The COVID-19 global pandemic has taken over 2020, impacted us all, whether it’s economically, socially, physically, or mentally. After postponing highly-awaited international events, Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF) and Ubud Food Festival (UFF), Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati – an independent, not-for-profit foundation in Ubud, Bali – created an ambitious digital celebration of literature, art, and gastronomy, KEMBALI 2020: A Rebuild Bali Festival (KEMBALI20).
From 29 October–8 November, the Festival hosted 108 digital events with 134 artists, authors, thinkers, activists, performers, chefs, and entrepreneurs from 16 countries for 11 days of panel discussions and in conversations, workshops, book launches, music and art performances, film screenings, and cooking demonstrations.
“We were proud to have supported Indonesian writers, artists, journalists and performers during this roller coaster ride of a year,” said Festival Founder and Director, Janet DeNeefe. “We were delighted to share with you our first digital Festival with our most diverse program yet. It has been an incredible learning journey.”
The Festival highlighted the importance of literature and storytelling in understanding and facing social change. Diverse perspectives were shared on some of the world’s most pressing issues, such as inequality during crisis, the environment, race and discrimination, feminism, and human rights.
KEMBALI20’s diversity of speakers and topics was exemplified by the collaboration between the Festival and Writing WA, where Western Australian writers, Elizabeth Tan, Yuot Alaak, and Sophie McNeill, and Indonesian renowned author, Eka Kurniawan, shared the same stage and interacted with both international digital audience and limited in person audience in Perth.
The digital Festival dissolved the imaginary borders between East and West, between race, color, and creed, and delivered a message of human resilience and survival. Long time beloved program, Poetry Slam, held virtually and joined by poets from Indonesia, USA, and beyond, performing from home. Susi Pudjiastuti, one of the biggest figures in Indonesia’s fisheries industry, was able to virtually cook alongside international chef, Bart van Olphen, as they discussed sustainable fishing.
KEMBALI20 became this year’s most important celebration of Indonesia’s creative arts and culinary richness. The Festival welcomed 10,926 website users over the course of the Festival and the month after, where the audience could still donate to gain access to the Main Program sessions. As part of the Yayasan Patron Program fundraising campaign, the Foundation managed to raised IDR166,900,000 from 524 donors.
The money raised was used to support Balinese artists and writers at KEMBALI20, including IDR19,000,000 used to produce digital performances featuring Balinese dancers and performers and IDR53,800,000 used for video production for Main Program sessions featuring Bali based speakers. Whereas IDR50,000,000 was used to produce the Foundation’s very own documentary-series, Stories from the Field, and IDR10,000,000 used for the on-the-ground film screening for local audience.
Following the mission of rebuilding and revitalizing Bali, IDR1,500,000 were donated to Yayasan Gaya Dewata, a community based, non-profit organization providing HIV/AIDS education, and empowerment programs for the LGBTAQ+ community in Bali, Yayasan Akar Cinta Kasih, a non-profit organization providing care and support programs for children with HIV in Bali, and Yayasan Kasih Peduli Anak, a non-profit organization giving disadvantaged Bali street kids care and education. Finally, IDR2,000,000 were donated to Friends of the National Parks Foundation, a Bali based conservation, not-for-profit organization, working to protect wildlife and its habitat and supporting the local communities.
“We are proud of what we have achieved this year with the incredible support of our Festival family and supporters, and we’re excited about what we can achieve with our next initiatives, together,” continued Janet DeNeefe.