A Singapore Government Agency Website

Celebrating Singapore's unique identity, language and heritage

Speech by Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Communications and Information, at the Opening Ceremony of the 22nd Singapore Writers Festival, at National Gallery Singapore

Distinguished Guests, Writers
Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. Welcome to the 22nd edition of the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF)! It is my pleasure to open this year’s edition of SWF, which is one of Asia’s premier literary events celebrating both local and international talents.
  2. This year’s SWF theme, “A Language of Our Own”, explores the ways in which verbal, physical and visual languages reflect and affect our perceptions of the world. This theme is especially poignant for a multi-cultural, multi-racial country such as Singapore, where we are constantly seeking the right balance between celebrating the unique identity and heritage – including language – of all component communities, while valuing inclusivity and cohesion by maintaining common means of communication and mutual understanding across all segments of society.
  3. The SWF is the pinnacle platform in Singapore’s literary arts scene and reflects our commitment, as laid out in Our SG Arts Plan, to inspire audiences through nurturing Singaporeans’ engagement of our literary works. By cultivating a deep appreciation of Singapore’s diverse literary works across languages and cultures, we can better connect communities through shared stories.

    Key Highlights of SWF 2019

  4. Let me share some of this year’s Festival highlights. First, the SWF will honour engineer turned award-winning author Rex Shelley as this year’s literary pioneer, through a series of programmes produced by The Arts House. The works of literary pioneers provide us with deeper insight into our cultural heritage, with Rex Shelley’s The Shrimp People being the first significant documentation of the consciousness and culture of the Eurasian community in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s. I had the pleasure of speaking with the Shelley family earlier when I caught a preview of the immersive installation that brought Mr Shelley’s work to life. I encourage you to join the programmes and learn more about Mr Shelley’s contributions to our cultural landscape and the Eurasian community.
  5. Second, as one of the few multi-lingual literary festivals in the world, SWF is also a natural platform to share and learn about translation-related content. Accessing great literary works of different languages will help our audiences deepen their appreciation of diverse cultures. I am glad to see the wide variety of translation-related programmes available at SWF such as Translation Circle: Live! which features four festival translators taking on the same piece of text live, a lecture on Lost Asian Classics, which examines the Asian classics which should be translated for a wider audience, as well as panel discussions with translators that shed light on the intricacies about the process and challenges of translating literary works. This is especially intriguing to me as the Chair of Singapore’s National Translation Committee. Although the main focus of the Committee is on the translation of informational texts between English and our mother tongue languages to support public communications, I recognise the translation of literary works as being the most delicate and demanding category of work that a translator could undertake. I am certain that these programmes lined up at SWF will benefit writers and translators alike.
  6. Third, this year’s SWF continues to spotlight Southeast Asian literature, and promote new and emerging writers to a wider public. Through a series of panel discussions, I am confident that the SWF will provide  festival- goers with a broad view of the exciting developments in our region.
  7. Fourth, this year’s Country Focus is on Canada, which is similar to Singapore in having a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-lingual character. Through a series of programmes such as Epic International Reading Night, Truth and Reconciliation, From Canada to Singapore, our audiences can learn and exchange ideas on how both societies promote cohesion across different communities.
  8. In addition to these programme highlights, the SWF team has continued to ensure that the festival remains accessible to all by providing sign language interpretation and note-taking services for those who request it. The team has also taken the initiative to engage our youths this year by introducing the SWF Youth Pass, which allows student pass holders to access festival events at a discounted rate to encourage greater youth participation. This is an important step in nurturing further interest in the literary arts among the younger generation. I look forward to what the future holds for SingLit!


  9. It leaves me to congratulate SWF Director Pooja Nansi and her team for putting together an exciting and varied line-up of programmes for this year’s edition.
  10. I would like to express my appreciation to our Singaporean and overseas partners who have worked with Pooja and her team to bring renowned international writers to our shores, through collaboration with the likes of the Singapore Book Council, Tender Leaves Translation and Unggun Creative.
  11. I wish everyone a fruitful time at SWF, as we explore the role of language in our society. Thank you, and have a good evening!


Last updated on 21 November 2019