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The power of literature in bringing people together

Speech by Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth at Opening of Singapore Writers Festival
03 November 2017

Distinguished Guests, Writers
Ladies and Gentlemen.

1. It is my pleasure to open the Singapore Writers’ Festival for the second time in a row. This year, we celebrate the 20th edition of the Singapore Writers’ Festival! The Festival has indeed come a long way, since its inception as the Singapore Writers’ Week in 1986. It is now one of Asia’s top literary events, bringing together renowned writers from around the region and world, while also profiling our home-grown talents. 

The power of literature in bringing people and communities together

2. This year’s theme “Aram” is taken from one of the most influential Tamil literary texts, and explores the universal concept of what it means to be “good”. This is particularly pertinent in a world where we see increasing examples of fragmentation and polarisation, where it gets harder for people to agree to disagree.

3. I believe that the Singapore Writers’ Festival stands as a literary counterpoint to this fragmentation and polarisation. As one of the few multi-lingual literary festivals in the world, the Festival highlights the beauty of the written and spoken word across Singapore’s four official languages – English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil.  I hope the Festival theme will inspire all of us to think deeply about doing and being “good”, in the spirit of our shared humanity. We must consider how diversity can be a strength to be embraced, regardless of language, race, or religion.

4. In keeping with this theme, this year’s Festival also celebrates our regional and international friendships. To commemorate ASEAN 50, we will be highlighting Southeast Asian literature and authors from the region, which forms our wider home. The programme line-up also includes many international writers and illustrators; and we will also play host to a contingent from Ireland, which is this year’s Country of Focus.  

Paying tribute to 20 years of SWF

5. This is the 20th edition of the Festival, and we want to pay tribute to those who have come before us. To mark this milestone, this year’s programme will feature a SWF20 exhibition, with a chronology of the Festival and memorabilia from each edition.

6. In particular, we will be showcasing the works of Singaporean poet Anne Lee Tzu Pheng, in a series of Literary Pioneer events curated by The Arts House. Anne’s literary career spans more than 30 years; her contemplative and lyrical works explore complex themes of identity, progress and faith. I hope Anne’s poems will continue to resonate with our younger audiences, and provide them with the cultural ballast in our rapidly-changing world.


7. The wide range of programmes on offer at the SWF bears testament to the quality of literary talent, and the growing diversity of the literary arts scene, in Singapore. For this, I would like to thank the SWF team, and our partners from Tamil Murasu, National Gallery Singapore, the US Embassy, the British Council, and Culture Ireland, for their contributions to this year’s Festival.

8. Most of all, my heartfelt appreciation to our writers and artists for sharing your ideas and perspectives with us; and in challenging us to make our world a better place for all.

9. Thank you and I wish you a wonderful Festival ahead!

Last Updated: 06 November 2017

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