Eastern Voices Against Western Colonialism
Date: Saturday, 15 October 2022, 5pm to 6.30pm
Born in different countries, these two writers had remarkably similar life arcs. Tirto of Indonesia and Bharati of India were freedom fighters. Their foes -- colonial oppressors. Their battleground – journalism. Their weapon of choice – the pen. These turbaned, moustachioed native warriors even resembled each other in their sartorial look and intense gaze! More of their fascinating life and work in this online talk. Tune in!
Speaker: Dr. Azhar Ibrahim
Moderator: Dr Elavazhagan Murugan
Ramayana Retold in Chinese
Date: Saturday, 13 Aug 2022, 11am to 12.30pm
The great Indian epic Ramayana has crossed many oceans to make an impact and leave an imprint on many cultures beyond India. In this English video presentation, Dr Chua Soo Pong shares some fascinating insights into his own efforts to retell the Ramayana story in Chinese, in different performance modes. Dr Chua is a doyenne of the Chinese opera world in Singapore. His retold Ramayana is a compelling guide to crossing boundaries across cultures.
Speaker: Dr. Chua Soo Pong
Moderator: Dr Elavazhagan Murugan
Kamban: One of World's Great Poets
Date: Saturday, 23 Jul 2022, 8pm to 9.30pm
The literary wealth in the Tamil language is immeasurable. One of the greatest Tamil epics is Kamba Ramayanam! One of the greatest Tamil poets is Kambar.
Ramayana, one of India’s greatest epics, has many versions in many languages and cultures, especially in South East Asia. Kamban’s Tamil version is unique in many aspects. It is known for its superlative verses and brilliant dimensions to the various characters and is exalted along the lines of the great 5 epics of Tamil literature. Kambar, in Kambaramayanam, treats the Indian civilization of his time in a way that makes his work universal, much like Homer’s epics, Virgil’s Aeneid, or Shakespeare’s plays. Written in the 12th century, the universality of Kambaramayanam is its main appeal to all Southeast Asia, where Ramayana is also one of the most popular stories of the region.
Many of us would have heard of Ramayana, particularly Valmiki’s Sanskrit version. In this new talk by CSTC, we discuss in-depth the Tamil translation of the original text by Kamban and its distinct qualities.
Professor George Hart is a world-renowned literary doyen and polymath, a widely respected scholar of both Tamil and Sanskrit, who also reads Greek, Latin and Russian. He has translated some of the best Tamil classical works into English. He is an Emeritus Professor at the University of California, Berkely, where he was formerly the Chair of Tamil Studies at the Department of South and South-east Asian Studies. He has written extensively on premodern Tamil, its relationship to classical Sanskrit, and South Indian religion and culture. He was the winner of the prestigious Ramanujam Prize for translation in 2002. In 2015, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India for his contributions to the study and translation of Indian literature. He has been a consistent voice for Tamil’s recognition as a classical language 40 years.
The official letter he wrote in 2000 to support the efforts of the Tamil Nadu government to have Tamil recognised as a Classical language in India was released by the University of California, Berkeley. In 2004 the Indian government gave Tamil the status of a Classical language. In its citation, it mentioned that Prof Hart’s letter was one of the key documents that influenced its decision. Professor Hart will always have the appreciation and gratitude of every Tamil speaking individual.
Moderator: Dr. Elavazhagan Murugan is the Head of Young CSTC and Deputy Head of Programmes. He is a Research Scientist and Entrepreneur in the field of life sciences who is also involved in the Singapore theatre as script writer and director having written plays mostly in Literary Tamil and English.
Building Bridges: Translating Chinese Literary Masterpieces Into Tamil
By Payani Dharan
Date: 14 May 2022 5pm
You can view a recording of this erudite and insightful talk at the above link.
Translating between two of the oldest languages in the world is a big challenge. Translating creative works is even more so. This talk in English will reveal the actual experiences of someone who translated the oldest Chinese classic and a Chinese Nobel Laureate's novel into Tamil.
