The A&K Literary Festival is happening this weekend

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By now you’ve probably seen the Sherlock Holmes type caricature being glowered at by a potentially dangerous, Areca nutcracker- wielding nona. So what are these protagonists doing outside their respective realms? More importantly, why is the poster they’re on making rounds on social media? We sat down with Keith Wijesuriya of the Annasi & Kadalagotu (A&K) Literary Festival team to find out.

Those who read the infamous poster would know that the A&K collective is hosting this festival this weekend (14-15 May). Some of you may know them for the volumes of locally created poetry they release. If you’ve never heard of them before, this is the kind of work they do. The strong pro-local penmanship stance has translated to the organizing of A&K’s second annual lit festival.

It all started, as most good ideas do, over a cup of coffee according to Keith. Pilot and literature enthusiast Captain Elmo Jayawardena ventured out in suggesting a means of promoting indigenous writing to a like-minded few. Aptly named after delectably tangy tropical fruit and the warm contents of cone-shaped paper parcels, Annasi & Kadalagotu has since featured home-grown wordsmiths.

A&K Literary festival
Image credits: Aznym Adam

Unfortunately, he feels the set notion of what amounts to good literature, is unnecessarily exclusive. “Even a Facebook post” can qualify as literature and this aspect of the written word’s evolution is often overlooked. In the Sri Lankan context perhaps much of the dated exclusivity comes from various stigmas.

With no shortage of self –damaging pseudo-philosophies, “Only a Sri Lankan will laugh when someone uses broken English.” In fact, some Sri Lankan poets who lived abroad have admitted to not knowing how “bad” their English was until returning home, he says. “Unless you’re a professor of English” or happen to be in a profession that required supreme command of the language much goes underappreciated in adopting an elitist attitude to using it. For this reason, the festival is open to “everyone,” regardless of linguistic prowess.

A&K Literary festival
Image credits: Aznym Adam

Encouraging people to be unapologetically true to themselves, the festival’s very first session by Captain Elmo and musician Sunil Perera is titled ‘Marching to One’s Own Drum….The Importance of Being Sunil.’

“We have four locations” where simultaneous sessions are to take place, within the Western Province Aesthetic Resort. The line-up includes trilingual sessions and is to have something for every type of lit lover and or aspiring writer. Those who do decide to drop-in will only be charged Rs.100 for a day pass to all events and Rs.150 for a festival pass for both days. Chances are, we’re told you’re bound to come across a book launch while you visit since quite a few have already been slotted in.

A&K Literary festival
Image credits: Aznym Adam

With around 750 visitors last year, the inaugural Annasi & Kadalagotu Literary Festival brought much in the way of learning for the team. This year, they’ve upped the game with their wind-down open-mic sessions. “Last time the crowd sort of just faded out” after a busy day of seminars. Amid the setting sun, annasi and kadalagotu kaarayo and rhythmic clatter of metal on metal which could only signal the presence of fresh made kottu- rotti, this time’s open mic promises to be something special.

As for our initial question of what the unlikely sketches are doing on one poster, they have one thing in common. They’re all fictitious creations, fleshed-out by what the Annasi & Kadalagotu Literary Festival is intent on celebrating- language in all its variety. And why are we a part of this awesome festival? Because we support and believe this is a large initiative that does so.

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