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Singapore Writers Festival 2019: A Language of Our Own (Preview)

Screenshot 2019-08-07 at 10.57.41 PM

Top row (L-R): Min Jin Lee (Korea-US), Marlon James (Jamaica)
Bottom row (L-R): Hanna Alkaf (Malaysia), Theresa Lola (Nigeria/UK), Wong Yi | 黃怡 (Hong Kong)

The Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) is back this new November for its 22nd edition, welcoming on board poet Pooja Nansi as Festival Director, following Yeow Kai Chai’s exit. This year’s festival takes on the theme of A Language of Our Own, set to explore the role of language in the expression of identities and formation of communities in the 21st century. Some of the biggest authors set to attend this year’s festival include Min Jin Lee of Pachinko, and Marlon James, winner of the 2015 Man Booker prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.

Organised by the National Arts Council (NAC), this year’s SWF will be extending its reach to youths aged 13 – 18 through a new festival track – the SWF Youth Fringe – as part of the Council’s efforts to nurture early engagement with the literary arts. Jointly organised with the Singapore Book Council, the SWF Youth Fringe will be curated by a panel of Youth Curators from a number of schools including Temasek Junior College and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. The panel has curated a a range of programmes targetting youth, ranging from YA fiction to K-pop, zine-making to memes. The programme will be headlined by Nicola Yoon, best known for New York Times-bestselling novels The Sun is Also a Star and Everything, Everything, both of which have been adapted into movies.

Other authors participating in the Youth Fringe include editor, author and screenwriter Nikesh Shukla, Hanna Alkaf and editor-at-large at Fleurs Des Lettres Wong Yi. In line with the SWF Youth Fringe, the festival will also be introducing the SWF Youth Pass, a festival pass for youth audiences. Pass holders will then be able to attend more than 100 events ranging from panel discussions and mini-lectures to exhibitions and author readings.

Returning to the theme, A Language of Our Own seeks to examine the role of languages in identity-formation and community-making in today’s increasingly globalised and fractured world. Through SWF’s programmes, the audience is then invited to reflect on the function of languages, and how they examine the socio-cultural status quo so as to create a more inclusive society. The theme will also explore the evolution of languages, for the audience to gain a better appreciation of linguistic anthropology, how this evolution in languages have influenced our social lives and glean insights on how societies might communicate in the future.

This year’s festival will also be putting Singlish in the spotlight, with conversations around topics such as the most versatile Singlish word and a series of mini-lectures titled “The Words We Love” celebrating the everyday vernacular of Singaporeans. SWF will also feature cross-cultural programmes, with a variety of events that showcase the diversity of languages, such as “Perang Spontan”, a Dikir Barat x rap battle performance; the return of “Translation Circle:Live!”, a live translating session which demonstrates the gamut of challenges faced in translating across languages and cultures; as well as a calligraphy panel and tour.

The Singapore Writers Festival 2019 takes place from 1st to 10th November 2019. Advance Sales Festival Passes and Youth Passes are available from now till 2nd September 2019 via SISTIC For more information, visit their website or Facebook. The SWF Festival Pass and Youth Pass allow audiences entry to more than 100 events at a discounted price of S$20 during advanced sales (regular price at S$25) and S$15 respectively.

Festival Pass and Youth Pass holders can also enjoy 20% discount for all other SWF events that are ticketed separately. Tickets for Marlon James and Min Jin Lee’s lectures will go on sale from 16 August while other individually ticketed events will be released in early September.

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