IN an age where digital transformation is rapidly advancing, especially among the youths, there is a compelling need for individuals to rediscover the significance of literature in their lives and nurture the habit of reading, emphasised Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.
Chow firmly believed that a society immersed in the arts, in all its forms, tends to be happier and more progressive. This sentiment was shared after he officiated the 13th George Town Literary Festival (GTLF) at Loft 29 on Church Street Ghaut in George Town today.
“GTLF serves as the ideal platform for individuals involved in literature, including authors, poets, translators, journalists, and screenwriters, to find their calling.
“I anticipate this event annually because it motivates people of all ages to explore literature’s role in their lives,” he expressed.
Highlighting a concerning trend, Chow noted that fewer people are engaging with books, with reading seemingly becoming an exclusive hobby for the millennial generation.
“Many abandon the habit after completing their education, particularly the younger, digitally native generation, where entertainment and instant gratification are readily accessible,” he said in his speech.
The ongoing GTLF, running from yesterday (Nov 23) until Nov 26, focuses on navigating uncertainty, crossing borders, and highlighting Southeast Asian writers and multi-sensory storytelling approaches.
Beyond GTLF, Chow commended various initiatives throughout the year aimed at promoting a love for literature in the state.
“Local publishers play a crucial role in bolstering emerging writers, while writers’ workshops and book readings, along with the collaboration with independent bookstores, actively contribute to showcasing Malaysian authors.
“These efforts collectively serve to inspire others to embark on a similar literary journey.
“Additionally, organisations dedicated to translating books across Bahasa Malaysia, English, Tamil, and Chinese language further contribute to literary diversity,” he said.
The festival’s theme this year, ‘Terra Incognita,’ derived from Latin, signifies exploring the unknown and aims to delve into unexplored literary territories.
Main festival sites include Loft 29 in Church Street Ghaut and Mano Plus in Beach Street.
While officially in its 13th year, Chow reflected on a notable achievement in 2018 when the festival won the London Book Fair International Excellence Award.
“Additionally, we have amassed a community of over 550 writers in the past 12 years. Commencing with just five writers in 2011, it is safe to say that we have made substantial progress for a small city-state,” Chow stated.
He also acknowledged the festival team’s resilience in organising a virtual, international-level literary festival during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Notable figures present at the event included state Tourism and Creative Economy Committee chairman Wong Hon Wai, Pengkalan Kota assemblyman Wong Yuee Harng, Seri Delima assemblyman Connie Tan Hooi Peng, GTLF director Pauline Fan, Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) chief executive officer Ashwin Gunasekeran, and the Ambassador of Sweden to Malaysia Joachim Bergstrom.
Story by Kevin Vimal
Pix by Siti Nuratikah Rahmat
Video Adleena Rahayu Ahmad Radzi