Culture and Literary Works: A Discussion with JLF Toronto’s Namita Gokhale

Jaipur Literature Festival Toronto 2019

The annual Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) was founded in 2006 to celebrate Indian literary culture. Founded by writers to put a spotlight on writers, the festival has since grown to be one of the world’s largest literary festivals. Since its founding, the JLF banner has been hoisted in various individual events that have taken place all over the world, including places like New York (USA), Adelaide (Australia) and Belfast (United Kingdom). For the first time ever, JLF brings its celebration of all things literary to Toronto with the inaugural JLF Toronto festival taking place September 27-29.

We had an opportunity to sit down with with Festival Director Namita Gokhale to discuss JLF, the reason why it was being brought to Canada, and what audiences can expect. Have a read below.

For more information about the festival, please visit:



JLF is very much a celebration of world talent. One would make the mistake of assuming that “Jaipur” means that you will find writers mostly with Indian heritage, but JLF Toronto showcases a breath of talent from around the world, all of whom have touched upon South Asian culture in some way. What can audiences expect from the content at JLF?

JLF in Toronto pursues the themes of conjoined narratives. There is a focus on South Asia, but the list of participating writers and speakers are from across different continents and cultures. Through the lens of literary fiction, documentary non fiction, and writing that addresses and interrogates and tries to make sense of the fast changing world around us. Strands of poetry and music run through it all. Our programming is as ever diverse and multicultural.


South Asia has a rich, vibrant heritage when it comes to literary works, and through JLF International, it is touched audiences around the world. Why was it important for the team to bring JLF to Canada for the first time ever, and Toronto

Toronto is one of the most multicultural and multiracial cities in the world, with a vibrant spirit snd a great buzz. We are particularly delighted to be in the Distillery Historic District and deeply value the support and collaboration we have received from our local partners.


The content you have is not just about literary celebration in its purest form, but through an experience through other avenues that are a part-and-parcel of South Asian culture. Food, for example, is at the heart of this festival. How does the festival bring together other genres to amplify the important of literature?

At JLF we resist interpreting literary experience through a narrow academic band. We are in essence each other’s stories, and seek to view these stories through many prisms and perspectives, including those of popular and material culture.


As an author and literary enthusiast yourself, what motivated you to create the Jaipur Literary Festival in the first place?

My primary motivation was to bring together, showcase and platform the extraordinary writings in the major Indian languages, and then to extend the same plurality of programming to writers and literature’s around the world.


You have already achieved a lot, and asking this is a little too-late in my opinion, but where do you hope JLF will go looking into the future? How will the festival evolve with the times?

I hope and believe it will continue to be an open, democratic and inclusive space of books, ideas, and creative dialogue, one that will nourish and nurture literary communities and bring together writers, readers, and thinkers to share the magic of the dreaming mind.


Cover Photo: Courtesy, Namita Gokhale Facebook Page