Bhutan’s Mountain Echoes Literary Festival is geared up for its 10th edition this August. Every year, the festival has an eclectic line-up of writers, performers and special achievers. This year, speakers include Bhutan’s first fashion blogger, editor-in-chief of its first women’s magazine, and the person behind the first live music club in the country. The festival will take place over the course of three days (23-25 August) in Thimphu.

The Mountains Echo Literary Festival is an initiative of the India Bhutan Foundation in association with Siyahi. The festival enjoys the patronage of Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. Every year, it brings together writers, biographers, historians, environmentalists, scholars to engage in cultural dialogue.

Highlights from the festival

British historian and author Neil MacGregor and former Prime Minister of Bhutan Dasho Tshering Tobgay will trace Shakespeare’s journey from 16th-17th century England to 21st-century Bhutan. Toby Walsh a leading researcher in Artificial Intelligence and the man behind Australia’s digital revolution Toby Walsh will discuss the reputation AI has earned due to Hollywood’s killer robots and sentient supercomputers.

mountains echo literary festival
Thimphu, Bhutan

In an interview with TE, Mita Kapur the CEO and founder of Siyahi spoke about the evolution of the festival over the years and how it originally began. “We made a small start in 2010, the shared traditions of the Himalayan belt, the cultural exchange between India and Bhutan, how global socio-cultural trends affect us, have been the focus and have remained so,” she said. The scope and range of the festival have seemingly grown over the years. It has also consistently reflected the culture of Bhutan.

What can audiences look forward to?

The theme of this year’s festival is “Many Lives, Many Stories.” What can festival-goers expect this year? Mita said, “audiences can expect a wide range of sessions covering life stories of personalities, spiritual and historical, of rivers, of mountains, of cities, kingdoms, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, performers.”

The literary festival has managed to reach out to a huge audience in Bhutan. In fact, it may also have inadvertently encouraged more reading. “The fact that when we started there were just one or two bookstores in Thimphu but there are five or six, there are book cafes, Mountain Echoes has managed to reach out to a potential readership,” Mita explained.

Talks and seminars will discuss relevant subjects

Mountain road of Bhutan
The winding mountain road in Thimphu, Bhutan

Karma “Lhari” Wangchuk, Bhutan’s first fashion blogger will talk about how the fashion industry in the country has shaped Bhutan. Another prominent theme for the festival this year is going to be ‘Storytelling beyond books.’ Photographer-filmmaker Aamir Wani, travel writer Shivya Nath and curator Jono Lineen will talk about photography as a device to tell stories and reach out to people.

Ecological diversity will also be discussed at length at the festival. Talks on Bhutan’s national animal, as well as vulnerable species like the black-necked crane,  will be a part of the event. Apart from lectures and seminars, festival-goers will also witness music and dance performances. Workshops will be conducted on subjects such as scriptwriting and the art of telling stories through photos.

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