It's a green light for books! Kuala Lumpur will be officially recognised as this year's Unesco's World Book Capital (KLWBC 2020), with an online launch celebration set to go ahead at noon on April 23.
It is a rare spot of good news for book lovers and the literary community here, especially with the movement control order (MCO) effectively seeing many book launches and literary events postponed or cancelled, and bookstores and libraries closed.
The online festivities will take place on KLWBC 2020 channels such as the KL Baca Facebook page, Instagram @kualalumpurwbc and Twitter @KualaLumpurWBC. The initial launch pre-MCO was planned for Dataran Merdeka.
The digital launch will begin with speeches by Unesco Director General Audrey Azoulay, and Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Nor Hisham A. Dahlan. This will be followed by a poetry recital by actor/director Adlin Aman Ramli, who will be reading the new poem Merindui Buku (Missing Books), written by National Laureate Datuk Seri A. Samad Said.
KLWBC 2020's theme song Surat Cinta Kuala Lumpur (Love Letter To Kuala Lumpur) by Ramli Sarip will also be launched and uploaded.
Additionally, performances by two literary activists Jack Malik and Aliff Azwan, will be part of KLWBC 2020’s Jalan Menuju 23 April’ The Road To April 23 poetry series.
Jack reveals he will be performing one work from his poetry book Sajakjakjak, and one poem from poet/artist Abdul Ghafar Ibrahim’s book Yang Yang.
“Both (poetry) works are about being indoors, which is quite apt in these trying times,” says Jack, 27.
The young poet adds that performing online now is a bit of a challenge, but he is ready for it.
“I’m a person who prefers a face-to-face live performance, to feed off the crowd's energy. But that cannot be done at the moment. Instead, I’m exploring new things to get my work out during this MCO period, including video editing, content writing and adapting to the new normal,” he adds.
The nation’s capital was named as the World Book Capital for 2020 by UN Educational, Scientific And Cultural Organisation, or Unesco, on Sept 19, 2018. Kuala Lumpur is the 20th capital and the fifth Asian capital to be given the honour since it was first announced in 2001. Last year, Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates was given the honour of hosting the event.
“We are very happy that the launch will go ahead. Physically, it may be small, but I sincerely hope it will be big in the online world,” says Arief Hakim Sani, Malaysian Book Publisher Association (Mabopa) president.
“Books continue to play a very important part in education. They will not go away. Even in this MCO period, books are central to continue education in the home. They are fundamental,” he adds.
The year-long KLWBC 2020 is organised by the Kuala Lumpur CIty Hall (DBKL), with Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka (DBP), National Library Of Malaysia, the National Book Council (MBKM) and Mabopa on the advisory committee.
KLWBC 2020’s Facebook page is also currently having a series of competitions where readers can win RM100 in MPH book vouchers, or the 60th anniversary edition of the classic novel Salina by A. Samad Said. The competition runs until May 5.