New centre to promote translation and intercultural efforts opens

The Select Centre, a new arts non-profit organisation aimed at promoting translation and intercultural efforts, is co-founded by former Arts House director William Phuan (left) and Select Books director Tan Dan Feng.
The Select Centre, a new arts non-profit organisation aimed at promoting translation and intercultural efforts, is co-founded by former Arts House director William Phuan (left) and Select Books director Tan Dan Feng.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The Select Centre, a new non-profit arts company aimed at promoting translation and intercultural efforts here, has opened.

It has appointed as its managing director, Mr William Phuan, the former director of The Arts House. Director of Asian book specialist Select Books Tan Dan Feng is also a co-founder.

The centre, which does not have a physical location yet, comes at a time when awareness of the importance of translation is rising, Mr Tan said.

He was speaking to Life at the centre's opening on Wednesday at the Grassroots Book Room in Bukit Pasoh Road. He also chairs the yearly Singapore International Translation Symposium and sits on the National Translation Committee, formed last year by the Ministry of Communications and Information.

"There are now translation courses offered in schools and universities. You can study it as a minor, or as a bachelor's degree. There is also a Master's programme coming up," he said, citing the Nanyang Technological University's postgraduate programme in translation and interpretation, which was unveiled on Tuesday.

The centre seeks to tap Singapore's position, both as a country that is home to diverse cultures, and as a gateway to the South-east Asian region to promote intercultural dialogue, said Mr Phuan.

"We want to develop and raise the capabilities of writers and translators here, increase public awareness, and to promote an exchange of literature and translation between Singapore and its neighbouring countries," he added.

The centre has already organised workshops in Yangon, Myanmar, to translate local literary works to Burmese and vice versa, and will do so again next year.

It has also planned a line-up of activities in the coming year, such as readings, lectures, workshops and residencies, to be held at various bookstores.

From Sept 12 to Nov 2, it will organise Translators Lab, a workshop led by veteran translators to translate local Chinese, Malay and Tamil literary works into English. These include works by writers Wong Koi Tet, Dr Sae'da bte Buang, Dilip Kumar and poet KTM Iqbal.

Participants will do a seven-week online mentorship, and the workshop will conclude with a three-day boot camp.

At the upcoming Singapore Writers Festival from Oct 30 to Nov 8, the centre will curate nine intercultural programmes, including panel discussions and performances.

It will present an English translation of Potret Puisi Melay Singapura (A History Of Singapore Malay Poetry), done by two translators who have joined its first residency programme.

In November, the centre will launch TranslateSingapore, Singapore's first translation festival slated to run from Oct 31 to Nov 12. It comprises public outreach programmes, school workshops and a translation symposium at the Singapore Management University on Nov 3.

Noting Singapore's history as a translation hub since the early 1800s, when Western and Asian texts were already being translated into regional languages, Mr Tan said: "These efforts show the tradition of moving between, and linking cultures, which has always been part of the Singapore DNA."

For more information, go to www.selectcentre.org

jianxuan@sph.com.sg