Curatorial Note

ILF Samanvay, IHC’s Indian Languages Festival, began its journey in 2011. An exclusive Indian Languages Festival, it was begun to provide a unique and dedicated platform to Indian Literature, a space that was shrinking even as the number of literature festivals were multiplying exponentially.

Unequivocally declaring its vision as a Samanvay to bring together and connect “the many glories and diversities of India as reflected in its plentisome tongues,” (ILF Samanvay Vision, 2015), It aims to become a seminal space for critical thinking on language, literature, arts, & various emerging streams of knowledge and creativity.

ILF Samanvay takes up a specific theme every year, and also chooses focal languages drawn from different regions of the country. This is to ensure the continuity of cultural experience on the one hand, and to enable democratic representation of the country’s diverse linguistic fields within the frame of the festival. Efforts are made to interpret and translate the theme in all its nuances through the sessions of the festival, even as they expand the mandate of ILF Samanvay, in terms of re-understanding ‘language’ in the fast-changing Indian context. Over the years, we have had the privilege of hosting some of the best minds in an amazing lineup of outstanding authors from across the country. Incisive, informed and inspiring sessions devised by wonderful curators, driven and passionate in their commitment.

In an effort to bring to the mainstream of the contemporary societal discourse the narratives concerning people, issues and concerns that are often marginalised, sessions explored various issues concerning society, language and gender. Each year saw a large body of women’s writings reclaiming language, space and body and heard powerful Dalit voices, both male and female.

Past Editions

Starting off in 2011with an impressive lineup of 14 languages and 63 writers in its first year, Samanvay addressed the complexity and challenges involved in bringing together as Indian the literatures of a country as diverse, multicultural and multilingual as ours. It explored the bonds that bind and make the various vernacular literatures distinct yet collective. In the words of Aijaz Ahmad from his inaugural lecture of the 2015 edition The Languages of a Union, “Ïn India, political unity does not automatically give us or require of us a literary or linguistic unity.” (Ahmad, 2015)

 

Over the next three years, the focus remained squarely on writings in regional languages. Boli, Baani, Bhasha-Gaon, Kasba, Sheher (ILF Samanvay 2012) explored the return of the dialects into the mainstream; Language Connections with Jodti Zubanein, Judti Zubanein (ILF Samanvay 2013); Bhashantar Deshantar: Translation Transnation (ILF Samanvay 2014) discussed Indian Languages which have a transnational presence, bringing together authors and translators across languages & beyond national borders.

The fifth edition themed Insider/Outsider: Writing India’s Dreams and Realities (ILF Samanvay 2015) focused on trying to understand the contemporary writer as an Insider/Outsider and widened its oeuvre to look at “Indian Languages beyond verbal terms, and explore the transverbal possibilities of human expression and communication to be able to become a rigorous cultural movement that can meaningfully connect the diversities embedded in its transnational matrix.”

(ILF Samanvay Vision, 2015). And Language as Public Action (ILF Samanvay 2016) reflected the concerns and responsibility of the Indian writers, artists and other creative thinkers towards creating a condition and environment to bring the multi-centred country into a cultural camaraderie.

Revisiting Translations in 2017

This year, we have chosen to revisit the theme of Translations as the importance of Translations in the Samanvay of Languages is critical.

To quote from an insightful article by K.Satchidanandan, “The story of Indian literatures until, say, the 19th century, was mostly a story of creative translations, adaptations, retellings, interpretations, epitomes and elaborations of classical texts. Translations from Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and modern Indian languages knit together communities, languages, regions and cultures… The Indian novel as we know it today—despite our own grand narrative tradition from the folktales and epics to Banabhatta’s Kadambari—has also been deeply impacted by translations. Some of our early novels actually began as translations. India sought through translation a living dialogue between its own cultural past and present as also between its cultures and the cultures of other lands…The eagerness among writers and readers in India to know what is happening in languages other than their own can chiefly be attributed to the recent spurt in translations.“ (K.Satchidanandan, 2013)

Over the years, we have had seminal translators from different languages converse with one another on specific issues concerning translating and translations. We revisit the rich fertile ever expanding and blurring boundaries of literature in ILF-Samanvay 2017 with a bi-monthly series that brings our audiences a range of works of translation. Some archival, some pioneering first time inter-lingual translations, some transverbal interdisciplinary and outstanding translations of International authors and poets.

We are fortunate to have the partnership of publishers and collaborators who share our enthusiasm and are enabling our efforts.

Vidyun M. Singh
Director Programmes
Habitat World, IHC

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