Thursday, October 15, 2009


I am very grateful to represent Malaysia (together with other fellow Malaysian writers : Baha Zain, Wong Phui Nam, K S Maniam, Lat) in Singapore Writers’ Festival 2009. Appearance dates for me in this year’s festival will be on 24th, 25th, 27th and 29th October.
Singapore is not only our nearest neighbor, only minutes walk crossing Tambak Johor in the southern peninsula. In the 50’s, Singapore was one of the centre of Malay urban culture, where ‘make believe’ world of Jalan Ampas, owned by Shaw Brothers, transform the hikayats (traditional Malay stories) and so called modern Malay life, into the movies directed by film directors such as B S Rajhan, B N Rao, K M Basker, L Krishnan, and P Ramlee (to name a few). And the images that were projected in silver screens, quickly captured the mind of not only urban Malays but also Malays who lived in the rurals and remote islands.
In the 50’s the only university for Malaya and Singapore students was University of Malaya, situated in Singapore – which was actually formed by combining King Edward VII College (formed 1905) and Raffles College (formed 1927). In 1959 its branch was opened in Kuala Lumpur, later known as Universiti Malaya ( since January 1, 1962). I gained my first degree, master and PhD degree from this university.
Malay mainstream newspaper, Utusan Melayu - which is very close to the Malays, was published in Singapore since 1938 – operated at the Queen Street and later at Cecil Street. Five months after Malaya independence, Utusan Melayu moved to Kuala Lumpur. Several quality Malay books, including poetries and novels, were also published in Singapore since 1963, by publisher Pustaka Nasional at Kandahar Street.
The formation of Angkatan Sasterawan 50 (Generation 50’s Writers), or ASAS 50 on 6 August 1950 in Singapore has technically and ideologically gave a great impact for both Malay writers in Malaya and Singapore, at least for two decades. ASAS 50 was formed exactly one year and one day after I was born. When I was in my teen, I read a lot of literary work written by ASAS 50 writers such as Mas (Mohd. Ariff Ahmad), Hamzah Husain, Rosmera, Jymy Asmara, Masuri S.N., Keris Mas, Usman Awang, Awam il-Sarkam and so on. When I was at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Institute of Malay Language and Literature, Malaysia) I was lucky to work together with Keris Mas, Usman Awang and Awam il-Sarkam for a few years.
Participating in Singapore Writers Festival 2009 is not only an opportunity to meet my old friends in Singapore – Malays and non-Malays, or interact with literary audience there – young and old (in several programs : readings, meet-the-author sessions, talks, workshops, or visit to educational institutions). This is an opportunity to update, read and appreciate new literary works by Singaporean writers such as Gopal Baratham, Djamal Tukimin, Catherine Lim, Zuraidah Ibrahim, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Anuar Othman, Suchen Christine Lim, Alfian Saat, Isa Kamari, Kirpal Singh, Mohamad Latif Mohamad, Hwee Hwee Tan, Ovidia Yu and so on. And to meet other writers from another country, to know their aspiration and idealism through their works or discussion.
As a judge of Golden Point Award 2009 for Malay short stories written by Singaporean writers, I have encountered few good short stories, and the top three short story will receive Golden Point Award 2009. One of the aim of the competition is to identify new creative writing talent. I certainly would like to meet the winners.
To know budding and new writers are as important as to know established writers other than their names and works only. Unfortunately we seldom know them personally. There should be a mechanism where we – Malaysian and Singaporean writers know each other very well, as well as knowing further writers in China, Japan or Europe including this year’s Nobel laureate, Germany author Herta Mueller.
[Released in Kuala Lumpur, in conjunction of Launch of Singapore Writers Festival 2009, at MPH Mid Valley Megamall 15 October 2009, 2.00 pm].

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