Readers and writers are in for a treat this year from 4 to 20 November, as SWF returns with its first full-scale format since the pandemic, marking a definitive time in the Festival’s legacy. In response to the uncertain times we live in currently, the theme for this year’s SWF is anchored by the ideology of IF (JIKA, 若, எனில்), as we grapple with the unknown in the future and ponder the possibilities which it holds simultaneously. For anyone who loves words, presented in a myriad of forms, there will be book readings, conversations, workshops, films, music performances and plenty more.
With over 200 online and offline events in satellite venues across the island, ArtsEquator dives deep into the unknown to recommend these festival highlights IF you have time to catch only 10 programmes:
1. Gita Raga
5 Nov Sat, 8pm – 9pm
$25, $35, $45
Image credit: Arts House Limited.
It will be a treat for all music-lovers this SWF, as there is a line-up of music performances taking place at SWF’s first-ever Festival Village, celebrating the written and spoken word through song and poetry.
Familiar names in the music scene—Jatt Ali, Hanafie Warren, and Moliano, Ryzall Noh and Olynn Salleh—take to the stage with at Victoria Theatre original new songs written based on a collection of poems from our very own Singapore literature canon. With verses from the father of poetry Masuri SN and Cultural Medallion recipients Mohd Latiff Mohd and Hadijah Rahmat, the programme brings an evening of song and poetry together for both the young and the young at heart.
12 Nov Sat, Various timings
$30 – Workshop fee is inclusive of all materials and a take-home puppet kit.
National Gallery Singapore, Roof Top Studio 1 and 3
Here’s a workshop that will give children 8-12 years old a chance to make their own shadow puppets, understand the mechanics of puppeteering and learn how to turn these static forms into expressive characters that tell engaging stories. This workshop will end with a presentation of Paper Monkey Theatre’s adaption of classic Chinese mythology, The Journey West: White Bone Fiend and Mount Fiery.
11 Nov Fri, 8pm – 9pm
The Arts House, Play Den
Asnida Daud (left) and Firdaus Sani (right). Image credit: Arts House Limited.
A rare opportunity to catch Firdaus Sani, a fourth-generation Orang Luat, who has learnt the traditions and the ways of life of his ancestors, who had a deep connection with the sea. Also featured is Asnida Daud, a representation of the Bahasa Budaya aspect of Malay language and culture in Singapore. Through poetry readings and musical performances, both performers will share real-life anecdotes about the displacement of our island natives, and our loss of cultural heritage over generations and ages.
5 Nov Sat, 11am – 12.30pm
The Arts House, Chamber
There is perhaps no better way to celebrate the silver jubilee of the Singapore Writers Festival than to honour the late theatre doyen Kuo Pao Kun, who is widely acknowledged as the pioneer of Singapore theatre. Bringing together artists and researchers who have previously worked alongside Kuo, this multi-lingual discussion celebrates and reflects on Kuo’s works, ideals and how he has left behind a legacy that lives on through artists and theatre practitioners from diverse fields across languages till today.
4 – 20 Nov, 10am – 10pm
Blue Room @The Arts House
Image credit: Arts House Limited.
Beyond celebrating the pioneer of Singapore theatre, this year’s Literary Pioneers Exhibition shines a spotlight on pioneering Malay women writers from the 19th century in Riau, to mid-20th century Malaya, to modern day Malay literature. Witness the intertwining stories and work of Malay literary pioneers who emerged as voices of resistance against their own uniquely fraught political and relational landscapes. This is also Singapore’s first exhibition celebrating the contributions of our Malay female literary pioneers speaking up for women’s education, social equality and the marginalised in society through the spoken and written word.
6. Erasing War: WWII & Singapore Tamil Historical Fiction போர் நிகழாதிருந்தால்: இரண்டாம் உலகப்போரும் சிங்கைத் தமிழ் வரலாற்றுப் புனைவும்
6 Nov Sun, 4.30pm
Living Room @The Arts House
Much of contemporary Tamil fiction in this region centres itself around memories of the Second World War, such as the renowned Puyalile Oru Thoni by Pa Singaram. But as a timely response to the Festival theme IF, three local Tamil writers Hemalatha, Pon Sundararaju and Rama Suresh gather to discuss the possibilities of speculative fiction in Singapore Tamil literature. If the Second World War had never happened, what shape would local Tamil historical fiction have taken?
13 Nov Sun, 2.00pm – 3.00pm
Ted Chiang has won a clutch of awards (four Hugos, four Nebula and six Locus and counting), and his works have been translated into over twenty languages. In this year’s Festival Keynote, Chiang will explores our abiding fascination with time travel, approaching the topic from both its place in classics from H.G. Wells to Back to the Future, as well as examining where the science is on the the subject.
4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19 Nov, 9pm – 9.30pm
Meeting point at The Arts House foyer
Curated by former Festival Director, Yeow Kai Chai, Secret Sayang Session is a reprise of a beloved programme from its 2015 edition, where participants spend 30 minutes in an intimate one-to-one conversation with featured festival authors. The location and identity of the writers are kept secret, so get yourself ready for a pleasant surprise. Spaces are limited and open 20 minutes before, on a first come first serve basis.
12 Nov Sat, 4.30pm – 5.30pm
Ticketed – $40
In her latest collection of essays, 12 Bytes, celebrated British writer Jeanette Winterson traces the path of technology, from the first industrial revolution to tranhumanism and beyond. While embracing the advances in technology, she notes that “if you can’t love, you can’t live, no matter how smart you are: things end up being jangly, hollow, and ultimately worthless”.
10 Nov Thu, 8.00pm – 9.30pm
Festival Pass with registration
The Arts House Play Den
And finally, to wrap it all up is If On A Quiet Night, a new programme curated by Yeow Kai Chai bringing together renowned writers of different languages including Anne Lee Tzu Pheng, Divya Govindarajan, Dr. Sa’eda Bung and Yolanda Yu to contemplate the big question anchoring this year’s Festival: IF? If you had an opportunity to address or reminisce about someone you have lost, or some place which is now gone, what would you say? Audiences are invited to pen their own thoughts alongside, as a musician threads each of the writers’ response to a score of reclamation and redemption.
Be a part of this huge milestone for the literary arts in Singapore, and celebrate past, present and future at the 25th edition of the Singapore Writers Festival. Purchase festival passes at $30 at www.singaporewritersfestival.com or www.sistic.com.sg. For more information, visit the festival website at www.singaporewritersfestival.com.