Culture and Youth Minister Grace Fu: “We need our own Enid Blytons and Roald Dahls”
Whither Singapore literature.
Two years ago, there was a brouhaha when Singaporeans learnt about the huge decline in the number of students taking literature. In 2013, there are only about 3,000 students taking literature, compared to 16,970 in 1992.
Recently, theatre veteran and director of the Singapore International Festival of Arts, Ong Keng Sen, told 938Live in an interview on Oct 24 about Singaporeans’ perception of literature:
“I think the way our Government has created Singapore is they have really entrenched certain perspectives. I’ll give you an example. I had a young person once say to me that she wouldn’t take literature, because literature is subjective and so you cannot get 100 per cent, while if you study science or math, you will be able to score 100 per cent. And the subjectivity of literature meant that you may actually lose out in the point system in the end. And so I was very, very shocked by this. It shows how even the young person is already very practical, and this is a 15 -16-year-old. I believe that this happened in society because the Government has already created such a structure that it’s become endemic. So now, even if you backpedal, it doesn’t mean anything.”
Ong went on to dismiss the likelihood of positive change in the arts scene by implying that while the government can try, “the other structures in society will actually ensure that these statements, ‘follow your passion’, really don’t work.”
Let’s hear it from the government then.
At yesterday’s opening ceremony of the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF), Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, explained why Singapore needs literature.
“It builds creativity, imagination and a curious mind. It helps us express ourselves better. It broadens our horizons. It broadens our horizons. It fosters empathy, compassion and a sense of common humanity across different walks of life”.
Minister Grace Fu continued and elaborated why Singaporeans “need Singapore literature”.
“Singapore readers deserve a Singapore literature that we can interpret through the lens of our own experiences, and our unique cultural memory…we need our own Enid Blytons and Roald Dahls; so that our children grow up not just dreaming about jam and scones and tea, but of Singapore hawker fare.”
In other words, Fu thinks that Singapore literature is important because of its nation-building role and how local literature could strengthen national and cultural identity.
Anyway, the jury is still out and you can judge for yourselves whether Singapore literature is on the ascendancy or in decline.
Just head on down to the Arts House for this 18th edition of the SWF to find out.
Titled “Island of Dreams”, the 10-day event will feature 242 Singaporean writers at various arts-related venue (Asian Civilizations Museum, National Gallery, Esplanade etc).
And check out local poet Gwee Li Sui’s piece for the SWF.
SWF runs from Oct 30 to Nov 8. Tickets for the festival pass at S$20. Visit SWF website for more info.
Top photo from SWF Facebook.