Bhutan’s Capital City to host a literary festival, focussing on climate change, women’s voices, and travel writing at the upcoming Mountain Echoes literary festival, in Bhutan’s capital city Thimpu between August 26 and 28.
An initiative of the India Bhutan Foundation, the seventh edition of the festival promises to be an indulgence in not just literature but also art, culture and music.
To discuss and debate the key issues facing Bhutan today, education, climate change, rural-urban migration, and to consider our history through the medium of literature, art and culture is a wonderful prospect. The festival has been a great catalyst for the appreciation of literature in Bhutan, says Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, Queen Mother of Bhutan.
The three-day-long literary celebration, in association with Siyahi, a literary organisation, and the Jaypee Group, is a confluence of art, music, literature and new media of both countries. It is set to open with a discussion on the global issue of climate change that has taken the world by storm in the past decade.
Popular novelist Amitav Ghosh, whose latest non-fiction The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable deals with the issue of global warming, is to talk about the issue. A few sessions dedicated to the cause of women’s empowerment is also in the line-up.
Novelists Anjum Hasan and Ira Trivedi along with writer Namita Gokhale, who is also one of the directors of the festival, will discuss an anthology Walking Towards Ourselves: Indian Women Tell Their Stories, and looking at what it means to be a woman in India at a time of intense change.
In ‘I for Identity,’ Turkish writer Ciler Ilhan and her Indian counterparts Anjum Hasan, Mridula Koshy and Sonam Wangmo Jhalani will debate the maxim ‘write what you know,’ discussing how they have drawn upon personal experience in their writing, organisers said.
Critically acclaimed actor Tabu will be in conversation with Bhutanese actor and model Kelly Dorji, where she will talk about asserting her position in the “cut-throat Bollywood industry in light of her recent films ‘Fitoor’ and ‘Haider’.”
This year, the festival also announces the inaugural edition of ‘Bonfire Tales’: A cultural journey that travels via motorcycle to the Phobjikha valley in the impressive Black Mountains of Bhutan and then onto the warm climes of Punakha.
Gokhale, Festival Director Mountain Echoes, says,
We are all looking forward with eager anticipation to the seventh edition of this exquisite festival. High altitude thinking in the unique cultural climate and rarefied environment of the ancient kingdom of Bhutan, which is also the world’s youngest democracy.
With the idyllic Bhutan as the backdrop, British-born novelist Pico Iyer will deliberate on travel writing. In a session titled ‘The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere,’ the Indian origin writer will “make a case for going nowhere, suggesting that it is the best way to make sense of one’s experiences,” organisers said. For the more adventurous audience will be slated a talk, where Dhamey Tenzing Norgay, son of the Sherpa that first summited Mt Everest and other adventurers like Odd Harald Hauge and Ravi Singh will share their fears and thrills of mountain climbing.
In another session ‘Trekking Trails Of Bhutan’, Karma Lotay, Garab Dorji and Nyema Zam will share their adventures on the less-trodden routes of Bhutan’s most ancient pathways, organisers said. The festival will also feature a a range of discussions on ‘Love and Relationships.’
According to the organisers, Australian author, screenwriter and playwright Graeme Simsion will open with his two books, The Rosie Project and its sequel The Rosie Effect. He will talk about “the quest for the perfect partner and the DNA that works behind it.” In ‘Love is in the Air,’ Ira Trivedi and Monu Tamang will map the relationship landscape of India and Bhutan, where young people struggle with tradition and modernity as they fall in and out of love in the face of changing societal mores, they said.
The festival will also see a variety of events that will run parallel to the talks, including an exhibition of artworks by the Jogi family featuring selections from Jogi Art by Tulika Kedia at the Royal University of Bhutan. ‘An Ode to Rajasthan: Images 1979 – 2016,’ an exhibition by renowned Indian photographer Sudhir Kasliwal, will feature photographs capturing the essence of “a vibrant living Rajasthan,” organisers said.
According to them, of the three days, an entire day will be dedicated to children and young adults where they will be given an opportunity to interact with popular writers Paro Anand, Venita Coelho, Karma Choden, Nawang Norbu and Edwin Thumboo. As well as exploring contemporary issues facing Bhutan today, the festival will span the country s full history, with a conversation on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in Bhutan, the first ruler to unite Bhutan as a single nation. Other events include ‘Good to Great Gasa’, a photography exhibition by Dorji Dhradhul, offering a glimpse into the history and culture of Bhutan’s Gasa region. Workshops on the art of storytelling, advertising, fashion photography and yoga among others will also be a part of the festival, besides an open mic night and a concert by popular fusion rock band Indian Ocean.