Every year, the already culturally-focused town of Ubud gets a large dose of extra culture, as academics, writers, activists, poets, literary geniuses (and everything in between) congregate to engage in some of the most important topics of global dialogue. That’s right, it’s the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival entering its 13th year with five full days (26-30 October 2016) of engrossing discussion and more. Far before the festival, we reveal a sneak peek of the authors, artists and activists who will be leading this year’s festival, themed ‘Tat Tvam Asi’, or ‘I am you, you are me’.
As you will see in the list below, The UWRF is far more than just discussions on literature. In its broadest sense it is the spreading of ideas through a variety of mediums. It brings social, political, environmental and academic discourse to the forefront through open-air panel discussions, poetry slams, musical performances, workshops, screenings and more.
Exploring the real and imaginary boundaries of what we call ‘home’, the festival welcomes:
Would you go undercover in North Korea for journalism? Well, award-winning author Suki Kim did, disguised as a missionary disguised as a teacher in a heavily guarded, all-male university in a vacuum of a suburb outside of Pyongyang. Terrifying. What she wrote during her time there, in secret, eventually became the New York Times Bestseller “Without You, There Is No Us”. More on Suki Kim.
Even those ‘unlearned’ in the ways of poetry can appreciate Emi’s mastery of words and emotion. The reigning World Poetry Slam Champion of 2015 and BBC’s 100 Most Influential Women of the same year, Emi draws on experiences of a bloody Sudan (where she is originally from) to create powerful performance poetry that tugs on heartstrings and opens eyes. More on Emi Mahmoud.
Journalist, news-presenter and author, Australian Stan Grant is of aboriginal descent and writes of the social and political situations of Indigenous Australians in his memoir “The Tears of a Stranger”, and then discusses this dark history even further in his 2016 book “Talking to My Country”. Through his heritage, his life and his words he brings forth the very meanings of identity and implications of race. More on Stan Grant.
There will be those discussing the power of art, and how it can navigate the fine line between controversy, confrontation and empathy:
An award-winning American novelist, best known for her two works A Little Life (2015), and The People in the Trees. Through her colourful and imaginative works, she touches on controversial themes (such as pedophilia, homosexuality, etc) in unexpected ways, bringing them into a stark reality. More on Hanya Yanagihara.
Having written 8 books, all different in theme and style, Charlotte Wood is no stranger to the written word. Her award-winning work ‘The Natural Way of Things’ (2015) was a raw, fictional look into the lives of sexually victimized women, so Wood does not draw away from the controversial. With her 2016 book ‘The Writer’s Room’, a must-read masterclass for literary fans, she will be a welcome addition to the festival. More on Charlotte Wood.
Seno Gumira Ajidarma
“When journalism is silenced, literature must speak. Because while journalism speaks with facts, literature speaks with truth.” An Indonesian journalist and short story writer, Seno has long been one to comment on social, political and cultural states of the country, using his ‘voice’ as a writer to spread awareness and ‘truth’. More on Seno Ajidarma
Djenar Maesa Ayu
Fictional short story writer, novelist, actress, screenwriter and filmmaker – “Nay’s” artistic and creative list is a long one. She is labelled as being part of the Sastra Wangi or ‘Fragrant Literature’ movement, reserved for Indonesian women who take on controversial issues. Described as ‘provocative’, ‘brave’ and ‘unique’. Her thoughts and opinions will no doubt be valuable during her pane. More on Djenar Ayu.
These speakers and panelist announced by the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival are but the tip of the iceberg for this year’s events. Clearly, those coming are highly awarded and recognised experts in their fields. Other notable themes and speakers announced are:
Eka Kurniawan, Juan Pablo Villalobos and Amanda Lee Koe, leading the discussions on ‘writing across borders’.
Further to that, former Miss Canada and now human rights advocate, Anastasia Lin, along with iconic Australian comedian and now memorist Magda Szubanski, will be joining the festival to “challenge popular perceptions.”
The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival also welcomes those who share their ideas through film and theatre, with author of novel-turned-documentary The Residue Years, Mitchell Jackson, as part of the program. Slamet Rahardjo, a prominent Indonesian actor whose career has spanned multiple decades and political regimes in the country. Also hailing from Indonesia are Founder of Sumatran community initiative Teater Satu Iswadi Pratama, and celebrated screenwriter Ratih Kumala. Read their full profiles here.
The festival is a multi-faceted event that involves numerous areas of interest. It is a place to listen, learn and engage with people, who’s voices are heard around the world. As festival Founder and Director Janet DeNeefe has put it, the festival is “a world-class event with an important role to play in cross-cultural dialogue and connection…we are dedicated to tackling the issues that both divide and unite us all.”
The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2016 runs from the 26-30 October 2016.
Early Bird Tickets are now on sale until 27 August 2016, including special prices for Indonesian nationals , ASEAN and locally registered visitors (including business and social visa, KITAS, KITAP etc). 4-Day Early Bird ticket prices: International AU$320/ Indonesian AU$48/ ASEAN & KITAS AU$176.
Visit www.ubudwritersfest.com to find out more.