Identity and Environment in a Modern World

Festival director Janet de Neefe summarises the experiences of many during the second Ubud Writers and Readers festival and leads the way to next years festival:

The 2005 was more successful than we could have imagined, given the tragic bombings the week before, with triple the attendances of our first year. Only a few writers cancelled, and from our records, only a couple of participants. The general feeling was one of immense support and solidarity, and I will never forget some of the heartwarming comments from writers.

There were so many highlights in this year’s diverse program with an equally varied line-up of writers. The exchange between all these great minds surely shows the need for cross-cultural dialogue in times of change. Our theme, Between Worlds, appeared in discussions frequently and a strong theme that emerged from this year’s festival was identity and environment in a modern world. The 2006 theme will reflect these issues.

Once again the literary lunches were hugely successful. To be able to dine in the glorious Maya restaurant and enjoy a light-hearted interview by our favourite stand-up comedian, Nury Vittachi with Michael Ondaatje, was a rare treat. I also loved having the opportunity to interview Amitav Ghosh at the Chedi Club on the edge of the ricefields. His tales on being ‘Indian’ in Egypt were an absolute joy.

Another undisputed highlight was the Love Letters cocktail party at the Amandari. In a cosy, lamp-lit setting, Kirsty Sword Gusmao and President Xanana Gusmao spun their magical story of love that developed in a Jakarta prison, in between Xanana’s poetry and readings from Kirsty’s book, A Woman of Independence. The evening ended with a gentle speech by Xanana encouraging the fostering of closer ties between Bali and East Timor. The audience was spell-bound.

Challenging discussions during the day, in subjects ranging from terrorism to censorship, were offset by some wild and hilarious free evening events. The Who Writes the Best Love Scenes love debate at Warung Enak complete with Joged dancer, was a great success, as was the Poetry Slam, once again, at Bebek Bengil.

But perhaps the most successful night of all, was the Bahasa and Bossanova Beats. In the charming, intimate atmosphere of the Jazz café, poets read their words to the gentle beat of Latino music, in between the writers dancing the night away. It was also a great honour to have Dewi Lestari, famous singer from Jakarta, take to the microphone and stun us with her outstanding voice, as well as, Moammar Emka with his Dangdut renditions and gyrating movements.

The Children’s programs that were held at Pondok Pekak and the Pura Dalem, Ubud, were also well attended and loads of fun. We hope to run more of these workshops throughout the year.

So, we are now working on the next challenging event. Stay tuned for lots of surprises!

Janet de Neefe