“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness…” The spirit of Elie Wiesel’s words animated the air as the Sahitya Akademi hosted a unique poetry evening, with readings by seven major writers in various languages, and a conversation among them, to mark the launch of the cultural banner of LILA Foundation, LILA Bearing Witness. The event, entitled ‘Voices in Verse’ celebrated the multicultural origins of the participants, and also served as an initial collective reflection on the possibilities of individuals and communities bearing witness to the times in general, and to the multitudinous ways in which poets in particular tend to bear witness.
Puppetry, a paradigm of continuity. Why? Opening the PRISM Lecture Series 2014 on Cultural Continuum with Malaysian cultural conservationist Eddin Khoo was a hint at the ambitious spatial and temporal scope of the debate. South East Asia is a cultural crossroad, echoing the multiplicity inherent in Indian traditions, and, in fact, often genealogically related to them. But, the spread of Sanskrit as the lingua franca of literature and the arts around the turn of the first millennium, or the simultaneous spread of Hinduism and Buddhism, should not reduce the region to a mere offspring of Indian cultures. What makes South East Asian culture, then? What is Malaysian culture? Eddin Khoo recalls the interrogation he offers to initiate with his students. “What is the Malay identity?” The only available answers are constitutional. Never cultural. A unified, common cultural history cannot easily be found. And it is precisely through culture, and through the multiplicity of cultures, that the concept of identity can be questioned. Through culture, the ubiquitous starting point of today’s political climates can be shaken.