Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) scores another success

The 11th Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) ended on a high note Sunday night with robust, attractive programs that won praise from the participating authors and audience. Increased attendance from Indonesian literary lovers underlined its success in turning the gathering into a world-class event with a strong local flavor. A lively performance of traditional Dayak dance followed by a passionate flamenco kicked off the closing ceremony that this year was held at Agung Rai Art Museum (ARMA) in Pengosekan.

“In my other life I wish to be a flamenco dancer,” festival founder and director Janet DeNeefe said to open her speech, perfectly capturing the joyous atmosphere of the closing ceremony. “Everything has been fabulous, the programs were great, the conversations meaningful. I think the word ‘lovely’ sums it up,” she said. Initiated in 2004 as a cultural and peaceful response to the 2002 Bali bombings, the infamous terrorist attack that claimed 202 lives, mostly those of foreigners, UWRF has over the years grown into one of the world’s best, and Indonesia’s longest-lasting, literary festival.

This year around 150 writers and artists from more than 20 countries participated in the festival’s diverse programs, ranging from panel discussions, book launchings, poetry readings, film screenings of art and theatrical performances, to cultural workshops and a guided bicycle tour across Ubud’s lush landscape. Among the prominent writers attending were British-Bangladeshi novelist Zia Haider Rahman, Malaysian award-winning writer Tash Aw, Indian decorated novelist Cyrus Mistry, Indonesian master poet Goenawan Mohamad, Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra, Maori songwriter Tama Waipara and Australian filmmaker Rolf De Heer.

Singapore-based writer and journalist Michael Vatikiotis praised the festival for its continuous effort to present a rich and attractive program. One new item on the program that instantly became a hit was The Kitchen, where celebrated chefs, such as Bondan Winarno, Marco Padang and Janet De Neefe herself, shared and cooked their favorite recipes. Despite its international stature, the festival did not neglect local issues, with the last panel of the festival on Sunday evening discussing the current state of Ubud, the once sleepy town turned cultural capital of the island.

Speaking on the panel were Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, an influential member of the Ubud royal family and the chairman of Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association (PHRI) Bali chapter and Made Gunarta, a local community figure who oversees the garbage management and recycling initiative of Padangtegal village. Both expressed their concern that Ubud would fall victim to its own success. Severe traffic congestion, waste and the unchecked development of budget hotels were identified as Ubud’s key problems, with community-based initiatives and empowerment expected to be the solutions.

This year’s festival also brought more good news for its committee: an increase in Indonesian audience attendance. UWRF financial officer Ni Wayan Widiatmini stated that, based on temporary ticket sales’ data, the number of Indonesians attending the festival had reached nearly 48 percent of total attendance.

“This year’s festival also brought more good news for its committee: an increase in Indonesian audience attendance”
“That doesn’t take into account the number of Indonesians who attended our free events,” she said, referring to seven programs, including the Tribute for Lempad and Oceania Under the Stars, both of which drew hundreds of spectators. Janet De Neefe was ecstatic with the increase, attributing it to the stronger Indonesian program and the growing stature of the festival among the archipelago’s literary communities. “Since 2008 the festival team has made an annual visit to the regions,” she said.

Source : The Jakarta Post

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