Admit it, the title for this post’s category is genius.
Okay, not really, depending on how you look at it.
Let me start of by saying that I’m Singaporean. I live in an island right in the middle of Southeast Asia, the last tip of an island right at the end of Malaysia. We spend the Singapore Dollar, we have shopping malls in practically every area in this country, people love our food, and the thing that pretty much defines us as Singaporean is something some people are trying to eradicate – Singlish.
So now that the background has been established, let me go into my observations on one thing that I seem to love rambling about – Singapore Writing.
There are a few points I would like to bring up here, mostly to do with the current observations:
The Definition of “SingLit”
Literally translated, SingLit would mean – Singapore Literature.
Loosely translated, I don’t know what SingLit is.
Now, if we separate the components of the term, “SingLit”, we may be able to get something out of it. Singapore Literature could mean two things:
- Literature written BY Singaporeans
- Literature written ABOUT Singapore
Operating on that premise, then everything published in Singapore is considered “SingLit”. But we all know that’s not the case. The crux of the problem lies in the term itself – Singapore Literature – both terms carry a myriad of possible definitions.
Let’s start with Literature first.
Literature can start with a number of possibilities, depending on how you look at it. It can be seen as:
- An academic subject
- A form of Art
- An object
Needless to say, the three do intertwine a lot. Most people I ask would tell me that Literature is, in a summarized phrase, “an exclusive form of story-telling”, or in Singaporean terms, “atas writing”. Some students tell me that it’s just another subject they have to study (most of the time, struggle) for. Amid this plethora of negative definitions, however, I still find the definition from my Literature Teacher back in Secondary School the best one:
“Literature is anything that’s written and has meaning that speaks to you.”
~ Ms James, 2004
So in essence, Literature is anything that’s written (possibly published), and something that you can understand and hopefully relate. It’s not restricted to genre, it’s just the form.
Now that Literature has been defined, let’s move on to Singapore.
What defines us? To be honest, especially as a Singaporean, I have no idea how to answer that. The only two things that stand out as Singaporean to me are the words we speak and the food we eat. Other than that, what is our Singaporean identity?
It makes sense if we are “expected” to produce literary works that portrays Singaporean identity, but therein lies the rub – what identity are we talking about?
And so the search and journeying continues.