Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2011 features Nobel Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta

The charismatic President of Timor-Leste, Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, will be the honorary speaker at the inaugural and luminary Children’s Literature Lecture organised as part of the festival in Singapore. Mallika Naguran reports on event highlights. Gaia Discovery is a media partner of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2011.

Singapore, 20 May 2011. The Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) is back for the second year running, to be held at The Arts House, Singapore from 26-28 May. This year, the organisers are delighted to have a Nobel Peace Prize laureate gracing the festival. H.E. Jose Ramos-Horta, President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, will be delivering a lecture to members of the creative circle on Friday 27th of May.

Nobel Prize laureate, President and author: Dr Jose Ramos-Horta

On the same evening, Ramos-Horta will also present the inaugural Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award and the annual Scholastic Asian Book Award. The prize money for each award is S$10,000 and will be shared by the writer and illustrator.

The international festival, organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore and The Arts House, AFCC 2011 promises to be “bigger, better and bolder” according to organisers. Last year’s successful event encouraged participating writers and illustrators to create compelling content for a growing readers not just in Asia, but the world. This year, it will again reinforce the need to have greater Asian content in children’s literature to preserve the rich culture and heritage in this region.

Murti Bunanta

Murti Bunanta

Phan Ming Yen, assistant general manager of The Arts House, says the mission of the festival is broad: “To foster excellence in the creation, production, publication and distribution of children’s materials with Asian content in all formats with the aim of providing the world’s children with quality Asian content for education and entertainment.”

Phan sees the festival as very much part of The Arts House’s plans towards serving as a multi-disciplinary arts venue with a strong literary programmes component.

Speakers at the festival are accomplished authors, illustrators, publishers, animators, film makers, and more from around the world. Dr Murti Bunanta, a children’s literature specialist from Indonesia, has written 50 children’s books with five international awards. She owns more than 30,000 kiddy books in her collection. She will conduct a Specialised Workshop: Picture Book Production in Malay on 28 May.

Nina Sabnani

Nina Sabnani

Nina Sabnani from India is a filmmaker, animator and illustrator of children’s books. Her most recent work Home is based on the traditional Kaavad storytelling tradition of Rajasthan and is designed to elicit stories from kids. Sabnani’s Mukund and Riaz, an animated film was made into an illustrated book, winning critical acclaim internationally. She will be speaking on: Illustrating in the Digital Age, as well as: Evoking Imagination in Illustration and Animation Films, on 27 May.

This year’s festival has in mind not just the writer or publisher, but also the educator. The Asian Primary and Preschool Teachers Congress will discuss the merits of reading culture on language and academic performance, with concurrent sessions on best practices for literary experiences.

Keen Participation

Anushka Ravishankar

Anushka Ravishankar

According to Mr R Ramachandran, the executive director of co-organiser National Book Development Council of Singapore, the organisers are expecting close to a thousand turnout at the array of programmes organised from exhibitions, book launches, conferences to workshops. This would be an increase from last year's 700 plus participation.

Keen writers and illustrators could consider attending a Masterclass on Picture Books that will be conducted by Anushka Ravishankar (dubbed “India’s Dr.Seuss’), Gavin Bishop and John McKenzie. The mini-workshop will tackle composition issues, value of pictures over words, narrative structure and techniques while there’ll be discussions to point out the difference between writing for picture books and illustrated books, how to encourage critical thinking, and more.

Attending the festival for the first time will be Thomas Schmidt who self-published the award-winning illustrated children’s books Bumbling Through Borneo and Bumbling Through Sumatra through independent Kakibubu Media. The Hong Kong-based architect, writer, illustrator and musician looks forward to meeting other writers and illustrators to exchange best practices and tricks of the trade.

“The conference programme contains many niche topics which I’ve always wanted to explore further,” says Schmidt. Winner of three independent publishing and children’s book awards, Schmidt’s Bumbling Traveller™ Adventure Series is currently available at MPH bookshops in Singapore and Malaysia.

Asian Festival of Children’s Literature Lecture

H.E. Jose Ramos-Horta, President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, will be voice his thoughts on Society, Culture and Children at the first honorary Children's Literature Lecture organised.

The festival’s advisory board chairperson Claire Chiang says: “Dr Ramos-Horta’s work in diplomacy and passion for children’s education are known globally. His participation at our event will help draw international interest to the richness and diversity of Asian visual and literary arts for children.”

The first of Thomas Schmidt's Bumbling Traveller series.

The first of Thomas Schmidt's Bumbling Traveller series.

Ramos-Horta loves storytelling and writing, in particular children’s books. In 2010, he published “The Lost World of Timor-Leste”, which was co-written with Prof. Patricia Vickers-Rich. The book describes the legendary birth of Timor-Leste through the eyes of a boy and a crocodile, travelling through time.

The crocodile is the country’s national symbol and is revered by the old and young even today. The book was published with UNICEF aid in local language Tetun, Portuguese, English and Mandarin. 

“I wanted to tell a story that captures the essence of Timorese heritage, which has an element of magic,” says Ramos-Horta who lived in exile for nearly three decades while fighting for the country’s independence. He recalled the time he grew up, appreciating the spectacular landscapes and respecting nature, and his hopes for young Timorese to uphold the same values when they read the book.

“It’s an honour for me to talk about my passion for writing in the context of Asian literature at this festival,” he tells Gaia Discovery. “With the emphasis on fostering Asian content in children’s literature at this festival, I look forward to reading great literary works by Asian writers - even from my country someday,” he says.

AFCC 2011 Programme at a glance:

●    Asian Children’s Writers & Illustrators Conference, 26 & 27 May 2011 (Thurs & Fri)

●    Asian Children’s Publishers Symposium, 27 May 2011 (Fri)

●    Asian Primary and Preschool Teachers Congress, 28 May 2011 (Sat)

●    Asian Children’s Media Summit, 28 May 2011 (Sat)

●    Media Mart, 26 – 28 May 2011 (Thurs - Sat)

●    Children’s Literature Lecture, 27 May 2011 (Fri) – by invitation only

●    Children’s Book Illustrators’ Gallery (BIG), 26 – 28 May 2011 (Thurs - Sat)

●    Specialised Workshops, 28 & 29 May 2011 (Sat & Sun)

●    Masterclass, 29 & 30 May 2011 (Sun & Mon)

See full speaker list at: Visit for more information.