JLF Doha, the country’s first international literature festival, drew to a close yesterday at Qatar National Library with the participation of more than 25 internationally celebrated writers.
The three-day celebration attracted hundreds of literature fans from across the globe.
JLF Doha closed with a session with Shobhaa De, novelist, columnist, screenwriter and political commentator whose debut novel Starry Nights was a runaway bestseller; and Sanjoy K Roy, managing director of Teamwork Arts, the producer of the iconic Jaipur Literature Festival in India.
De said: “This is such an exciting destination. Sharing words, thoughts, ideas in a spectacular setting, with well-structured sessions, provides a much-needed platform to authors and readers to interact in a meaningful way. It is the most enriching experience. Thank you, people of Qatar, for this marvellous opportunity.”
Qatar’s writers and academics came out in full force to join the conversation and give it local relevance, including Dr Amal Mohamed al-Malki, founding dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Hamad Bin Khalifa University; award-winning Qatari writer and poet Kaltam Jabor M al-Kuwari; Dr James Onley, director of Historical Research and Partnerships at Qatar National Library and author of ‘The Arabian Frontier of the British Raj’; and Sam Meekings, poet, novelist and assistant professor of Creative Writing at Northwestern University in Qatar.
In an informative session on the last day of the festival, HE Dr Hamad bin Abdul Aziz al-Kuwari, Minister of State, highlighted the significance of JLF Doha to the cultural diversity of Qatar and said: “The launch of this global festival is, in a sense, a natural extension of the traditions of communication in Qatari society. On this front, our traditional ‘majlis’ has been highly instrumental in furthering the roles of communication and social and cultural dialogue, and the establishment of this unique festival in the region is a positive interaction with our cultural environment that embraces and surrounds it.”
JLF Doha brought together Qatar’s literary community, literature enthusiasts and aspiring writers closer to their favourite authors and artists, while an expansive outdoor area created a festive ambience, the library said in a statement.
Attendees were treated to poetry readings, discussions and musical performances celebrating South Asian literature and culture, while creative masters such as Musharraf Ali Farooqi and Kim Pereira presented storytelling and theatre workshops. Alex Shaw, William Dalrymple, Pranay Lal, Prayaag Akbar and Tony Joseph were among the list of authors who participated in the festival.
In keeping with the theme of JLF Doha, ‘Each Other’s Stories’, many of the author sessions touched on themes of personal significance. In ‘Asma’s Indian Kitchen’, celebrity chef Asma Khan revealed the secrets of her success, telling her immigrant’s story and how food brought her home. Buket Uzuner, in conversation with academic Firat Oruc, explored the changing face of Istanbul, the city she calls home.
Among the hundreds of participants, many saw JLF Doha as a stage for Qatar-based writers to showcase their literary achievements.
Farhan Osman, who attended, said: “I came to the library on all three days of the festival, listened to thought-provoking lectures and had the chance to meet my favourite authors. I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend than one filled with literary conversations.”
Another attendee, Mohamed Rahman, added: “It is great that finally a literature festival came to Doha. It was much needed and thanks to the library for making it possible. I truly enjoyed the talks, workshops and meeting new people.”
Hosted by the library in partnership with Teamwork Arts, JLF Doha was sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ooredoo, and formed part of the library’s celebration of the Qatar-India 2019 Year of Culture.
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