The legendary poet and writer Putu Oka Sukanta has been named the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for his incredible contribution to literature and his lifelong writing. | Photos Ubud Writers & Readers Festival
The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) is here again, after two years of being held online and hybrid. This year more than 200 speakers from 19 countries including writers, culturalists, activist, journalists, literary activists, and other important figures will return in person to the largest annual literary and artistic event in Southeast Asia.
Held from 27 to 30 October in Ubud, Bali, this year’s festival theme Memayu Hayuning Bawana, an ancient Javanese philosophy, means Uniting Humanity which endeavour to maintain the safety, peace, happiness, and well-being of the world and the hereafter.
Like every year that has become a tradition, UWRF pays tribute to a person who has contributed to the world of literacy, the Lifetime Achievement Award. For this year, the honour is given to the writer from Singaraja, Bali, Putu Oka Sukanta who was officially given at a press conference in Jakarta, on 6 October, and then a handover ceremony will be held in Ubud at the end of October.
“We give this award to writers who have contributed to Indonesia. Every year we give it to senior writers who have done well and now we have Putu Oka Sukanta. He is a figure who has given a legacy to the world of literature and literacy in Indonesia. I enjoyed hearing his stories when he was in prison a long time ago. He also took great care of his health by drinking herbal drinks and exercising, and was able to survive the difficult years.” said Janet DeNeef, the Festival Director.
Putu has occupied a central position in the cultural life of Indonesia for over seven decades as a poet, short story writer, and novelist. In a literary career that has delivered dozens of novels and poetry collections, Putu has been at the forefront of Indonesia’s contemporary literary renaissance, most notably in the way he has courageously drawn on his life and personal experiences during the time of Indonesia’s New Order. He was imprisoned without ever being tried by Soeharto’s regime between 1966 to 1976 as part of the army’s seizure of power and the purges of the Left because he was active in Lekra, an organization associated with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
When he was released, he could no longer publish his work. As a former political prisoner during the New Order, he was restricted in what he could do. Acupuncture became a skill he relied on to make a living which he learnt from fellow inmates in prison.
“Thank you to UWRF for awarding me this honour. This award strengthens my determination to write and work for those that are left out and those that are marginalized by power. This is a personal or individual tribute to my four decades of my career. Of course, I am happy and grateful to receive him in this old age.” Said Putu Oka Sukanta, when he received the award.
At the same time, Putu also revealed that his trilogy novel reflecting the face and character of the New Order: Threads of Dignity, The Turning Wheel, and Space, have been published in English by the Lontar Foundation.
“For me, writing is fighting against dehumanisation, fighting to be human again.” Stated Putu Oka Sukanta in his acceptance speech.