If there was a place where creative expression in a variety of forms found inclusivity, it was indeed at the A&K Lit Fest held recently at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. Hosted for the fourth consecutive year, this year’s festival created a platform for local creative talent in the true Annasi & Kadalagotu style.
The ‘warm up’ sessions were stages for the budding writers, with the launch of the book The School Detective Gang by young Abdul Azeez, and creative writing workshops running parallel for adults and children. However, the entire attention of those present was directed at the next session ‘Literature in Governance – the Politics of Writing’ with eminent politicians present not in their usual roles, but as those who have contributed to literature in their own accord. The discussion led by Malinda Seneviratne had Prof. Rajiva Wijesinhe, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and Imthiaz Bakeer Markar speaking about creativity and the effects of regulatory on it.
The diversity of creative expression continued throughout the day with Gihan De Chickera speaking about ‘The inherent Sri Lankan ability to see humour in everything’ and Anoja Rajapathirana presenting a heartwarming session on ‘Writing with Disabilities’. Two panels, which have owned a permanent space in the AK Lit Fest programme ‘The Story behind the Story’ and ‘The Virgin Authors’ hosted Sunela Jayawardene speaking of The Line of Lanka in the former, and debut writers Megan Dhakshini, Sarah Kabir, Nathalie Fernando and Chiranthie Rajapakshe in the latter discussing their inspirations, motivations and getting a book out for the first time.
The latest addition to the line-up was the short film screening showcasing 4 films by talented young film makers, focusing on current social issues, which generated much positive feedback from the audience since opportunities to watch such local films are very limited. Continuing with visual creativity, the most awaited session with the makers of Koombiyo generated a lively and in-depth discussion about the tele-drama industry in Sri Lanka and the expression of realistic social issues.
The late afternoon was dedicated to three distinct panels; ‘Women in Writing’, ‘Science Fiction’ and ‘Poetry Corner: from Bard to Verse’, the latter featuring modern Sinhala poets. Each gained a significant audience, reconfirming an objective of the AK Lit Fest from inception – celebrating the diversity of literature in Sri Lanka.
Following ‘Cornerstone Speeches’ – a panel, which was as diverse as it could be, demonstrating tips on comedy, publishing, writing and diplomacy, the closing session was a tribute to the venue of the AK Lit Fest, the Mount Lavinia Hotel. Mohan Raj Madawala, whose novel Lovina brought to life the legacy of the hotel presented the historical background to his book. The curtains drew down to the festival with an amazing performance by up and coming Sri Lankan folk rock band ‘Bambaroo’, who also had a song specially titled ‘Lovina’.
The only but distinct drawback of the festival was the limited representation of Tamil literature, which would perhaps be resolved next year, at the 5th Annasi & Kadalagotu Literary Festival. Despite this, the event stood up for what it promised to give all literary lovers, an affordable opportunity to be a part of what was ‘Simply Literature, Simply Local’.