Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF) returned on Thursday 27th October 2022 for four days filled with diverse debate and dynamic intercultural exchange.
UWRF’s 19th edition united the best of local and international literary talents by hosting more than 200 live events. Dr. Drs I Ketut Suardana,M.Fil.H, Chairman of Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati, commented, “It has been more than three years since I have opened this festival under anything resembling favourable circumstances. I’m really happy that the writer and reader community can finally unite again here in Ubud and revel in books, stories, and ideas under the theme ‘Uniting Humanity’, which reflects so much of the festival’s spirit. It’s a highly diverse event that connects people.”
The festival presented a range of events that explore many aspects of varying cultures and perspectives to create deeper understanding and mutual respect. This included an in-person discussion with British activist and interdisciplinary artist Osman Yousefzada, who shared from his first book about the trauma he incurred from migration, racism, and poverty in Britain over the last few decades.
“Themes of uniting humanity through a dialogue of our dualities and belonging are important to my work and writing. To be able to participate in this festival with other thinkers and writers is a joy,” said Yousefzada.
A series of panel discussions that reflected this year’s theme and elevated the voices of those affected by acts of persecution, conflict, and human rights violations were offered too at the festival. Some renowned panellists at Southeast Asia’s largest literary festival included Carla Power, Tim Baker, Audrey Magee, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, and Osman Yousefzada.
The War in Ukraine, for example, was highlighted as a discussion featuring Ukrainian writers Oksana Maksymchwk and Maz Rosochinsky about the seismic ripple effect of the war on our post-COVID world, and Uniting Humanity: Poetry Of Peace, a powerful evening of spoken word, storytelling, and wisdom in a prayer for peace.
“We couldn’t ignore the invasion of Ukraine because of its immense global repercussions. The idea of Poetry for Peace, bringing writers and artists together, reflects the way the festival has always operated. We like to surpass expectations with our increasingly diverse programs that aim to inform and please our audiences,” said the Director and Founder of UWRF, Janet DeNeefe.
Moreover, Australian author Tim Baker discussed how writing can be deeply cathartic and help us to make sense of our lives, our relationships, and ourselves in the face of trauma. About his new book “Patting the Shark”, in which he perilously journeys back from a stage four prostate cancer diagnosis, he expressed: “Bali and Ubud, in particular, feels like the perfect place to be talking about writing as catharsis because the experience of being here is so deeply healing. One of the reasons I was so excited to come to Ubud to discuss my book is that the Balinese understand holistic health, mind, body and spirit, so I feel I’m in a very supportive environment to talk about these often delicate and sensitive issues.”
Aside from international figures in the literary field, a distinguished line-up of Indonesian writers and artists, including writer and journalist Putu Oka Sukanta, film director Kamila Andini, novelist Ahmad Fuadi, and musician Rara Sekar graced the festival.
Papuan journalist and novelist Aprila Wayarwill appeared as part of this year’s main program line-up to discuss the creative tactics she developed to improve literacy in eastern Indonesia and to increase faith in the concept of literature as a vehicle for change throughout her homeland. “I hope this year’s Festival will mark the revival of literature and the world of literacy in Indonesia, as well as a more powerful post-COVID world,” she said.
Events outside the main program also promised ample inspiration. Festival goers were extended with poetry sessions, literary lunches, long table dinners, walking tours through rice fields and villages, book launches, cocktail parties, and music performances.
A special event with rising Indonesian musician Rara Sekar in the permaculture garden of Mana Earthly Paradise was a rare opportunity not to be missed. “I always strive to maintain a positive relationship with myself, society, and nature while maintaining a perceptive and reflective awareness wherever I work,” enthused Sekar.
DeNeefe emphasised on the festival that “Our national and international reputation allows us to bring well-known names to Bali and our role provides the necessary platform for up-and-coming literary talent to thrive. UWRF is a festival full of character and depth and, after 19 years, it’s an ambition I believe we will deliver.”