Exploring Origins - Preview of Singapore Writers Festival 2012

19 Sep 2012
Photos by Singapore Writers Festival 2012

- When you define what you are not, you are defining who you are…

The new search for identity began as the influx of immigrants increased. It may be true that our forefathers have similarly hailed from other parts of the world, before sinking their roots permanently here on this tiny, bustling island, but decades have passed since then. Upon achieving independence from our neighbours, Singapore has conceived an idea of her own, on her own, and she must have been searching for an identity that would befit the bizarre mix of people she has been nurturing ever since then.

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Therefore, in her prime years, (Singapore is 47 years old this year), the onset of foreign cultures has successfully rocked Singapore’s fragile equilibrium mix of culture. The fact that people of the nation is provoked due to the effects of Singapore accepting a large intake of foreigners, shows that an apparent discrepancy exists between us and the others. This growing conscious awareness of the difference between us and them is starting to invoke a sense of identity, or at least the desire for differentiation.

Gone is the generation of our forefathers struggling to forge an identity as they acclimatise to this new land when they first arrived. In this year’s Singapore Writers Festival (SWF), we attempt to find ourselves at the root(s) of evolution through the looking-glass of story-telling and literature in Michael Cunningham’s In The Beginning, and the lecture sharing of 源来如此 by a Taiwan novelist, Huang Chun Ming.

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By strict definitions, we have a national identity. We are born and bred here in Singapore, we may not have a common root, nor a common heritage, nevertheless, all of us are the off-springs of a migrant society. Regardless, the memories of this nation has shaped us, her political reforms, ideologies, environment, the melting pot of culture and heritage has moulded us and continues to mould us. So it would be interesting to hear what the veteran local writers have to say about the city, long before our time, in 城市记忆与文学.

Kudos to our demography, multilingualism and multiculturalism has become a given in our country. Step into the Panel Discussion inReading Between the Lines where multilingual readings and translation of a literary extract will take place. Experience for yourself if there would be a ‘loss’ in translation or perhaps, a new breath of life might be given to the text in the context of another language. Also, find out how would local writers tap on such a luscious cultural diversity and create narratives unique to us inWriting in a Multicultural World.

At the same time, we need to explore the pivotal role of globalisation on our cosmopolitan society, that is impacting our current identity. Attend the Panel Discussion of Stories from a Shrinking Globe where we reflect on the complexities of a global world and how it has informed our (writers’) writing.

Identity is a big word banked on our languages, political decisions, ideas, heritage, culture, foreign influences and globalisation (etc.). The search for identity is an age-old pilgrimage. Perhaps it is in not knowing who we are that propels us forward and beckons us to dig into our past at the same time.

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