Speaker: Translation is a skill on its own. Payani Dharan – an Indian diplomat – has translated major Chinese literary works to Tamil. Not an easy feat! In this video, hear him share his experience, challenges and take you through the art of translation. The discussion in English may inspire you to kick-start your journey into translation!
Moderator: Sithuraj Ponraj and Ravi Sarma
Dravidian and Indus Valley Script
By Professor Asko Parpola
Date: 16 April 2022 8pm
You can view a recording of this erudite and insightful talk at the above link.
Tamil is considered by many scholars to be the oldest spoken language in the world and is believed to have its roots in the Indus valley civilization. The Indus Valley scripts were discovered in 1921 and even after 100 years they have yet to be deciphered conclusively unlike Middle Eastern scripts like Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, etc. Many decipherments have been proposed and Prof Asko Parpola has been an early advocate of the script being of Proto-Dravidian origin. He led a team between 1960s to the 1980s to do original research using computer analytics. The culmination of his multi-decades of work was captured in his seminal book – Deciphering the Indus Script. In this talk he shares some of his key findings and insights.
Speaker: Professor Parpola is an Indologist who is currently Professor Emeritus of Indology and South Asian Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland. He was awarded the Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award at the World Classical Tamil Conference in 2010 in India. In 2015, he was awarded India's Presidential Award of Certificate of Honour in Sanskrit.
Moderator: Subbiah Lakshmanan, member of the Programmes Group at CSTC
Interior Landscapes, Intercultural Explorations: Curiosity, Openness, Pleasure
Date: 26 March 2022
The speaker says: “This dialogue is inspired by A.K. Ramanujan’s The Interior Landscape: Classical Tamil Love Poems and by the work of the Intercultural Theatre Institute and the Centre for Singapore Tamil Culture. I explore, as an amateur, resonances and affinities between love poems in Tamil, Chinese, and Japanese. In doing so, I raise a few questions: What is entailed in trying to understand the inner life of another person, especially one who writes in a foreign language? If human beings have always known that there are others beyond their cultural community, isn’t some kind of “intercultural” encounter a fundamental part of human experience? Isn’t “translation” an essential human activity, and one that is always imperfect, incomplete, and unfinished? And all the more so in the face of a plurality of languages, cultural forms, and spatial experiences – not just across communities, but even within a single community through time and space? Do our intercultural explorations lead us to a broader and deeper understanding, not just of others, but ultimately also ourselves?”
Speaker: Prof Kwok Kian Woon is a professor of sociology at Nanyang Technological University and has strong interests in heritage and the arts. He has served on many boards including the National Arts Council and the National Heritage Board.
Moderator: Assoc Prof Chitra Sankaran, Acting Head, Department of English Language & Literature, National University of Singapore.
Munshi Abdullah: The Making of a New Man in the Malay World
Date: 26 February 2022
Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir (1796-1854) was a leading intellectual of his time whose legacy and contributions are still remembered and recognised today. Though Melaka-born, it was in Singapore that his illustrious career bloomed. He was a prolific writer and also a Malay language teacher to prominent colonial figures and Christian missionaries. The teaching vocation earned him the title of Munshi, which is the Malay term for teacher. Abdullah represents what can be called Manusia Selat or the “New Man of the Straits.” This New Man represents cosmopolitan outlook and thinking, living through an important era which saw the expansion of British colonialism, the emergence of a multi-cultural society and the employment of new technologies for the dissemination of ideas. Abdullah was an example of a Peranakan in a cosmopolitan region, with Tamil and Arab ancestry, though culturally Malayanised. Most importantly, Abdullah played the role of a critical observer of Malay/Straits society, witnessing both the collapse of Malay feudalism as well as the emergence of colonialism in this part of the world. This discussion will showcase his intellectual breadth and depth, which inevitably made him one of the most articulative and discerning figures in the history of our early pioneers.
