The Subaltern speaks to the Cultural Elite: Migrant Poetry at SWF 2015

Yesterday (8th November 2015) was a watershed afternoon for migrant literature in Singapore and South East Asia. The afternoon kicked off by Banglar Kantha Poets practicing by reciting poetry at Dibashram-Banglar Kantha premises. Then, as a cavalcade the Banglar Kantha Poets and volunteers with the community pioneer Mr. AKM Mohsin, the panelist for the Migrant Poetry Event at the Singapore Writers Festival started for the Arts House. The man who started Banglar Kantha a decade back, is the catalyst for many cultural interventions in the Singaporean Literary Landscape. The crew took the 147 bus, alighted four steps later from Rowell Road next to the Parliament and the Supreme Court, walked in to the august environment of the Arts House, in to the seminar room where we settled in.  Mr. Shivaji Das, travel literateur and co-panelist in the event and esteemed debate moderator Mr. Alvin Pang, made the seminar room a cultural space to contend with.

Shihab Bhai reciting his poem
Shihab Bhai reciting his poem
The Singapore Writers Festival lending a voice to the cultural aspirations of the Bangladeshi Migrant Worker Community, is a recognition that the marginalized are finally gaining a foothold in the mainstream. The event yesterday afternoon started with five migrant poets (nurtured with Banglar Kantha Literary Forum support and resources) reciting their poetry of migrant angst and experiences.

Babu Bhai, Shihab Bhai, Mohar, Liton and Mahbub performed their poetry to the applause of the over flowing seminar room. The theme resonated with the refined crowd of intellectuals. After the performances, there was a panel discussion probing myriad aspects on poetry written by the migrant community with Mohsin Da and Mr. Shivaji Das, moderated by Singaporean Poet Mr. Alvin Pang.

The panel discussion focused on the motivations of migration poetry of the workers and the Migrant Workers Poetry Competition last year and also the upcoming event on December 13th. Both Mohsin Da and Mr. Shivaji are co-organizers of the event, which has expanded its footprint to various languages this year.
The audience questions touched upon critical themes of the Little India Liquor Ban and who is defined as a migrant? The cross-sectional audience raised the bar of the conversation to a different level. Many uncomfortable issues were broached; due to which the space for holistic understanding expands. The privilege which poetry as an literary art form accords.

This event expanded the discursive space for the migrant in Singapore by bringing forth the migrant voice in the discourse on ideas. This initiative fosters greater understanding and integration with the Singaporean core, a term popularized with the recent elections . This is indeed

The Panel Discussion on Migrant Poetry with Mohsin Da and Mr. Shivaji Das on Migrant Poetry
The Panel Discussion on Migrant Poetry with Mohsin Da and Mr. Shivaji Das on Migrant Poetry

Mohsin Da’s and Banglar Kantha’s contribution to the Singaporean core.


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