This November, the Singapore Writers Festival will examine Singlish, emojis and other forms of communication through a lineup of talks and panels under the theme “A Language of Our Own”.
“The theme this year gives a nod to those of the three preceding years – Sayang, Aram and 界 (jiè). These expressions, in Singapore’s non-English official languages of Malay, Tamil and Chinese respectively, referenced concepts of love, virtue and the world at large,” said the Festival in a press release.
“This year, the theme invites authors and the audience to reflect what they might consider when talking about different types of language, including Singlish and emojis, and how as systems of communications, languages have both the power to create a sense of belonging and to also cause displacement.
This edition aims to examine the role of languages “at a time when the world is becoming increasingly globalised, yet fractured,” said organisers.
Organised by the National Arts Council, the 22nd edition of the Festival will be held from Nov 1 to 10 at the Civic District.
The 2019 Festival is headlined by American writer Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist, Marvel Comics’ World of Wakanda), winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize Marlon James (John Crow’s Devil, The Book of Night Women, A Brief History of Seven Killings), Korean-American author Min Jin Lee (Free Food for Millionaires, Pachinko) and veteran author and travel writer Pico Iyer (Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times).
This year, the Festival is making an effort to appeal to the next generation. Those aged 18 and below can enjoy a subsidised pass price of S$15, a S$10 discount off the standard price. Early-bird tickets are available at 20 percent off till Sept 30.
Making its debut at the Festival is the SWF Youth Fringe, organised in partnership with the Singapore Book Council, featuring events planned by a team of Youth Curators from Temasek Junior College, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and more.
Targeted at youth aged 13 to 18, the programme will include topics such as Young Adult (YA) fiction, K-drama, zine-making, memes and text-speak as a language. The SWF Youth Fringe is headlined by New York Times-bestselling author Nicola Yoon (The Sun is Also a Star, Everything, Everything).
“Language allows us to navigate through an increasingly complex and multi-faceted world,” said festival director Pooja Nansi. “This year’s theme invites audiences to reflect on how language can be used to rethink existing social models and evolve to accommodate the changing tides of our present.
“We hope to spark conversations around the importance of language in the formation of our sense of self and community, and in turn, how language can foster a more inclusive society in a culturally and linguistically diverse Singapore.”
This is Nansi’s first year as festival director for SWF. She succeeds Yeow Kai Chai, director of projects at the NAC, who had helmed the festival for four years.
A recipient of the Young Artist Award in 2016 and Singapore’s first Youth Poet Ambassador, Nansi is best known for her poetry collection, Love Is An Empty Barstool, released in 2014. Last year, Popspoken called Nansi’s appointment as festival director as “a win for Singapore’s art scene“.
“The poet isn’t shoe-shined and scholarly as they come; she’s grunge and grace, grit and wisdom; she’s been to the streets, the high grounds and underground — and now we know she’ll be throwing a party with everyone in the same room, this time next year. “As both a defender and champion of alternative art, Nansi’s new appointment is definitely a breath of fresh air… It tells of a change already rippling through the literary arts scene.”
Tickets are available via SISTIC here.
Header image: Singapore Writers Festival, Ogilvy, National Arts Council