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Kozhikode Becomes India’s First UNESCO ‘City of Literature’

Kozhikode in north Kerala, known for its rich cultural heritage, was on Sunday officially declared as India’s first UNESCO ‘City of Literature’.

In October 2023, Kozhikode had earned a place in the ‘Literature’ category of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN).

State Local Self Government Department (LSGD) Minister, M B Rajesh, on Sunday in an official event here announced the achievement of Kozhikode which earned the place in the ‘Literature’ category of the UCCN.

Rajesh described Kozhikode as a city with a soul, characterized by humanity, harmony, a strong sense of justice and freedom of expression.

“These core values have given birth to the vibrant art of Kozhikode,” Rajesh said.

The minister said the efficient functioning of the Kozhikode city corporation played a major role in bagging the ‘City of Literature’ tag from UNESCO after beating cities with rich cultural history like Kolkata.

The state government also announced that from coming year, June 23 will be celebrated as the ‘City of Literature’ Day of Kozhikode, a place known for literary greats like late S K Pottakkad and Vaikom Muhammed Basheer.

On this day, special awards will be announced in six categories, a statement issued by the LSGD said.

As part of the event, Tourism Minister P A Mohammed Riyas unveiled the logo of the ‘City of Literature’ by UNESCO.

Rajesh visited the house of Jnanpith awardee M T Vasudevan Nair and handed over the Diamond Jubilee award instituted by the Kozhikode city corporation.

Known as the city of Zamorins once, Kozhikode, also known as Calicut during British rule, served as the gateway to the coast for many foreigners, such as Persians, Arabs, Chinese, and eventually Europeans, centuries ago.

The cradle of the freedom movement in Kerala, Kozhikode has also been an important destination for book festivals for many decades.

Kozhikode is a city where there are over 500 libraries functioning, and has been the base of literary activities of legendary Malayalam writer M T Vasudevan Nair for several decades.

Gwalior and Kozhikode from India are among the 55 new cities which have joined the UCCN. The new list was published on its website on the World Cities Day, which falls on October 31.

These new cities were acknowledged for “their strong commitment to harnessing culture and creativity as part of their development strategies and displaying innovative practices in human-centred urban planning”, the UN agency had said in a statement.

While Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh made it to the coveted list in the ‘Music’ category, Kozhikode earned the place in the ‘Literature’ category.

These cities join the list of places which received tags from the UNESCO including Bukhara Crafts and Folk Art, Casablanca Media Arts, Chongqing Design, Kathmandu Film, Rio de Janeiro Literature, and Ulaanbaatar Crafts and Folk Art.

With the latest additions, the UCCN now counts 350 cities in more than a hundred countries, representing seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts and Music.

The newly designated Creative Cities are invited to participate in the 2024 UCCN Annual Conference (July 1-5, 2024) in Braga, Portugal, under the theme ‘Bringing Youth to the Table for the Next Decade’, UNESCO had said in a statement.

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