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Mapping the literary roots between ASEAN and India

By Mitali Chakravarty

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The first ever ASEAN INDIA Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Writers Festival was held in Singapore with great success.

More than 30 writers from Singapore, Malaysia and India participated in the first ever ASEAN Indian Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Writer’s Festival on 6-7 January in Singapore.

Many leading literary figures of ASEAN such as Edwin Thumboo, Suchen Christine Lim and Isa Kamari participated in the two-day event held at the posh Marina Bay Sands.

The ASEAN India Writers Festival, an initiative of the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, was organized by Kitaab International, Singapore, on behalf of the High Commission of India in Singapore, with the support of many partner organisations such as The Arts House, and La Salle College of the Arts. De Ideaz, Singapore, were the main event managers for the festival, which had more than 5,000 registered visitors.

Exploring ASEAN and India connections though literary and cultural roots

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Zafar Anjum, the Programme Director and Founder of literary and publishing platform Kitaab, gave the welcome address. He welcomed the participants and reflected on the attempt to bring together writers from diverse cultures and language backgrounds to create an environment of learning and growth.

Edwin Thumboo, a celebrated poet and academic of Singapore, traced how Sanskrit and Indian culture, religion and customs spread through South-east Asia from the start of history. He touched upon Hindu and Buddhist influences in Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia with graphic maps and slides in his talk, ‘A Sense of India in ASEAN’.

The panel discussions were broad-ranging in topic and included all kinds of voices and literary genres – from mythology to novels, and from short stories to children’s literature. There were sessions featuring literary performances too. Four new titles by ASEAN and Indian writers were launched at the festival: The Best Asian Short Stories 2017 edited by Monideepa Sahu and Zafar Anjum; Senserly, Amakoby Anita Thomas; The Sacred Sorrows of Sparrows by Siddharth Dasgupta, and Tawassul by award-winning Singaporean writer Isa Kamari, the first Urdu translation of a work of Singaporean literature.

India in the Imagination of ASEAN

The first panel discussion with prominent award winning ASEAN writers, Suchen Christine Lim and Isa Kamari, focused on “India in the Imagination of ASEAN”.

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The moderator, Nilanjana Sengupta, traced how Nalanda University played a non-confrontational role in spreading the ideas in the region and asked the panelists to talk of Indian influences in their writings. Suchen Christine Lim talked of how her Indian characters grew out of her experience of Indians that she met or read about and how Buddhism, which was born in India, influenced the Chinese and Asian characters she portrays in her books.

Isa Kamari said he realised that both Hinduism and Islam were monotheistic after visiting Bali, where Hinduism had travelled from India around 1st century. He added that Hinduism existed before Islam and spoke of his positive experience of traveling in India. All these experiences are to be found in his novels.

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Eye/Feel/Write About Art and Language: The Ekphrastic Experiment

EFW 2015 Cover 18 Aug 2015 Front OnlyWhat happens when art meets literature? At the Singapore Writers Festival, Eye/Feel/Write will launch its second installment, with the publication of a beautiful anthology, titled “Eye/Feel/Write: Experiments in Ekphrasis”, as well as curated walking tours at The National Gallery.

A special commission by the National Arts Council, Eye/Feel/Write is a two-year ekphrastic project that has invited distinguished writers in Singapore to pen texts inspired by artworks exhibited at museums here. In the first year, ten writers — Alvin Pang, Edwin Thumboo, Isa Kamari, Jollin Tan, Joshua Ip, Ovidia Yu, Ramanathan Vairavan, Robin Hemley, Tan Chee Lay, and Yeow Kai Chai — created texts that dialogued with artworks at Singapore Art Museum’s Medium at Large exhibit. Ten poems were printed on broadsides as limited edition collectibles, housed in blank journals with an invitation to readers to engage in their own ekphrastic experiments.

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Edwin Thumboo Opens Goa Arts and Literature Fest

edwinthambooRenowned author Edwin Thumboo got nostalgic during his Goa visit when he opened the fifth edition of the Goa Arts and Literature Festival (GALF) here.

Speaking after the opening ceremony, Thumboo, 81, recalled his childhood teachers, a Goan couple, who shaped his growing years here.

“I also recall when I was eleven-year-old, we had two Goan families living in the city. They were the example of what a person should be,” said the Singaporean poet, who is regarded as one of the pioneers of English literature in his country. Continue reading


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Interview: Edwin Thumboo in Conversation with G S P Rao

GSP Rao interviews the eminent Singapore poet and one of the pioneers of Singapore Writing in English (SWE) in Muse India

edwinthambooEdwin Thumboo is a pioneering and award winning Singaporean poet in English, academic and administrative policy maker as senior Professor of English and academic at National University of Singapore (NUS), longest serving Dean of the faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Chairman and Director of the University’s Centre of Arts.

Often referred to as the undeclared Poet Laureate of Singapore and the Literary Voice of Singapore. We include the full details of Edwin Thumboo in the Authors Profile. GSP Rao, Managing Editor of Muse India, engages him in a free-wheeling and in-depth conversation for the Hyderabad Literary Festival this year in which the poet-scholar speaks of the Singpaorean Writing from the historical, cultural and ethnic perspectives and about the evolution of his own poetry. Continue reading


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Singapore: Legacy begets literature

At the age of 80, Edwin Thumboo is the senior-most writer attending the fourth Hyderabad Literary Festival. The Emeritus Professor of English at the National University of Singapore displayed a remarkable sense of humour in an interactive session on World English and the literature of Singapore that took place on day one of the fest on Friday.  Continue reading


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Singapore poets featured in The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English

Alvin Pang

Alvin Pang

“The latest, second edition of The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English features several entries on Singapore poets,” tweeted Singapore poet and literary guru Alvin Pang today.

Besides Pang, Boey Kim Cheng, Edwin Thumboo, Arthur Yap, Yong Shu Hoong, Toh Hsien Min,  Jee Leong Loh and Cyril Wong have been included in the publication.

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