Forging multicultural connections through literary programmes at the Singapore Writers Festival 2021
Opening Remarks By Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister Of State, Ministry Of Culture, Community And Youth & Ministry Of Trade And Industry At The Opening Ceremony Of The 24th Singapore Writers Festival On 5 November 2021, 7pm
08 November 2021
Distinguished Guests, Writers
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure to open the 24th Singapore Writers Festival (SWF), which brings together homegrown and international literary talents in their shared love for stories and writing. This multilingual Festival is a much-anticipated literary arts event in our cultural calendar and is recognised as one of Asia’s premier literary events. Arts and Culture in a time of COVID
We have continued to hold SWF despite the pandemic. This is testament to our commitment to the arts in Singapore and the important role the arts plays in enriching the lives of Singaporeans. The arts sector has weathered the onslaught of COVID-19 over the past 18 months. Its tenacity and innovative spirit shine through the sector’s successful pivot to digital or hybrid modes of presentations that reached out to our audiences. The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and the National Arts Council (NAC) are committed to see our arts community through this crisis and support their efforts. In March this year, the Arts and Culture Resilience Package (ACRP) was enhanced to the sum of $75m to protect livelihoods, build capabilities and position the arts community for stronger growth after the pandemic.
As we move towards the new normal, we're getting more adept at coping with change and disruptions. The format of this year’s SWF tells of the shifts that have taken place as we adapt. Last year, the SWF programmes were mostly virtual. This year, the Festival programmes will take on a hybrid format, providing opportunities for us to connect with our favourite authors – and fellow readers and writers – either in person, or virtually from the comfort of our homes. Forging connections
This year’s festival theme, “Guilty Pleasures”, explores the things we love but are too shy to admit. I am sure many of us can relate to that! The programmes will encourage audiences to examine the complex relationship between guilt and pleasure, in the actions we take and choices we make as individuals and as a global community within our societies and environments. I hope the thought-provoking line-up of programmes will spark conversations and discussions that continue beyond the Festival.
At the heart of it all, SWF is about forging connections. Be it across space – as we meet virtually or face-to-face; or across time – as we look into the past, present and future; and across cultures – as we explore and hear the different perspectives of writers and participants from all over.
For this edition, the SWF team has worked with partners such as the National Library Board (NLB), Singapore Book Council, Sing Lit Station – just to name a few, to curate and present over 140 in-person and online programmes to connect diverse communities and present a festival that welcomes all audiences.
If you love cooking and are looking to expand your kitchen experiments, you might want to join chefs and cookbook authors Pamelia Chia, Shamsydar Ani and Denise Fletcher in the session entitled From Wet Market to Table. Listen to their kitchen stories and discover the ingredients to whip up a dish you will remember.
If you’re an aspiring poet or writer, let the writer Ocean Vuong take you through the currents of mythology, history and memory, and learn how we can find ourselves as we navigate this world.
No festival is complete without the voices of our pioneers. It has been a tradition of SWF to honour the legacy of our pioneers through the Literary Pioneer series. Literary greats like Anne Lee Tzu Pheng, Kumpulan Orang Bertujuh Temasek (Temasek Group of 7), G. Sarangapany and the late Yeng Pway Ngon 已故英培安先生 were featured for their contributions. This year, SWF has partnered NLB to celebrate the first Singaporean director of the National Library, Hedwig Anuar. A champion of children’s literature, she is a pioneer who built the foundations of our modern library system. The Literary Pioneer exhibition will take audiences through her life and works that continue to make a difference today. This is a great opportunity for families and friends to bond over shared memories of their favourite libraries and the love for books.
It’s wonderful that SWF is continuing to work with its partners to create programmes that connect generations in a shared love for stories. For example, SWF has partnered the Singapore Association of Writers this year, to co-present a programme entitled: Sugar-coating Narratives?– Writing Young Adult Chinese Fiction in Singapore [为故事和语言包糖衣？— 新加坡青少年华文小说写作]. The session explores how we can interest teen readers in Chinese novels. This timely topic addresses an apt issue and the session will enrich our community of writers and readers of Chinese fiction.
Strengthening dialogue and intercultural understanding
SWF remains one of the few multilingual literary festivals in the world. We proudly celebrate this honour as we seek to showcase Singapore’s multicultural identity by featuring writers and works in English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil.
Indeed, the Singapore Writers’ Fest, with programmes in the vernacular languages, reflects our uniquely diverse Singapore culture and contributes to our understanding of what it means to be Singaporean. We are greatly heartened that SWF is committed to provide a multilingual and multicultural platform that showcases the literary passion, creativity, and vibrancy of our Singaporean writers.
This’s year’s multilingual highlights include a segment entitled, Rewriting the Ordinary (重写记忆中的平凡与日常). It explores how ordinary, everyday moments and memories can be turned into stories simply by putting pen to paper.
The Malay programme, Malu tapi Mahu, is a lively discussion conducted in Malay on how writers keep their stories fresh and captivating.
The Little India Food Tour shares passionate food stories of various Indian communities through bi-lingual narrations in English and Tamil.
I commend the SWF team for providing English translations and interpretations for some of these programmes. We hope that many people can take part in this literary feast, and discover new programmes, including those in languages unfamiliar to them.
Engagements and Consultations
Over the years, the Arts House Limited (AHL) has been an integral partner of the SWF and the local literary scene. This year, AHL has helmed and organised the festival with input from an advisory panel comprising experts in our 4 vernacular languages. AHL has received many constructive views and suggestions on how the programmes can resonate with different audience segments of the literary community. We look forward to AHL’s commitment and continued efforts in engaging our partners and stakeholders to make SWF a meaningful and enriching festival for all.
I would like to thank the organiser AHL for putting together an exciting, diverse and inclusive line-up of programmes this year with something for everyone.
I wish everyone a delightful time at the SWF and I hope you will come away with new insights, connections, and memories. Thank you and have a good evening.