Ubud Writers & Readers Festival SATELLITE PROGRAM 2014

While UWRF may have officially drawn to a close on October 5, the Festival kept rolling as its 2014 Satellite Program set sail for Banggai Kepulauan, Central Sulawesi and Surabaya, East Java.

Specially designed to build a bridge between UWRF and the literary and artistic communities of the archipelago, the Satellite Program supports the Festival’s mission in developing literacy, nourishing the creation of literary works and showcasing the voices of Indonesian writers on a world stage. The program is supported by Hivos, and since its inception in 2008 has visited more than 20 cities in Indonesia.

The Words of Banggai Kepulauan


We were honoured to welcome Erni Aladjai (pictured above) as one of our 15 Indonesian Emerging Writers in 2014, selected from over 529 applicants to appear at the Festival and in our annual bilingual anthology. Hailing from Lipulalongo Island, one of the small clove-growing islands at the far corner of Central Sulawesi, she introduced us to her experience of island life in our Main Program session entitled Pulau Life on October 5.

We were especially delighted to join her in her hometown after the Festival (although currently she lives with her husband in Jakarta), and share her writer’s experiences in collaboration with Salanggar Arts Community at Salakan, Banggai Kepulauan, Sulawesi Tengah.

It took two days to reach Salakan; first by flight from Denpasar, Bali to Makassar, South Sulawesi then by propeller aircraft to Udara Syukuran Aminuddin Amir Airport at Luwuk, Central Sulawesi. The last step to get to Salakan from Luwuk is by boat – we decided to stay for a night in Luwuk to wait for the fast boast, rather than floating for five hours in the middle of the ocean on a wooden motor boat.

The November 30 event held at Gedung Bebengketan started at 2pm, and was opened by a writing workshop held by Erni Aladjai. She highlighted the benefits of writing; particularly, as a space to seek cultural exchange with foreign writers. Her presentation successfully encouraged the participants to pursue writing.

The second session was led by Andi F Lawi, the founder of Salanggar group, who presented Literature: A Medium of Social Changes; i.e. how we can promote important issues (such as the campaign to save the ocean) in the form of poetry, theatre and more.

The hot weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of the participants, who ranged from teachers to undergraduate students, younger kids and even some participants across the island.

The last session – and the one that certainly grabbed the most attention – was the poetry reading at the seaport. This was the first ever literary event held at Salakan Seaport, and it attracted a lot of interest from the public. We hope that this event will not only be a 2014 UWRF Satellite Event, but will become the starting point of a regular literary event at Salakan.

Banggai and its islanders flooded me with their various life narratives, on the different ways they cope with nature, technology and information. Even though we are linked by Indonesian waters, there was a lot to learn.

Erni Aladjai is evidence of Banggai person who is able to sail away, seeking new experiences; her return to Banggai is a reflection of her ‘moral responsibility’.

“Banggai Islands will be my home again in the future, and we should encourage young people as before long we will back there, so it is our moral responsibility to make them to be able to master literature and art. After all, art and literature is able to soften the soul on days where turmoil, clashes, and demonstrations appear. Literature and the arts is a counterweight,” Erni Aladjai said after completing the event.

Surabaya & Its Literary Communities

The Satellite Program then journeyed to Surabaya, the City of Heroes, presenting two respected writers, I Wayan Juniarta (UWRF Indonesian Program Manager) and East Javan writer, Mashuri. Mashuri is a writer and poet who appeared on the UWRF Curatorial Board in 2009.

The event took place at Perpustakaan Bank Indonesia on the evening of December 3. In contrast with Satellite Program event in Banggai Kepulauan, this session was focused on literary community empowerment and the youth generation. The discussion was guided by Puput Palipuring Tyas, who also volunteered at #UWRF14 in Ubud. This event was kindly organised by our volunteers and friends from Surabaya and Gresik.

The evening was attended by many local communities, schools, and universities in Surabaya such as Komunitas Susastra Nusantara, Komunitas Kota Jancuk Surabaya, Goodreads Surabaya, KOMUNLIS Probolinggo, Perpustakaan Kota Surabaya, Komunitas Gresik Movie, SMA N 1 Gresik, UNAIR Surabaya, LPM Lontar UMG, LPM Gresik, and more.

Wayan Juniarta fielded many questions regarding the selection of Indonesian Emerging Writers for Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2015; about the curation process and other details about this special program; proving that audiences in Surabaya are very keen to participate in the Indonesian program for 2015.

Mashuri, who was a guest of honour in this discussion, advised that the community is not a ‘playground’ only. “There are a lot of benefits to be gained when we write in the community. A community can be a place to show off your literary work. And the writing community should create a balance between developing writing skills and also reading skills.”

At the conclusion of the discussion, we welcomed poetry readings by a number of members of the audience.

I would like to say “Suwun” (thank you in the language of Surabaya) to all the friends who attended and also helped organise the Satellite Program events both in Banggai Kepulauan and Surabaya.

UWRF is lucky to count in its ‘festival family’ literary communities from Sabang to Merauke and beyond. Wherever we go there’s always a friend to meet, all united by a love for Indonesian literature.

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