Speaker: Dr Azhar Ibrahim is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore. He teaches Malay-Indonesian literature and ideologies of development. His research interest includes sociology of literature, social theology religion, Islamic thought, critical literacy, and the Malay-Indonesian intellectual development.
Moderator: Elakeyaa Selvaraji is the Head of Communications at CSTC.
Tamil Muslims and Malay Publishing Houses
Date: 18th September 2021
Did you know that some of the earliest Tamil books and newspapers in Singapore were published by the Tamil Muslim community here?
What’s more fascinating is that the same community was instrumental in early Malay publishing in Singapore!
Interested to know more about how the Tamil Muslim publishers and the Malay literati interacted and worked together?
Come join us in a specially curated seminar which will delve deep into this little-known subject.
Speaker: Dr Torsten Tschacher, Berlin Graduate School
Dr Azhar Ibrahim, National University of Singapore (NUS)
Musical Tribute to Bharathi
Date: 18th September 2021
To commemorate Bharathi's Centennial, CSTC has joined hands with NLB and TLLPC to bring you these musical tributes. Please watch & enjoy!
Tamil & Sanskrit: The Two Eyes of Siva
Date: 31st July 2021
This talk, aimed primarily at a Singaporean audience, is intended to enrich the understanding of the two great Indian classical languages of Tamil and Sanskrit and their continuous and complicated relationship over thousands of years. As Tamil is an official language of Singapore, and Sanskrit is widely known in Southeast Asia, their relationship with each other is of much interest to Singaporeans. Discourses such as these help us understand and appreciate the context of their relationship.
Prof George L Hart is a highly and widely acclaimed scholar in both languages, his erudition enhanced by knowledge of several other European and Indian languages. He is respected as an honest broker in language mediations. His judicious statement on the comparative merits of both languages and his recommendation for the recognition of Tamil as a Classical Language by the Indian Government can be read in full here: https://sangamtamilliterature.wordpress.com/dr-george-harts-letter-recommending-tamil-as-classical-language/
At his advanced age and with other demands on his time, Prof Hart was a reluctant speaker, yielding only to the devotional pressures of his long-time friend Subbiah Lakshmanan, a member of CSTC and the moderator for this talk. CSTC would like to record its deep gratitude for his gracious agreement to participate.
Speaker: Prof George L Hart, University of California, Berkeley
Host: Subbiah Lakshmanan, CSTC
Interview with Srijan
Date: 10th July 2021
Chinese Version Link: https://youtu.be/emYdUcL3BAc
English Version Link: https://youtu.be/zir-U97kfN0
He was unable to articulate himself till the age of six. But, by the time he left primary school, S S Srijan became proficient in three languages i.e. English, Chinese and Tamil. His linguistic journey is akin to a roller-coaster ride. Taking up Chinese as his mother tongue in primary school, Srijan fails the subject in Primary 5 but goes on to score an ‘A’ in that subject at the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). He describes humbly his journey as an “interesting stroke of fate”. Whether it is divine agency or not, you will find out from his interview that there is no denying his diligence and determination in overcoming his linguistic challenges during his formative years.
A Talk on Hari Raya Puasa & Hari Raya Haji
Date: 8th May 2021
Time: 5.00pm - 6.30pm
Did you know that Hari Raya is not the Muslim new year? Did you know that only in Singapore Hari Raya Puasa is celebrated for a month? Did you know that Singapore was the main embarkation and disembarkation point for Haj pilgrims in the 20th century? All these questions and more were answered by Mr Mohamed Imran Taib from the Centre for Interfaith Understanding (Singapore) in an engaging session organized by CSTC recently. Watch the full session here to learn more about the main religious festivals of the Singapore Malay/Muslims, Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji.
