Arts

Exploring Worlds in Singapore Writers Festival 2018

The Chinese character 界 (jiè), the theme of this year’s Singapore Writers Festival (SWF), is multi-layered in its meanings, referring to both the world and the universe at large, and physical and non-physical boundaries. It also alludes to the endless worlds of imagination, where such boundaries are more porous and even erasable.

SWF: Baey Yam Keng
(L-R) Festival Director Yeow Kai Chai, Guest-of-Honour Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Transport Mr Baey Yam Keng, and Chairman of SWF steering committee, Professor Kwok Kian Woon

Its opening ceremony song under the same name already set the stage, with homegrown musician Kelvin Tan’s song sung in English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, Hokkien, and Cantonese, and the lyrics alluding to humanity and the importance of connection. Expect a multilingual literary festival where plurality is seen as a strength, and the written and spoken word in all of Singapore’s official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil are celebrated. In the true spirit of literature, SWF also showcases global voices and stories that speak to us all.

SWF: Kelvin Tan
Writer-musician Kelvin Tan performing SWF 2018 commissioned song, 界 ‘Jie’ during the opening ceremony

Local Highlights

In Excuse Me, Are You a Singaporean Novel?,  begs the question: is there a set of ‘criteria’ for a novel to be “Singaporean”, or is being written by one enough? As three writers discuss the matter, the writers’ works are eclectic to open up perspectives, with Meira Chand’s stories set in three countries – Japan, India, and Singapore – Daryl Qilin Yam’s frequent incorporation of Japanese folklore, and Sebastian Sim’s more local-based contextualisation.

In Yeng Pway Ngon: Reflections and Revelations (held in Mandarin), experience the rich and intricately constructed fictional worlds of one of Singapore’s most prominent Chinese writers Yeng Pway Ngon, best known for his groundbreaking works Unrest and Art Studio.

SWF: Yeng Peng Ngon
Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng meeting SWF 2018 Literary Pioneer Mr Yeng Peng Ngon and wife

In “Buku saya tak dibaca. Kenapa?” (“Why is my book not read?”) you will learn what factor into buyers’ tastes in Malay literary offerings, and where the trend is headed with the help of teacher-turned-librarian Herman Rothman, and Singapore and Malaysian writers.

Regional Highlights

In Turning Japanese: Manga and Romance, you will learn the fascinating history of manga sub-genres from Meguro Hinomoto and Harumo Sanazaki, two Japanese artists who specialise in popular sub-genres, namely shojo (young woman) and josei (targeted at mature tastes).

In One Voice: The Best of ASEAN Performing Arts 2018, 10 Southeast Asian countries of ASEAN will be showcasing their top songwriting talents, weaving a diverse cultural tapestry.

International Highlights

From Chinese author Eileen Chang’s Lust Caution to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, The Ghost in Your Head is a two-part stage production that creates a purgatory where the past and the present overlap, and characters from different times and cultural backgrounds stumble upon one another. Dreamy soundscapes from sonic alchemist Mervin Wong complete this surreal theatrical experience.

In Belonging Somewhere and Nowhere, UK poet and non-fiction writer Simon Armitage and Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann will discuss the timely subject of identity, in the face of today’s connected world where the lines between the personal, regional, and national are often nebulous.

It is time to embark on this literary journey to discover more about others and the self, before the tickets for some events are sold out!

For the full list of programmes, check out the official Singapore Writers Festival website.

Photos courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

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Yimin Huang

Aiming to live passionately and not settle for a mundane life. Firm believer in the Oscar Wilde quote "You can never be overdressed or overeducated". I wish to publish a novel someday in the unknown future.

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