Reading Is On The Decline In Singapore, And This Poet Wants To Change That

Every year, we scope out 18 women who are driven by a desire to bring positive change and have achieved success in their chosen field as part of the Great Women Of Our Time awards. Meet 2019’s Arts & Media nominee, Pooja Nansi, Director, Singapore Writers Festival:

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Meet Pooja Nansi – Great Women Of Our Time 2019 Arts & Media Nominee

 

“I want to hear a poem about Singapore”… goes the first line of Pooja Nansi’s A Rant.

Growing up in the East of our Little Red Dot, Pooja used to see people from all walks of life but she never saw them represented in her school books.

Becoming a poet simply helped her chart her observances and give her memories some permanence. So imagine her surprise when she was named as Director of the famed Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) this year.

“I don’t think I ever thought I would be doing this job. It’s been a cool but unexpected trajectory going from teaching, to organising independent poetry gigs, making my own work and then getting to helm a national festival,” says the 37-year-old.

Pooja comes from a family of educators and says reading and writing were like second skin growing up.

“The light bulb moment that led me to accepting this job was realising it was an opportunity to broaden mindsets about the power of literature and the writer and spoken word.”

She says a lot of Singaporeans she’s come across tend to think that reading and writing or even literature itself is too cheem (difficult) but Pooja wants to work towards changing that mindset.

“I’d like to be able to work towards demystifying the literary arts because I believe that literature should be accessible and relevant to everyone regardless of gender, class, race or age,” she explains.

The award-winning poet wants to work towards demystifying the literary arts in Singapore.

“The thing that I love about being a writer it that allows me to make ideas come to life and be creative. I love that no two days are the same and that it gives me the opportunity to change mindsets about what the literary arts can look like.”

Like many other minority voices in the arts, Pooja does find it challenging sometimes to be underestimated either because of how she looks or others’ misconceptions of what someone in her position should look like.

“I wish for a day when we don’t need to have conversations about diversity and difference because we are the status quo,” says the poet, who is also one-half of spoken word rap duo, Thick Beats For Good Girls.

“Honestly I am all about women who are flawlessly fierce and unapologetically themselves. I want to be remembered for being bold and bright and not afraid to push boundaries and making space for people who don’t have enough of it.”

Pooja takes over as Festival Director of the Singapore Writers Festival from outgoing Yeow Kai Chai.

For someone whose favourite quote comes from country-crooner Dolly Parton (“Figure out who you are and do it on purpose”), Pooja also has some good old-fashion advice for women looking to break into the arts.

“Have an opinion about things,” she shares. “Have a point of view, rock the boat a little, be kind, be firm, read a lot of books, listen, speak up when you need to, and take up that seat at that table.”

Pooja herself has definitely taken a seat at the SWF table as its newly-minted Festival Director, and the award-winning poet states matter-of-factly when ask what she will do to shake up the famed festival this year: “Make it more feminist”.

This year’s edition of the Singapore Writers Festival will run from 2 to 11 November.

The Great Women Of Our Time Awards 2019 is brought to you by main presenter, Lancôme, and presenter, PANDORA.

Photos: Vee Chin & Tan Wei Te
Fashion Direction: Aaron Kok
Styling Assistants: Juliet Suen & An Lyn Chee
Hair: Jason Wong/Salon Nu, Grego & Ash Loi/Sonder Salon
Makeup: Keith Bryant Lee, Hongling Lim, Rina Sim, Wee Ming & Jyue Huey (for Shann Sok)
Location: 89NR, The Working Capitol, Botanico at The Garage & The Summerhouse

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