From inception in 2010, the unique, homegrown, volunteer-driven and non-profit Goa Arts and Literature Festival (GALF) has rapidly emerged as one of the premier cultural showcases of India.
GALF was founded to celebrate what is usually considered "the margins", taking inspiration from "different ways of belonging", an idea developed by noted poet of Goan origin, Eunice de Souza. This has meant consistent emphasis on the writers and artists of Goa, but also the North-East and Kashmir, as well as Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, as well as themes like Dalit writing, poetry, graphic novels, and translations.
Despite its small size and relatively tiny budgets, GALF has become a magnet for the most acclaimed talent from around India and the world. Over the years, Inaugural keynote addresses have been delivered by U. R. Ananthamurthy (2010), Gulzar, Amitav Ghosh, Mridula Garg, Meera Kosambi, Mitra Phukan, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Edwin Thumboo, and Goa's own Wendell Rodricks. In addition, a range of exciting new talent has debuted in Goa for the first time, including Nigerian-American novelist Teju Cole, the Pakistani novelist Bilal Tanweer, the award-winning Samanth Subramaniam, and French graphic novelist Nicolas Wild.
The first edition in 2010, inaugurated by Prof. U R Ananthamurthy, exceeded all expectations with three action-packed days of art, music, photography, lectures, debate and discussion that drew overflowing crowds to the ICG.
The second edition, inaugurated by Gulzar and Amitav Ghosh in 2011, coincided with the 50th anniversary of Goa's liberation. It was an opportunity to reflect on the idea of India portrayed through the perspective of cultures, communities and writers on the margins of the grand historical narrative of the country. There was a particular emphasis on Diaspora, on the Goan and other Indian migrant communities across the world which retain different ideas about what being Indian means, as well as on the North-East of India and its art, music and literature.
The third edition in 2012 was inaugurated by eminent writers Mridula Garg and Eunice DeSouza at the Kala Academy Goa. Shri. Bharat Vir Wanchoo, Hon. Governor of Goa was the Chief Guest while Hon. Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Shri. Omar Abdullah was invited to be the Guest of Honour, as the Festival incorporated a unique Kashmir initiative, with participants from Jammu and Kashmir, including many renowned authors, artists and senior journalists. The award-winning Bhand Pather theatre troupe, directed by M K Raina, was a unique addition from Kashmir.
The fourth edition in 2013 was inaugurated by eminent writers, Meera Kossambi, Mitra Phukan and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, again at the Kala Academy Goa. Shri. Bharat Vir Wanchoo, Hon. Governor of Goa again graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. This year, the festival exclusively showcased the arts and literature from the state of Assam. The highlight of the Festival was a performance by Uttar Kamalabari Satra led by Sri Sri Janardhan Deva Goswami.
The fifth edition was an amazing leap. The eminent Singaporean poet Edwin Thumboo and internationally acclaimed fashion designer and author, Goa's own Wendell Rodricks inaugurated GALF 2014. In addition to some of the best writers and artists from different parts of India - including Goa - there was a strong presence of distinguished writers and artists from Australia, Nepal and Singapore, the countries in focus. The overwhelming response from the locals, especially school and college students surpassed all earlier records.
GALF has hosted exclusive launches for some of the most important books of recent times â€“ Ranjit Hoskote's translations of Lal Ded, Taj Mahal Foxtrot by Naresh Fernandes, the graphic novel Adi Parva by Amruta Patil, From Bullet to Ballot Box by Aditya Adhikari, The Black Hill by Mamang Dai, and many others. The Indian-American rappers Chee Malabar and Himanshu Suri both made their international debut at GALF, as did the Pakistani satirical musician Ali Aftab Saeed and American artist, Daisy Rockwell.
At GALF 2014, an unprecedented lineup of senior journalists from around India discussed the changing nature of the national media: Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose, Sreenivasan Jain, Naresh Fernandes, Samar Halarnkar and Priya Ramani, Govindraj Ethiraj, Sachin Kalbag, Prashant Jha and Cyril Almeida of Pakistan's Dawn newspaper. Defense Minister of India, Manohar Parrikar released Sardesai's best-selling '2014: The Election that Changed India'.
GALF has consistently hosted some of the best lineups of contemporary poets ever assembled in contemporary India. The 2013 edition included an unprecedented reunion of the great 'Bombay School' of poets who emerged in the 1970's, including Eunice de Souza, Gieve Patel, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and Manohar Shetty. The 2014 edition featured an extraordinary "poetry relay" with Mustansir Dalvi, and four of the five finalists for the first-ever Khushwant Singh Prize for Poetry, Ranjit Hoskote, Keki Daruwalla, Arundhathi Subramaniam and Sridala Swami.
In 2014, the Ambedkar Lecture Series was initiated with Dr. Varsha Ayyar and Chandrabhan Prasad to underline GALF's commitment to the important voices that often go unheard in the mainstream culture. Along with Goa's own indigenous peoples, and the writers and artists from the North East, these elements continue to distinguish GALF from other events of the type.
Everyone knows Goa is one of the most sought after tourism destinations of the world â€“ famous for its beaches, stunning architecture, and unique culture. But there is much more that remains less known: some of the best artists and writers of India, a vibrant theatre, music and film culture. An enthusiasm to share all this, and to develop Goa further as one of the unquestioned culture capitals of the world, is another motivation for GALF, which remains a unique labour of love and collaboration between The International Centre Goa, volunteers from the vibrant Goa Writers group, and a number of national and state bodies including Sahitya Academy, National Book Trust, and Department of Art & Culture - Government of Goa.
Over the past 5 years, the GALF has grown in size, stature and significance while retaining its emphasis on, both, serious deliberations and convivial atmosphere, as well as building meaningful connections with the finest writers, poets, artists and musicians from around the subcontinent and beyond. This year's exciting edition promises to be the most exciting in the history of our event. Right alongside the best from Goa we will continue to showcase the extraordinary talent from different parts of India and the world.