The Palestine Festival of Literature, popularly known as PalFest, opened on May 23rd simultaneously in Ramallah and Gaza. A large crowd packed Ramallah’s Ottoman Court to hear a range of readings by both local and international writers and artists.
Literature has a strong and proud history in the Arab world, and specifically in Palestine literary figures such Ghassan Kanafani, Edward Said and Mahmoud Darwish are still revered today long after their deaths. The tradition of weaving art and politics remains intrinsic in the work of many amongst the new generation of Palestinian writers.
In contrast to some other recent cultural festivals in Palestine, PalFest seems again to be remaining true to its roots. Events are held inclusively in cities across historic Palestine and it continues to include many Palestinian and Arab writers alongside international figures. Venues are selected that can be near capacity whilst appreciating that single events will not draw thousands of people.
Alongside the busy program of events, participants are taken on tours around Palestine to help deepen their understanding of Palestinian realities and struggles where they hear first hand from local people. The writers and artists are also encouraged to use their international profiles to publish internationally about their experiences in Palestine once the festival has drawn to a close. Many participants have written passionately and articulately about Palestine in previous years and also subsequently endorsed the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
PalFest runs until May 28th across Palestine. It was established in 2008 by acclaimed Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif who remains Chair today, with the clear stated aims of “supporting cultural life in Palestine, breaking the cultural siege imposed on Palestinians by the Israeli military occupation and strengthening cultural links between Palestine and the rest of the world”.