Having a common language facilitates effective communication, without a doubt. It consequently constructs identities that are specific to the unique language. Back in April 2018, Kristang appeared in our pages, which is aptly titled 'The Language Issue', and we unravelled more about this near-forgotten ancestral tongue of Eurasians of Portuguese descent in Singapore.
This year's Singapore Writers Festival is themed 'A Language of Our Own'. Besides delving into Kristang (on A Bigger Party Than Expected), there's more to discover across various lingua franca. Esteemed local poet Pooja Nansi made her debut as its 2019 Festival Director and expressed “language allows us to navigate through an increasingly complex and multi-faceted world."
Indeed. This year's festival explores the role of language in the formation of identities and communities through thoughtfully-curated programmes. Expect discussions on how language affects our experiences with identity, community, history, and how we view the future.
Unsure on where to begin? Then reference our guide to experience the best of Singapore Writers Festival 2019 this weekend.
Festival Epilogue (feat. Haresh Sharma)
Sharma, Cultural Medallion recipient and veteran playwright behind celebrated plays such as Off Centre and Fundamentally Happy, examines the complexities behind the use of language in a multilingual society as explored in his work, and how this can reveal more than we thought possible about an individual and about the fabric of our nation.
Time and venue: 10 November, 6-7pm at Victoria Theatre
Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (To Everyone) (feat. Kamal Al-Solaylee)
Based on Al-Solaylee's seminal works, this lecture unpacks issues surrounding multiculturalism. That is, growing anxieties from cheap labour to colourism. Brown gathered various reporting conducted over two years in 10 countries on four continents. For instance: United States, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. You'll get to challenge assumptions about immigration and globalism while recounting the heartbreaking stories of people who are caught in the middle.
Time and venue: 9 November, 12:30-1:30pm at National Gallery Singapore, Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium
An Hour With: Min Jin Lee
Enamoured with Pachinko? New York Times bestselling author Lee speaks on this melodramatic novel with an intimate conversation. In fact, the book presents a sprawling historical saga that follows four generations of a Korean immigrant family in 20th century Japan. Expanding on questions of family and identity (a recurring theme in the book) as well as her own experiences as an Asian-American, Lee will examine the intricacies of being a perceived outsider and the power of fiction in bridging cultures.
Time and venue: 9 November, 4-5pm at Victoria Theatre
Understanding Identity Through Pop Culture (feat. Roxanne Gay)
So who are you, really? Leading cultural critic, professor, and self-professed 'bad feminist' Roxanne Gay speaks on the lessons pop culture has provided and taught us in unpacking and navigating our identities in a complex social and cultural climate.
Time and venue: 10 November, 11am-12pm at Victoria Theatre
Top Programme Picks and Highlights
Language and the Body
Three writers—Roxanna Gay, Joel Tan, and Kagiso Lesego Molope–melds the human form with words. So at this panel, they speak the ways they've sought to redress representations of the body in their work, exploring gender, sexuality, patriarchy, and finally, trauma.
Time and venue: 10 November, 4-5:30pm at The Arts House, Chamber
We Remember Rex Shelley
Singapore Writers Festival honours Eurasian literary pioneer Shelley this year. Thus, it's apt to have Koh Tai Ann (who chaired the judging panel that awarded Rex Shelly's debut novel The Shrimp People the top prize at the National Book Development Council's book awards in 1992. She named it a 'controversial choice' at the time and, of course, she will speak about the importance of Shelley's body of work in this session.
Time and venue: 9 November, 6-7pm at The Arts House, Blue Room
From Canada to Singapore
SWF 2019 spotlights Canada as the country of focus. Indeed, both countries share traits such as multiculturalism, linguistic diversity, and the effects of immigration on an ever-evolving culture. In the reading session, writers from Canada and Singapore share the stage as they read their work. *Psst: We both have red and white in our flags and produce great writers too. Namely Chelene Knight, Claudia Dey, Kagiso Lesego Molope, Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Darryl Whetter, Arianna Pozzuoli, Daryl Lim Wei Jie, and Imran Hashim.
Time and venue: 9 November, 8:30-10pm at The Arts House, Gallery II
Tell It Slant: Cyril Wong and Danez Smith
Poet Emily Dickinson famously said, "Tell the Truth but tell it slant". Therefore, this reading and conversation explore how Wong and Smith used language to reclaim identity and experience to speak their truths.
Time and venue: 9 November, 1-2pm at The Arts House, Chamber
What is the Most Versatile Singlish Word?
Eh, you ask me, then I ask who? Join Imran Hashim, Oniatta Effendi, Gurmit Singh, and Colin Goh to debate this close-at-heart issue. On ah?
Time and venue: 10 November, 2-3pm at The Arts House, Chamber
Singapore Writers Festival 2019: A Language of Our Own runs from now till 10 November. For more programmes and ticketing details such as purchasing a festival pass, head over to the Singapore Writers Festival website.