Festival Guide // A Beginner’s Guide to Indonesian Literature

Posted: 06 October 2017 Author: sikuska

By Rosie Clynes

Relishing a remarkable international lineup isn’t all our audiences partake in each year; the core component of the UWRF has always been Indonesian literature and arts in all its dizzying diversity. This week, we’re putting the call out to Festival-goers eager to discover writers from across the archipelago – both literary heroes and rising stars. Read on for some of the sastra Nusantara (Indonesian literature) highlights at this year’s Festival.


Why not start your journey of discovery by going straight to the literary greats? Nh. Dini is certainly one of them. One of Indonesia’s first feminist writers, on Day One of the Festival she’ll reflect on her literary life and colorful career. For those passionate about poetry, Sutardji Calzoum Bachri – once dubbed ‘the President of Indonesian poets’ – is sure to leave an impression. Find out why he received such an illustrious title on Day Two.


Look to the east for the archipelago’s freshest source of exciting new literature. Eastern Winds of Change boasts outstanding young writers from Makassar, Mataram and Maumere, who’ll share what it means to be creating work in these lesser-known areas of Indonesia. From there, we journey even further east to the highlands of Timor, homeland of novelist and food activist Dicky Senda. Join him for the launch of his book Sai Rai, and find out more about how connection to home affects his work during his Festival Club @ Bar Luna session. For those who love a food adventure as much as a good book, you can even join Dicky as he serves up distinctive dishes from Mollo, his hometown.


The Lontar Foundation has been a pioneer in Indonesian publishing since 1987, publishing work by more than 800 Indonesian authors in the original and English translation. Join Co-founder John McGlynn and the 15 Lontar authors featuring at UWRF17 for a 30th birthday celebratory afternoon of talks and readings. For those in the festive spirit, be sure to check the long list of Book Launches featuring Indonesian authors at this year’s Festival. Held across some of Ubud’s most charming venues and free to all, it’s your chance to meet the authors over a canapé or two, and go behind the scenes of each new book.


Those who like a side of laughter with their literature are sure to be drawn to Ben Sohib. Ben Sohib: Laughter is the Best Medicine features the novelist and screenwriter renowned for challenging religious intolerance and promoting peace through his writing. If you can’t get enough of satirists who champion social justice, Sakdiyah Ma’ruf is a powerhouse feminist standup comedian joining Sohib in Funny Bones. It’s a discussion with those who’ve made a career out of deriding the dangerous and poking fun at the political to get their message across.


Indonesian Emerging Writers is the Festival’s flagship program, producing the annual Bilingual Anthology of Emerging Indonesian Writing. Spanning prose, poetry and essays, it comprises the winning submissions from hundreds of aspiring authors from across the archipelago. Join us to celebrate the next chapter of Indonesian literature at the Anthology launch, before some of the Emerging Writers take the stage as part of The Next Generation. A showcase of readings and music performances, the night also features a screening of Istirahatlah Kata-kata (Solo, Solitude), the highly lauded biopic of poet-activist Wiji Thukul. This strictly red and white affair is essential for those enticed by these 17,000 islands of imagination.

1-Day and 4-Day Main Program passes can be purchased by clicking the button below.  


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