While travelling recently I took the opportunity to participate in the Singapore Writers Festival. My friend and reading mentor has been a lover of the Sydney Writers Festival and the Newcastle Writers Festival and has been encouraging me. While I’ve been to random sessions at the Newcastle events, I’ve never really had the time to surrender to a suite of events.
In Singapore I attended sessions on Feminism, Japanese Literature, and sessions defining Singapore and Singaporean Stories. I really enjoyed the whole event, which was really well organised, and many of the sessions were held in the historical parliament house, giving the event a real connection with the history of Singapore. Singapore is celebrating its 50th birthday since independence and is marking the occasion with events like this, reflecting on the past, and visioning the future. In some of the sessions I felt like I was part of a turning point for this young nation.
Sessions on Singapore:
Singapore is proud of its multicultural community, and respects the four main ethnic groups (and therefore languages) – Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English. So in the session I went to on ‘what is Singapore’sUltimate Dish?’ it was not surprising that the panel couldn’t decide! One member said he could not decide on one dish, but he thought Singaporean food was best represented in their love of the ‘buffet’. Another panel member argued that the definition of the ‘ultimate dish’ was the critical part of the question. He finally decided that the ultimate dish was one that international guests must try when they visit – Chicken Rice. The final Panellist agreed it was a matter of definition, because for him, the ultimate dish was one that is ‘internationally renowned’ – therefore it was Singapore noodles and a Singapore sling. At the end of the session, I had to ask – what about sweets? Well, the panel remained divided – but apparently they love their Chinese pastries. Panellists included:
In celebration of their 50th birthday, grants were made available for works that help celebrate Singapore. In this session, What makes Singapore Singapore? Authors of anthologies about Singapore presented their different works.One was editing a compilation of 50 stories about Singapore. His collection ended up in two large volumes. One of the other anthologies looked more like a photo collection but included interview with ordinary Singaporeans. This interested me, but was quite a large publication. One collections was titled '50 things to love about Singapore' - and includes commentary on things like Highway Slang, cultural tit bits, and other odd things. This book was produced with the traveller in mind. So at the end of the session when I commented in the question time on the size of the collections, I ended up receiving my own copy of this little collection. Of which I am enjoying reading a bit from now and then.
I'll post something soon on the Japanese Literature Sessions I went to and what I learned but as a teaser, I must say that I loved the discussion on Murakami, and especially enjoyed the Japanese Women Writers who both read and sang in Japanese!
|The Chamber, Singapore's Old Parliament House|
The event was held at the Art House in Singapore, which was the Old Parliament House. It felt like a fitting venue to be gathering with authors and readers of current day Singaporean thoughts. It was also great for tourists like me (and I don't think there were many there) to enjoy the movement around this building and to consider what sorts of decisions were made in this building. I attended a few sessions in the Chamber, a regal and historic place, making me feel a very special guest.
|Singapore Art House, formerly the Parliament House.|
I promise to post more from my holiday experiences soon. This photo was taken at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. I'm choosing to post it today as an image of Love. Imagine floating through a river of flowers. Imagine that for all those people who are suffering in the world right now. Imagine flowers are the future, not the one-off.
|Floral display inside the Dome at Gardens by the Bay|