Despite unprecedented challenges developed from COVID-19, Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) is certainly back on schedule in 2020. And there's no better way to approach it other than focusing one of the problems faced during this pandemic: Intimacy.
The 23rd edition of Singapore Writers Festival questions intimacy in a time of quarantine and social distancing. Besides discussing and reflecting on its impact, this anchor theme also examines how people engage digitally and connect with one another when apart. Many are enduring their first experience navigating intimacy in a socially-distant world. So, topics such as the changing definitions of loneliness, mental health, and the need for human interaction and community-mindedness in a time of pandemic will explore that.
Presenting entirely in digital mediums for the first time, this multi-lingual literary festival delves into various thematic-related narratives using aural and visual formats.
"Through the festival’s programming and ground-up initiatives, we hope to spark conversations at home and abroad about what intimacy means to us in this new normal. We invite everyone to witness the power of literature in capturing this shared human need," said Festival Director Pooja Nansi.
Get your pens and notes ready. As always, Singapore Writers Festival gathers notable international literary names to front 'An Hour With'.
Look forward to authors including bestseller of White Teeth, Zadie Smith; poet of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Life on Mars, Tracy K Smith; poet of Stag’s Leap, Sharon Olds; acclaimed cartoonist of graphic novel Maus, Art Spiegelman; and Hugo Award-winning science fiction author Liu Cixin, among others, who'll share their passion and inspirations with participants.
Adding to the already stellar line-up are four more literary heroes. Fans of The Handmaid's Tale will be ecstatic to discover how distinguished author Margaret Atwood craft magnetizing tales like the 2019 Booker Prize-winning The Testaments. Also, make time for award-winning journalist and columnist Naomi Klein, who wrote the seminal books The Shock Doctrine and No Logo; acclaimed author Sarah Lewis, of The Rise; and prodigious novelist, critic and photographer Teju Cole.
Have any burning queries? Interact in real-time with Atwood and Klein during the question-and-answer segment of their programmes.
SingLit is also in the cards too and back again is the well-received 'Literary Pioneer' series. Working together with local partners and the community to highlight SingLit's rich history, key homegrown authors take centrestage.
Three seminal Tamil writers and Cultural Medallion recipients, P Krishnan, Ma Elangkannan, and Rama Kannabiran, whose works span across short stories, novels, poetry, and radio, are featured this year. Via an interactive and multi-sensorial digital exhibition in both English and Tamil, the showcase unearths untold stories of Singapore’s Indian community from the Second World War to the years of industrialisation and urbanisation in the 1970s and 1980s.
Specifically for SWF2020, voices in the SingLit community-produced 20 innovative commissions in digital literary works.
Begin with Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows. Experience the interactive psychological horror game which takes place entirely over email. In this fictional universe created by speculative fiction author Victor Fernando R Ocampo, immerse and conquer brainteasing assignments.
Another notable commission is A Call Away. Inspired by Alvin Pang’s best-selling collection What Gives Us Our Names, Artwave Studio will guide participants through an intimate phone call when unpacking their activity package.
Titled Dearest S/亲.密, this newest SWF-commissioned addition digital project transforms participants into confidantes to protagonist J as she navigates the idea of intimacy in her relationships and uncovers her own vulnerabilities. Through a chatbot, participants are invited into her world as they listen to J’s innermost thoughts and conversations with others. Co-presented with Cherilyn Woo and Gong Xin, the programme can be experienced in either Mandarin or English.
Films prove to be an important medium at SWF 2020 too. The Singapore Minangkabau Association’s short film series, TARAGAK, will take audiences on a journey of exploring aspects of longing in the Minangkabau culture.
Starting with The Beauty of Spring/வசந்தகால வனப்பு, two short films based on Rama Kannabiran and Ma Ilangkannan’s short stories directed by award-winning director K Rajagopal and produced by SITFE will be featured.
These special commissions reflect how Singapore’s writers have embraced the digital realm as a medium for more innovative programme offerings.
Southeast Asian Focus
The nature of SWF's multi-lingual focus also promotes cross-cultural dialogue. Co-presented with SingLit Station, Southeast Asian writers curates a dedicated series of panels and talks to engage with the curious. Programmes include Vis a Visibility, a panel session that raises critical questions regarding literature for, and by people with disabilities.
Otherwise, get personal during Intimate Pairings: Questions Over Dinner. Prominent writer pairs, such as Jakarta-based mother-and-daughter Leila and Rain Chudori, discuss issues such as identity and body in the context of their writing, over a hearty meal of their favourite dishes.
In the reading and discussion session From Singapore to Hong Kong, writers from both countries share their perceptions of connection and isolation after engaging in the intimate act of letter writing with one another over an extended period of time.
Inclusivity matters. Thus, translated texts and the process of literary translations will also be profiled through programmes like Translation Circle(s): Live!. This ambitious feature showcase translators tackling a live translation of works across different languages. Subtitles in English will be provided for programmes in Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
Nobody is left out as there are programmes for and with persons with special needs through collaboration with partners such as Act 3 Theatrics and Very Special Arts Singapore.
Class In Session
Got an idea to express or draft out? Join spoken word poet Arianna Pozzouli as she guides participants in online workshop Imitation or Intimacy? Making Connections Through Parody to build bridges with others through humorous recordings.
Aspiring content creators can also take cues from The Arts House Presents Night Spin 182.7. Occuring every evening at The Arts House, SWF’s radio station schedules a series of podcasts and vodcasts highlighting both local and international artists. Listeners can enjoy works by American poet Ryan Van Winkle, local actor Grace Kalaiselvi, theatre group The Second Breakfast Company and more.
Singapore Writers Festival 2020 happens from 30 October to 8 November 2020. For more details such as ticketing and programme line-up, visit the Singapore Writers Festival website.