An afternoon with Abeer Hoque and Nupu Press: A celebration of creativity
The more one lives, the more stories one has in their deep recesses to tell the world. Living, in this context, can mean a lot of things. Traveling, growing up, letting the world pass through them—the stories that come from time spent in these resonate deeply with their readers. On July 22, Abeer Hoque, author of the memoir Olive Witch (HarperCollins India 2016), and Nupu Press, author of Seeking and Belonging (Book Biz Co, 2022), sat down at Gulshan 2's Bookworm outlet for an afternoon discussion full of laughter, storytelling, and discussions on the idea of belonging.
The cozy atmosphere was set up by Bookworm Bangladesh, with the owner Amina Rahman kicking things off. Both Press and Hoque read out excerpts from their own books. Nupu Press read a striking essay written during the pandemic that delves deep into concepts of identity— of how being a citizen of any country is not enough to belong there. These emotions were clearly heightened during the pandemic when all national and interpersonal borders started to shut down, and the questions in your head of where you truly belong circulate endlessly.
This was followed by Abeer Hoque's excerpt—a story from her childhood in Nigeria, learning poems one line at a time, not really knowing what the words meant. It was evocative, but more so than that it connected with the themes present in Press' writing— of life spent moving between continents, unsure of which one felt like home. The connection then led to a conversation between the two authors with topics ranging from writing to storytelling across all mediums of art. "Humans are creative" was one of the most important takeaways from the entire event, and the way a statement that simple can be deeply profound to not just artists, but readers and appreciators of art only showcases how creativity is ingrained within us.
This was then followed up by a Q&A session, where both authors were allowed to speak further about their experiences. Nupu Press talked about the role art has played in her literature, sometimes informing her writing and sometimes amplifying it.
"The writing can mean one thing and the art can mean something else, but together they mean something completely different", she said. Similar thoughts were also echoed by Abeer Hoque, whose photography has in many ways inspired her poetry and stories. At the end of the event, she gave away postcards with her photographs and poetry. According to her, "The poetry might not have a direct connection with the photographs when you first look at them, but this is how I interpreted them."
The importance of these events cannot be understated, they serve the functions of bringing together an author and the readers and fosters creativity among everyone involved. And while this is still something Bookworm Bangladesh is new to, their attempts at creating bridges between readers and writers have found massive success.
Amina Rahman, owner of Bookworm Bangladesh, spoke of the event and their future plans, "Any physical bookstore wants to do something like this. Everyone always asks 'Why aren't you bringing these writers to your store?' and while we didn't have that option before, this new location has really helped us tackle that. It's our duty to the customers, and we plan on doing more events like these at least once a month."
Bookworm Bangladesh has previously hosted similar events with writer discussions and book launches and has even allowed musical performances inside their store. All of their efforts have been met with positive reception for good reason— it's clear that people in this country are looking for these discussions to happen, and it's clear that they want to partake in it. Amina Rahman described the crowd that gathers at these events as "magic happening". She might be right, and I'd like to see this magic continue.
Raian Abedin is a contributor.