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Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2016: Tat Tvam Asi, I Am You, You Are Me.

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2016: Tat Tvam Asi, I Am You, You Are Me.

After having attended this annual festival for a few years now, Ubud Writers & Readers Festival has definitely become one of those happenings that we look forward to every year. As soon as the high season is over, and the beach festivals held in the south tourism areas of the island has finished, we realize that soon it will be the time for Ubud to host this spectacular annual celebration of remarkable stories, brave voices, the tackling of global issues, as well as bold ideas!


Conceived in 2004 as one of the major annual project of the not-for-profit foundation, Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati, Ubud Writers & Readers Festival has grown into the largest and most exciting literary festival in Southeast Asia. The Festival brings together a diverse mix of Indonesian and international writers, speakers, thinkers, artists, advocates, commentators and activists, to create a space for cross- cultural dialogue and connection.


This year, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival will be held on October 26-30. Under the chosen theme for this year, Tat Tvam Asi, which translates into ‘I am you, you are me’, the festival will focus a lot on the subjects of migration, identity and extremism. The festival will present their series of powerful programs, pushing big ideas and global issues in the setting of Bali’s iconic cultural town. This year, the festival will bring together more than 160 of world’s leading authors, artists, performers and activists.  

Back in August, the festival announced its full line-up and five-day program, which consists of a nice variation that includes open-air in-conversations, lavish literary lunches, inspiring workshops, captivating live performances, makers markets, exhibitions, food tours, cooking demonstrations and much more.

The world renowned authors headlining this edition of the festival are amongst others, the celebrated author of The Mandibles, Lionel Shriver, fearless feminist icon Erica Jong, acclaimed Indian novelist Amit Chaudhuri, multi-award-winning Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie, Indonesian author of the beloved Supernova trilogy series Dewi Lestari, contemporary Australian author of Burial Rites and forthcoming publication The Good People, Hannah Kent and journalist and first-time memoirist of An Abbreviated Life, Ariel Leve.

After a year where borders and migration have dominated the news headlines, the festival will dissect issues of identity and inclusion with speakers including Pakistani stand-up comedian Sami Shah, Sudanese-American World Poetry Slam champion Emi Mahmoud, Indonesian sex-traffic survivor and social advocate Shandra Woworuntu, travel writer and author of the newly-published insights into the fragmented Indonesian identity Agustinus Wibowo, and winner of the EU Prize for Literature for her novel Exile, Turkish writer Ciler Ilhan.

Another central theme of the festival this year is how we encounter and counter extremism, which will involve speakers including Nigerian author of the upcoming The Chibok Girls Helon Habila, daughter of leading anti-apartheid activist and political commentator, Gillian Slovo, and Polish writer with a focus on conflict zones in the Caucasus, Central Asia and Africa Wojciech Jagielski.

Aside from focusing on the news itself, the festival also decided to focus on those who tell the news along with how they deliver it, by bringing together leading voices including former ABC TV 4 Corners and Foreign Correspondent investigative reporter Andrew Fowler, respected Indigenous Australian journalist and vocal human rights advocate Stan Grant, chief editor of The Jakarta Post Endy Bayuni, award-winning Indian journalist and author Pallavi Aiyar and political commentator, Editor in Chief of GQ Magazine Thailand, Voranai Vanijaka and award-winning Indonesian journalist Leila S. Chudori.

Giving voice to the many identities of the rising ‘single lady’, the program will canvas the changing face of feminism across the globe, with speakers including Singaporean author of Sarong Party Girls, Cheryl Tan, Indigenous Australian chick-lit writer Anita Heiss, as well as author, mechanical engineer and powerful social advocate Yassmin AbdelMagied.

Given the nature of the festival’s setting, surrounded by bountiful trees and extensive rice fields, quite a long way from home for many, travel will certainly get its very own portion as one of the festival’s central discussions. The topic will involve Lonely Planet Founder, Tony Wheeler, alongside an Australian writer who rode across Africa on a motorbike at just 28-years-old Heather Ellis, and the author who went in search of Chairman Mao’s lost son in China, Richard Loseby.

The program will also pay tribute to the recent boom of Indonesian cinema, with the industry experiencing a significant revival over the past two years. Appearing alongside a special contemporary Indonesian film program will be film-maker of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival-screened Prenjak Wregas Bhanuteja, iconic Indonesian actor and director Slamet Rahardjo, screenwriter of the newly-released Nay Djenar Maesa Ayu and director of the HBO TV-series HalfWorld, Joko Anwar.

Aside from all the spectacular highlighted programs as above, this year, the festival  will host five days of ‘after dark’ events to bring the village of Ubud to life, with a full program of arts, live music, performance and poetry taking place at various venues across the area.

On the first evening, the festival’s ‘after dark’ program will be Pecha Kucha at Betelnut, where presenters will take to the stage to deliver a 20:20 presentation of thoughts, words and ideas: 20 slides at 20 seconds a piece. The festival’s popular Poetry Slam will also be returning, with award winning wordsmiths, including Muslim hip-hop group The Brothahood going head-to-head with local sensations and budding artists. Plus, in a festival-first, Betelnut will also play host to a women of words Poetry Slam, a special celebration of sisterhood in the form of spoken word. And of course, there is so much more, guaranteeing Ubud to ‘stay awake until late’ for the entire 5 days!

The full list of 160 participants, program sessions and tickets to the event are now available via the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival website: www.ubudwritersfestival.com.

See you at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2016!

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