Journalists, analysts and politicians have long played a significant role at Ubud Writers & Readers Festival – and this year is no different. With panels covering the blustery social climates of Indonesia and Southeast Asia, and film screenings, book launches and special events digging deep into local politics, the Festival is a hotbed for astute perspectives and insightful analysis. It’s the perfect place to learn about this forever fascinating, dizzyingly diverse, most populous part of the world. To get you started, here are 16 ways to delve deeper into the region’s current affairs from 23–27 October.
1. Main Program: The Price of Democracy, 24 Oct, 10:15 – 11:30, NEKA Museum
Jakarta’s deadly riots following the formal results issued after Indonesia’s 17 April elections overshadowed what had been a peaceful process. Jokowi’s victory was a sigh of relief for the nation’s moderate voters (and global markets), but the riots left the burning question of how 68 million voters’ disappointment will play out over the next five years. Join our panel and investigate the price of democracy.
2. Main Program: Asia Pacific Futures on the Page, Stage and Screen, 24 Oct, 10:15 – 11:30, Indus
In a 2019 Entertainment Weekly interview, Amy Tan reflected on the 30 years since her groundbreaking novel The Joy Luck Club was published, commenting on the remarkable difference in Asian representation in literature and film. This panel weighs in on what has changed regarding the reach of and desire for Asia Pacific literatures, and asks what the future might hold.
3. Main Program: Islam Today, 24 Oct, 13:00 – 14:15, NEKA Museum
According to nonpartisan fact tank Pew Research Center, in the second half of this century Muslims will likely surpass Christians as the world’s largest religious group. From fractious headlines to peaceful personal practice, Islam’s presence is growing. Our panelists share insights into the intersection of religion, identity and politics, the way we understand the divine, and their undying fascination with faith.
4. Main Program: Parag Khanna: The Future is Asian, 24 Oct, 15:45 – 17:00, NEKA Museum
Economic and strategic partnerships are burgeoning across Asia and the region is sharing governance and trade linkages like never before – the ‘Asian Century’ is much bigger than you might think. Get ready to see the world, and the future, from an Asian point of view as leading global strategist Parag Khanna brings his new book to the UWRF stage.
5. Book Launch: The Day Hope & History Rhymed in East Timor, 24 Oct, 16:00 – 17:30, DUMBO
This lively collection was published to coincide with the 20th anniversary of East Timor’s improbable Brexit from Indonesia. It includes wry accounts of Dili traffic, roosters and motley characters, but never strays too far from the belief that even a messy past is a friend to lean on, even for resistant Indonesia.
6. Special Event: Front Line, Front Page, 24 Oct, 17:30 – 19:30, Lumbung Restaurant at Desa Visesa
Whether reporting from far flung locales or the world’s trouble spots, telling stories of tragedy or triumph, the work of a foreign correspondent is never dull. We’ve managed to pin down the industry’s finest to share some of the highs and lows that have defined their careers in the foreign bureau. Join the discussion, while enjoying three cocktails, two mocktails and canapés.
7. Special Event: Rhyme and Reason in the Region, 24 Oct, 18:00 – 21:00, Maison
We’re bringing together old favorites and new voices as UWRF’s finest writers from across the region gather for a long table dinner. Indulge in exceptional Indian cuisine while our writers regale you with tales of this forever fascinating, dizzyingly diverse, most populous part of the world. Arrive from 18:00 for a 19:00 feast, with welcome drink and sharing plate dinner.
8. Film Screening: Etanan, 24 Oct, 20:00 – 21:30, Taman Baca
Directed by Riandhani Yudha Pamungkas, this documentary explores the natural beauty of Mount Bromo, Watu Ulo Beach, Mount Ijen, Madakaripura Waterfall and other wonders of the Tapal Kuda area, the easternmost region of Java. It also reveals the emerging industrial and human resource potential, alongside challenges such as access to education. Come and watch the screening of Etanan, the winner of Best Film at Denpasar Film Festival 2018.
9. Main Program: Rise of the Tiger, 25 Oct, 09:00 – 10:00, NEKA Museum
Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the 16th largest in the world. By 2030, it’s predicted to be the fourth largest in the world. What will it take to get there? What is needed to ensure equitable development across the country? Join our panel of diverse voices as they dissect what’s required for Indonesia to be Asia’s next roaring tiger.
10. Main Program: Andreas Harsono: Race, Islam and Power, 25 Oct, 11:45 – 12:45, NEKA Museum
Andreas Harsono has covered Indonesia for Human Rights Watch since 2008. His new book Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia is the result of his 15-year project to document how race and religion have become increasingly prevalent in the nation’s politics. Join him in conversation with long-term Indonesian media expert, Janet Steele.
11. Main Program: How Can Bali Survive?, 25 Oct, 14:30 – 15:30, Indus
A small island of 4.3 million, Bali received almost 16 million tourists last year. Tourism-related business makes up 80% of the economy, making it an indispensable source of livelihood and the primary cause of massive social, cultural, and ecological change. As the island struggles with market saturation and environmental degradation, our panel asks, how can Bali survive?
12. Main Program: Weapons of Mass Distortion, 25 Oct, 14:30 – 15:30, Taman Baca
Indonesia has 150 million internet users and 800,000 hoax-distributing websites, according to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. In a system swimming with fake news, what is the relationship between rising social media use and increasing religious conservatism? How is social media being manipulated for political gain? Join our panel as they unravel these weapons of mass distortion.
13. Book Launch: Jakarta-Papua Peace Dialogue: A Papuan Perspective, 25 Oct, 16:00 – 17:30, Blanco Museum
Over the past few months, Papua, Indonesia’s eastern-most province, has been front page news. The relationship between Papua and Jakarta has never been easy. Come and learn about the Papuan perspective of the late Neles Tebay, a champion of peace in Papua.
14. Workshop: Investigative Writing, 26 Oct, 10:00 – 13:00, Full Circle, a concept by Expat. Roasters
Wildly curious about a place that’s hard to reach? Unsure how to convince elusive people to open up? Come and hear insights for capturing real life stories and composing creative non-fiction. Patrick Winn, an author covering the criminal underworld, and investigative journalist Pailin Wedel offer a guide to drawing narratives out of hidden places.
15. Main Program: Precious Peatlands, 26 Oct, 10:15 – 11:30, NEKA Museum
Indonesia has 36% of the world’s tropical peatlands. Home to tens of thousands of endangered species, and more effective at storing carbon than forests, this crucial habitat is under severe threat. Join our panel to learn about peatlands conservation, protection, and restoration efforts, as well as how literature plays a role in connecting humans with nature.
16. Live Music & Arts: [untitled], 26 Oct, 21:00 – 23:00, Betelnut
Join host Maeve Marsden for an evening of tales from the margins, stories of pride, prejudice and finding community through a shared experience of difference. Maeve’s award-winning storytelling event sells out regularly around Australia. Surprising, hilarious, heartwarming and heartbreaking, [untitled] shows how we create our own histories, disrupting and reinventing conventional ideas about narrative, family, and love.
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