Speaker: Mohamed Imran Taib, Centre for Interfaith Understanding
Host: Harini V, CSTC
Tour of Exhibition on Chinese Culture at
Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre
Date: 3rd April 2021
Time: 10.00am - 12.00pm
Venue: Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC), 1 Straits Boulevard, Singapore 018906
SINGAPO人: Discovering Chinese Singaporean Culture opened on 13 July 2020, as the inaugural permanent exhibition of the (SCCC). The exhibition casts a spotlight on how Chinese heritage, cultural interactions, and public policies have shaped Chinese culture in Singapore, and led it to evolve in ways which are different from other Chinese communities in the world. Featuring multimedia and immersive exhibits with contributions from the community, SINGAPO人 highlights the many facets of our distinctive Chinese Singaporean identity – from food to music; popular culture and language; and festivals.
CSTC believed this exhibition is a great educational opportunity for our members and, with the kind support of SCCC, organised a guided tour of the exhibition on 3 April 2021. As our member Subramaniam Nadaison later said, “It provided an excellent opportunity to gain a better understanding of the links between mainland Chinese and Singaporean Chinese. Also, the interconnectedness between the Chinese culture and other major ethnic cultures of Singapore was interesting in areas such as language, religion, lifestyle, festivals, values, family tree, legends etc.” On the whole it was an eye-opener for many visitors.
SCCC Coordinators: Shaun Choh & Vincent Loh
Exhibition Docents from SCCC: Constance Ong & Mina Chan
Chinese New Year Traditions
Date: 7th February 2021
Time: 5.00pm - 6.00pm
Did you know that Yusheng was invented in Singapore? Did you also know that our favourite CNY goodies, pineapple tarts and love letters, are unique to Singapore and Malaysia? Learn more about the Singaporean Chinese culture and how our multiracial and multicultural environment has influenced the celebration of the traditional Lunar New Year. Shaun Choh from the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre explains what makes our CNY celebrations, uniquely Singapore.
Speakers: Shaun Choh, Assistant Curator, Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre.
Host: Elakeyaa Selvaraji, CSTC
Naalum Oru Kavithai
Date: 14th April 2020 - 14th June 2020
During this corona virus pandemic, many Tamil students and youth may be sharing and consuming a variety of information on social media. Most of the content or campaigns created during this period are primarily in English and focus on creating awareness around the pandemic, health precautions, thanking frontline workers and sharing activities that are fun and entertaining while staying home i.e. reading, music, workout routines, health recipes, etc.
One of such activities that inspired this proposal was Sir Patrick Stewart’s daily reading of Shakespeare sonnets for his fans, while he was self-isolating. Fans of Stewart watch a new video each day from the actor, who has an extensive background in performing Shakespeare's works on stage.
Thirukkural: Sacred or Secular?
Date: 5th October 2019
Time: 4.00pm - 6.30pm
Venue: The Pod (Level 16), The National Library, 100 Victoria Street
Considered the greatest of the Tamil texts, it offers profound insights into how life should be lived, both externally and internally. While widely respected, Thirukkural has also generated spirited debates about its underlying perspective – is it a secular perspective or a religious perspective? If religious, which religion does it represent? Such questions are intriguing and have to be resolved entirely by reference to the text itself, as there is little external evidence one way or another.
To help us explore these questions, three thought leaders shared their views.
Prof S Thinnappan, a leading Tamil scholar in Singapore;
Mr Sabaratnam Ratnakumar, who has translated Thirukkural into English, and
Mr Subramaniam Nadaison, a Master Teacher in Tamil in the Ministry of Education.
The forum was presented in English and moderated by Mr. Arun Mahizhnan.
What's in a New Year?
Date: 31th March 2019
Time: 3pm - 5pm
Venue: The Pod, Level 16, National Library, 100 Victoria Street
This programme discussed several New Years celebrated by different cultures in Singapore and provided not commonly known insights into the philosophy and significance of each celebration.
Panelists: Dr Geoff Benjamin, Mr Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, Dr Sureshkumar Muthukumar and Dr Vivienne Wee.
Host: Jayasutha Samuthiran