Festivities with foreign friends  

Shihab Sarkar       | Published: February 09, 2019 22:16:27 | Updated: February 10, 2019 21:30:32


The city of Dhaka these days is used to seeing foreigners moving about in the areas hosting cultural events. The foreigners are also participants. This scenario has been recurring in the months of February and April over the last few years. The Jatiya Kabita Utsab (National Poetry Festival) was one of the pioneering organisations to extend its friendly arms to the poets from different parts of the world. The overseas poets and academics were surprised to find that Bangladesh was quintessentially a land of poetry and poets. At the same time, they loved to exchange ideas on the state of different branches of arts produced by them and those in Bangladesh. The week-long Dhaka International Film Festival spearheaded the assemblage of overseas movie-makers and critics over one and half decades ago. With only a handful of them attending the first festival, the number of foreign participants continued to rise in the following years.

As could be presumed, the largest numbers of the overseas invitees arrive in Bangladesh from India, Iran, Nepal, Sri Lanka -- and a few African and South American countries. As years wore on, movie people from far-away European territories joined the list of participants. The screening of a movie by an independent Croatian film maker was a remarkable event at this year's 17th Dhaka International Film Festival. It is being organised by Rainbow Film Society.

The presence of foreigners at seminars, view-exchanges and cultural events adds to the occasions' significance and acceptability. In a globalised world, remaining content with home-grown and native conclusions to debatable issues, the arts included, finally gives rise to a myopic view of things. Participants from other lands and ethno-social and cultural backgrounds make spaces for opposing deep-seated ideas. Guests from foreign countries contribute to changes in the perception of the existing realities. In order to assess its true place in the global perspective, Bangladesh has been in need of the regular presence of experts from the overseas. It has been a prerequisite since its humble steps into the road to a middle-income nation.  Both of its public and private sectors have long felt it to be a priority. To the upbeat feeling of local development advocates, experts from overseas countries related to all the major areas of the national life are now a common spectacle.

Following a long hiatus, the country's cultural world is also once again vibrant with overseas participants. Following the Dhaka International Film Festival and the Jatiya Kabita Utsab, the capital of the country takes preparations for welcoming the Bangla New Year on  April 14. This is a pageant-filled festival suiting the fun-loving nature of the foreigners -- especially those from the Western and some industrialised countries. Their increasing presence in the last couple of years has considerably added to the festivity of the event. However when it comes to the meaningfulness of the foreigners' presence, literary meets appear to have few parallels. This year, poets from as many as 20 countries from across the world participated in two poetry events in Dhaka. Apart from the 33-year-old National Poetry Festival, another literary forum this year, like in the previous years, organised its Dhaka International Poets Summit 2019. The latter event, held January 30-February 02, was attended by seven foreign poets. The poets participating in the two poetry festivals represented countries including Britain, Malaysia, Uruguay, Congo, Egypt and Turkey apart from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Bangladesh has long emerged as a country that hosts gala painting, poetry, drama and film festivals, along with the participation of foreigners. Its two-yearly biennale has already carved a distinctive place in the genre of international painting shows. All this amply demonstrates the country's love for cultural festivals with the participation of overseas friends.

shihabskr@ymail.com

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