I don’t know about you, but when the world first plunged into the covid chaos, and we were banished into the spaces of isolation, one place I took solace in was stories. Despite all that, I found freedom and escapism in novels and poems. I would take strolls below my block, listening to audiobooks and reading a chapter before bed, whenever I could. So while I physically might have been in Singapore, mentally, I was teleported to a time travelling cafe in Tokyo or a town in India in the 1960s.
The pandemic was a reminder of the power and purpose of literature and the arts. Keeping that very idea in mind, the Singapore Writers Festival 2022 (SWF) makes a return from 4th to 20th November with a theme encapsulated in just one word “If” (JIKA, 若, எனில்), inspired by Singaporean writer Cyril Wong’s poem, “If…Else”.
Festival Director and acclaimed local poet Pooja Nansi reflects, “Every festival responds to its time; and the time that we are at in the world right now is fraught with conflict and uncertainty. There are many questions about where we are now as a global society and where we are headed towards as we cautiously make our way out of the pandemic.”
As such, the team decided to choose a theme that could capture that feeling of unpredictability. “The word ‘if’ conveys a feeling of hope and a second chance as it allows for retrospection and ideation. Through this year’s programmes, we consider the endless possibilities in the worlds that we create and take Festival goers with us as we imagine exciting new futures as a global community”, said Ms Nansi.
This is the first time the festival is back in a full-scale physical format since the pandemic, and the curators have truly gone all out with more than 200 programmes lined up for festival goers. Most events would be held at the Arts House, with select programmes occurring in satellite venues across the island.
International headliners at this year’s festival include a slew of Young Adult writers who are making a strong showing this year. With the likes of Kass Morgan, who penned the hit series The 100, which inspired the television show on The CW Television Network; Dustin Thao, author of the sensational romance novel You’ve Reached Sam; and New York Times bestselling author Chloe Gong, author of fantasy novel These Violent Delights.
You might have even seen some of their novels recommended to you on your TikTok FYPs! – if you’re on the #booktok side of TikTok, filled with YA novel recommendations.
SWF also delves deeper into the ways we experience literature today and charts the ever-changing forms of storytelling that have nurtured up-and-coming communities and audiences.
Besides exploring the impact of social media in the literary scene in ‘Is it On #BookTok?’, the festival also explores other topic areas such as fantasy and worldbuilding by providing insights into the gaming industry, gameplay and game writing, through collaborations with Singapore Games Association and Jio Play Game, and select Sing Lit texts are turned into table-top gameplays by Curious Chimeras.
Moving on from the Gen Zs, to those who have truly paved the path for literary development, the festival also has exhibitions about pioneer writers. For those who love a taste of history, this year’s Literary Pioneer Exhibition celebrates the contributions of female Malay Literary Pioneers. It will also be the first exhibition in Singapore to do so. Spanning the early 20th century from pre-independence to the present day, the exhibition commemorates the life and works of Raja Aisyah Sulaiman, Adibah Amin, Dr Hadijah Rahmat, Dr Sa’eda Buang, Rasiah Halil, as well as the collective, Kumpulan Bebas Melata.
Other exciting Malay language programmes include Gita Raga, a concert that showcases new songs from poems written by established literati; BEBAS, an all-female showdown of writers and musicians in a performance of poetry; and Jika Kalau, a live series that invites Malay authors and thinkers to respond to the Festival’s theme.
For the theatre buffs out there, there are even some theatre-related events you can check out to develop your inner thespian. Acknowledged widely as the pioneer of Singapore theatre, the late theatre doyen Kuo Pao Kun left a legacy that lives on through the practitioners who collaborated with him or worked under his tutelage. In the multilingual programme, Celebrating Kuo Pao Kun, artists and theatre practitioners from different fields, including Kuo Jian, Peter Sau and more, reflect on Kuo’s works, ideals and enduring influence.
For senior festival goers who would like something more hands-on, you can check out Three Wishes, a creative writing workshop hosted in partnership with Theatre Today, for students to stretch their imaginations. Alongside theatre director and drama educator Jeffrey Tan, seniors are invited to reach back into nostalgia or step into their own imagined future and transform their deepest aspirations into creative expression.
One of the key goals of SWF is to spotlight literature, culture and the arts of the South-East Asian region to facilitate greater cross-cultural understanding. Blending history and geography with a stroke of futuristic madness, you can join regional science fiction and fantasy writers in A Southeast Asian Map for the Science Fiction Future for a conversation on creating distinctively Southeast Asian sci-fi universes and get to know the charismatic con-artists and crafty villains of Southeast Asian fiction in The Big and Bad: Who Rules The SEA? Who would have thought sci-fi worlds were right beyond our borders?
Well, if there’s one thing for sure, Singapore Writers Festival 2022 is certainly unpredictable, diverse and ready to indulge one and all in the love of stories and storytelling once again.
The full slate of programmes can be found on the SWF website. Tickets can be purchased either as the standard Festival Pass at S$30 or the Youth Pass at S$15.You can also enjoy 20% early bird savings from 13 September 2022, 6pm to 14 October 2022, 11.59pm! So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to turn the inner bookworm on!
Singapore Writers Festival 2022
Date: 4th to 20th November
Price: Standard Festival Pass (S$30), Youth Pass (S$15)
To purchase tickets, please head to the official website of the Singapore Writers Festival.
Visuals courtesy of Singapore Writers Festival and Arts House Limited.