The three days of interesting, thought-provoking discussions, author meets, talks, readings, book launches, mushairas and musical performances at the Arts Council in the form of the second Adab Festival Pakistan concluded on Sunday evening with a promise of more literary programmes for the whole year.
In her keynote address at the concluding ceremony, Palestinian author Adania Shibli spoke about ‘silence’. She talked about herself standing in a post office in the late 2000s quietly taking in her surroundings and goings on. Most people standing in line with her at the post office were Palestinians. Only the people at the desks were Israeli.
“Standing there in line, I silently rehearsed in my mind how to speak when it is my turn to ask for my package,” she said, adding that she was going to speak in English.
She said that she also watched a little girl on her side look at her in fear, which made her sad. She also saw a man wanting to empty his account but there was not enough money in the teller machine.
“But he doesn’t understand that as he is told about it in Hebrew, which he doesn’t understand. I knew Hebrew but I didn’t help him as that would have me speak to him in Arabic, which would make me Palestinian, which in turn may jeopardise the services I expected to receive at the post office. So I took cover behind my silence,” she said.
Three-day Adab Festival concludes
“Silence is a phenomenon for every Palestinian in Palestine because once a Palestinian speaks in Arabic, they fear being discriminated against or even being attacked,” she added.
Author and dramatist Noorul Huda Shah said that Karachi was murdered but it was brought back to life the credit of which goes to Ameena Saiyid and Dr Asif Farrukhi, the founders of literary festivals here.
“We see so much life in political gatherings but that is something quite different. Real life can be witnessed at such gatherings where no one lies to you, where no one shows you green pastures or gives you false hopes and dreams,” she said.
Earlier, Ameena Saiyid, founder and director of the Adab Festival, thanked her partners, especially the Arts Council of Pakistan, while speaking about the importance of literary festivals.
“The Adab Fesival is a Silk Route of ideas and thoughts being carried out to the world. The movement of literary festivals that we started years ago has now spread all over the country and even at universities. So the baton has been passed on also to our youth,” she said.
Dr Asif Farrukhi, co-founder of the festival, also said it felt great to be listening, thinking and dreaming about books over the weekend and it was kind of a sad feeling for him to be saying goodbye to it now. “So it should not be just an annual affair. We want to bring up more opportunities for the people to interact with books and the book culture through the holding of more such programmes for the entire year,” he said.
Ahmed Shah, President of the Arts Council, said that he was glad to see Karachi lifting its defiant head from the rubble of the terrorist attacks of the past thanks to people such as Ameena Saiyid and Asif Farrukhi who held literary festivals even through the bad security situation in the city. “The Arts Council is a public space and it is good to see people come here and take back the ownership of their city,” he said.
Commissioner of Karachi Iftikhar Ali Shallwani also applauded the resilience of both the founders of the festival. “Earlier, people used to speak about events taking place in Lahore but now they talk about Karachi and its lively festivals. The light has returned to the ‘City of Lights’. Light also means hope and we hope for the best for Karachi, our mini-Pakistan,” he said.
Shayma Saiyid read out a passage about dancers from Zadie Smith’s Martha and Hanwell. Stefan Winkler, director of Goethe-Institut and Khalid Mahmood of Getz Pharma also spoke.
The evening came to an end with brilliant dance performances led by Mani Chao and a standup comedy session by Shafaat Ali.
Originaly published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2020