Literary festivals have blossomed in Pakistan which is unusual for a country with a low literacy rate; in Pakistan arts and culture have always remained under threat and reading habits have been declining.
The past few years have seen literary festivals increasing across the country. The three-day Adab Festival has started in Karachi to celebrate writers and authors. According to the event’s organisers, Pakistan’s historically rich and diverse literature and cultures have long been facing challenges, resulting in stifled diversity of expression and stereotypes.
The event celebrates literature in diverse Pakistani languages, book launches, feature talks, interviews, discussions, mushairah sessions, music, dance, theatre, comedy, satire, film, and a book fair. These festivals are overwhelmingly popular and drive large crowds only comparable to food festivals and cricket matches.
The Adaab festival will be followed by the Karachi Literature Festival next month. The event is regarded as the pioneer which set off this trend. It hosted its tenth edition last year despite the increasing economic uncertainty and an ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan. Next up is the Sindh Literature Festival followed by the Hyderabad Literary Festival. Soon there might be literary festivals in colleges, universities, and local communities.
Previously, there were occasional book fairs but there was no celebration of arts and literature. These events are open to the public which adds as a source of outing to entertainment-deprived public. They are multi-lingual and also include an opportunity to buy books by interacting with a large number of authors, writers, and other literary personalities.
For some, literature festivals provide an opportunity to hear an alternate discourse amid concerns over stifling freedom of speech and expression. They have a symbol of resistance for those who claim their voice is being suppressed as their views are expressed and arguments are made in a conducive environment.
These festivals should be appreciated at it develops the love for the language and literature and also instills reading habits. This is the sign of a healthy society that celebrates and promotes arts and culture and where alternate opinion is debated in public spaces.