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Kozhikode Named India’s First ‘City of Literature’ by UNESCO


Kozhikode, a city located in the southern Indian state of Kerala, has made its mark on the global stage by being named one of the latest entrants into the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. This prestigious recognition was bestowed upon Kozhikode on World Cities Day, alongside Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, which was recognized as a ‘City of Music‘. Kozhikode’s new title as the ‘City of Literature’ marks a significant milestone, as it’s the first city in India to hold this coveted distinction.

A Global Network of Creative Cities

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network comprises cities from across the globe that are acknowledged for their strong commitment to harnessing culture and creativity as an integral part of their development strategies. These cities stand out for their innovative practices in human-centered urban planning. With the inclusion of Kozhikode and Gwalior, the network now boasts 350 creative cities in more than 100 countries, representing seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music.

The Journey to the City of Literature Title

Kozhikode’s journey to becoming the City of Literature began in 2022 when the Kerala Institute of Local Administration proposed the idea. The Kozhikode Corporation swiftly sprang into action, reaching out to the University of Prague in the Czech Republic for assistance in the preparation process. Prague was the first city to receive the City of Literature title in 2014, making it a valuable resource for Kozhikode’s aspirations.

Ludmila Kolouchova’s Contribution to Kozhikode’s Recognition

Ludmila Kolouchova, a research student from the University of Prague, played a crucial role in Kozhikode’s quest for this recognition. She visited Kozhikode and conducted a comparative study, drawing parallels between Kozhikode and Prague. Her research revealed that Kozhikode boasted more than 500 libraries and over 70 publishers, providing a solid foundation for its application.

Kozhikode’s UNESCO City of Literature Recognition: A Multifaceted Triumph

Furthermore, Kozhikode’s status as a permanent venue for the annual Kerala Literature Festival and various book fests added value to its claim. The city successfully fulfilled most of the criteria for the City of Literature title, including the presence of numerous institutions dedicated to its literary life, the capability to organize diverse literary events, and a high standard of literary education. This, combined with the city’s impressive quantity, quality, and diversity of literary activities, made it a fitting recipient of the UNESCO recognition.

The Future Awaits in Portugal

As a newly designated creative city, Kozhikode, along with Gwalior, is invited to participate in the UCCN annual conference scheduled from July 1 to 5, 2024, in Braga, Portugal. The conference’s theme, ‘Bringing youth to the table for the next decade,’ emphasizes the role of youth in shaping the future of creative cities. This presents an excellent opportunity for Kozhikode to share its experiences, exchange ideas, and contribute to the global creative community.

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