.
For the book-lovers of Kozhikode and the Malabar region, the decision had come as a disappointment. The KLF has been very much the annual cultural highlight of Malabar and thousands would come to the Kozhikode beach for four days to listen to some of the brightest minds in India and overseas speaking on a wide variety of subjects.
“We thought we could do a festival online,” said A.K. Abdul Hakeem, general convenor, KLF. “We have planned a series of events, including talks and discussions by eminent personalities from literature and other fields, which will be streamed every first and second Saturday from June. Among the confirmed speakers are historian Romila Thapar and novelist Arundhati Roy.”
The inaugural day, though, belonged to poetry. About 50 poets, from nine countries, recited their poems. Among them were Asmaa Azaizeh and Amir Or, respectively from Palestine and Israel, two countries very much in the news these days. A poet from Lakshadweep was also there. Ismath Hussain’s poem dealt with the concerns of people living in the islands.
The impressive line-up of poets included Balachandran Chullikad, K.G. Sankara Pillai, Prabha Varma, Rafeeq Ahamed, Salma, Kutty Revathy, Mamta Sagar, Taslima Nasreen, Menka Shivdasani, Savita Singh, Murukan Kattakada, Les Wicks (Australia), Francis Combes (France), Amanda Bell (Ireland) and Zingonia Zingone (Italy).
The online festival was inaugurated by Culture Minister Saji Cherian. The organisers are hopeful of bringing the festival back to the Kozhikode beach next year.