Singapore Writers Festival: 50 new writings by authors in anthology to mark Golden Jubilee

Daren Kamali holds a Wau, a Fiji warrior weapon, and performs "Stories from Islands, Songs from Islanders 2" during the official launch of the Singapore Writers Festival 2015 on Oct 30, 2015.
Daren Kamali holds a Wau, a Fiji warrior weapon, and performs "Stories from Islands, Songs from Islanders 2" during the official launch of the Singapore Writers Festival 2015 on Oct 30, 2015.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the official launch of the Singapore Writers Festival 2015.
Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the official launch of the Singapore Writers Festival 2015. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Singapore Writers Festival director Yeow Kai Chai speaks during the official launch of the Singapore Writers Festival 2015 on Oct 30, 2015.
Singapore Writers Festival director Yeow Kai Chai speaks during the official launch of the Singapore Writers Festival 2015 on Oct 30, 2015. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Local voices are taking the spotlight at this year's Singapore Writers Festival, with 242 Singaporean writers featured during the 10-day event.

Some of the most well-known are featured in an anthology of 50 new pieces of writing, collected in a hefty two-volume, 636-page anthology called Singathology to be launched on Nov 5 during the festival.

Edited by writer Gwee Li Sui, the volumes commemorate the nation's Golden Jubilee. Accordingly, they represent Singapore's multi-lingual heritage as well as the diversity of its literary scene.

Poetry, prose, comics and plays are included. Pieces written in Chinese, Malay and Tamil are accompanied by English translations.

Contributors include poet Edwin Thumboo, poet KTM Iqbal, graphic novelist Troy Chin, xinyao composer and singer Liang Wern Fook and writer-playwright Ovidia Yu.

The festival was launched Friday evening (Oct 30) at The Arts House by Minister of Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu. The Ministry's Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng was also in attendance.

Speaking to an audience comprising writers and artists, Ms Fu affirmed the importance of local literature and the government's commitment to building it up.

"We need a Singapore literature... that we can interpret through the lens of our own experiences, and our unique cultural memory," she said.

This year's festival, titled Island Of Dreams, will focus on breaking down traditional boundaries between languages and artforms, said its festival director Yeow Kai Chai.

The lineup of 300 events runs the gamut from rock concerts and a translation symposium, to visual art exhibitions and film screenings. It runs till Nov 8.

Although critics have said that the multidisciplinary approach risks overshadowing writers, Yeow hoped that the festival would help visitors "discover that the written word, presented in its variety of forms of a book, a play, a song or poetry, is a powerful tool to appreciate the world around us and voice our hopes and dreams".

In this spirit, the launch event embraced several artforms. New Zealander folk singer Hollie Fullbrook, from the Kiwi indie band Tiny Ruins, debuted her latest single, A Million Flowers. Dr Gwee went on stage to read New World, a poem he had written for the festival.

Later in the festival, The Straits Times' senior writers Wong Kim Hoh, Wong Ah Yoke and Rohit Brijnath will share their respective fields of expertise at the ST Conversations panels.

Another highlight is 17,000 Islands Dreaming, the festival's Indonesia-focused event curated by The Arts House running till Nov 7.

Indonesian poet and political critic Goenawan Mohamad will speak on the state of writing in Indonesia, while three Indonesian, English and French translators will do performance readings with a Javanese translator.

•The Straits Times is the official media partner of the Singapore Writers Festival. For more stories on the festival, go to www.straitstimes.com/tags/singapore-writers-festival-2015