Alternative book fest this weekend

The Kuala Lumpur Alternative Book festival at Publika Shopping Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, will feature books from 29 publishers.

BOOKWORMS can stock up on local literary gems at the ninth Kuala Lumpur Alternative Book (KLAB) festival tomorrow and Sunday.

Paired with the quarterly arts and activism festival, Art For Grabs, KLAB will feature books from 29 publishers at 50 booths.

Local literature from fiction and contemporary essays to poetry by popular publishers such as Fixi, Lejen Press, Dubook Press and Rabak-Lit alongside new indie publishers will be on sale.

Visitors can look forward to launches of books, including Matahari Books’ Tudung Anthology, a collection of stories on hijab by female writers and Zan Azlee’s Liberal, Malay & Malaysia.

Fixi director Amir Muhammad said it was a positive sign to see more young publishers entering the local publishing scene.

“The book trade, like most types of retail, has declined in the past year and some of the smaller publishers have ceased operations.

“A happy exception would be Roman Buku, which was initially inactive but has now been bought over by the owners of Selut Press.

“Smaller companies that focus on zines and modestly scaled work such as Kidal and Ketepi and Off Publishing which publishes poetry, will also be represented in hardcover.

“For the second year, we will have MYWriters, now a registered national society for Malaysian writers which seeks to not only encourage new writers but protect their rights when it comes to contracts, minimum pay and royalties,” he said.

Supported by the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus School of Media, Languages and Cultures and The Cooler Lumpur Festival, the two-day event will have a forum with topics on bullying in schools and the well-being of artists.

Justice for Sisters will speak on “Sekolah Kemangsaan Malaysia: Are our schools breeding bullies?” while Thukul Cetak will hold a discussion on writers and depression. There will also be a talk on financial sustainability, physical safety and emotional health of artists by UNMC School of Media, Languages and Cultures.

Additionally, there will be speeches by notable icons in the literary and arts community including Jo Kukathas, FS Saad and Uthaya Sankar SB regarding their vision for a better country.

Art For Grabs founder Pang Khee Teik said it was crucial to hold open discussions on mental health and freedom of expression in a public arena.

“As we use our education system to create model citizens, to transmit a narrow definition of citizen and teach conformity, we also make our schools unsafe for those who are different.

“At times, it feels like we are breeding bullies instead.

“I think it is time for us to reflect on how narrowly we have come to define what makes us proud as a nation so much so it ends up excluding the very people we should be proud of.

“This Merdeka, we celebrate the alternative and independent at Art For Grabs,” he said.

The Kuala Lumpur Alternative Book Festival and Art For Grabs will be held from noon to 9pm on both days at Level G2, The Boulevard, Publika Shopping Gallery.

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