For the third year running, the Festival theme will be drawn from one of the non-English official languages – this time centred around a Chinese character referring to the different world(s) we live in - 界 (jiè). The word itself is nuanced with multiple meanings, expressing the idea of endless worlds which range from one’s imagination and virtual reality to geographical borders and man-made boundaries. The Festival went with the Tamil word ‘Aram’ (meaning “goodness”) in 2017 and the Malay word ‘Sayang’ (meaning “love” or “loss”) in 2016.
This year’s textured theme will encompass a broad spectrum of topics including immigration, inter-culturalism, climate change and identity. The spread seeks to offer audiences a wealth of fresh perspectives on how they see themselves, as well as to explore their identities to better understand their experiences in the world(s) they live in. In response to the theme, homegrown musician and fiction writer Kelvin Tan has created a Mandarin-based music piece interspersed with lines of dialect – including Cantonese, Hokkien and Teochew – as the key Festival commission this year.
This year, the Festival honours Yeng Pway Ngon as our Literary Pioneer. The wide-ranging oeuvre of the Chinese writer, who received the Cultural Medallion for Literature in 2003 and a three-time winner of the prestigious Singapore Literature Prize, will be celebrated through a Classroom Talk, an exhibition and a soiree featuring family, friends, colleagues and fellow writers which will be co-presented with The Arts House.