ASEAN Literary Festival Promotes A Sense of Community
The ASEAN Literary Festival this year will cover the region’s current affairs by bringing in prominent writers, researchers and artists from the 10 member countries and their counterparts from Japan, Australia, the United States, South Korea, China, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Finland and Timor-Leste.
Entering its 4th edition, which will be held from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6 at the preserved part of Kota Tua (Old Town) in West Jakarta, the festival will comprise four sub-themes presented in a series of discussions.
From the start, she the ASEAN Literary Festival positions itself as a forum to respond to issues in our communities, such as radicalism, populism, technology in literary works, controversy, and dedication of writers for society.
“We would like to see more literary works contribute to defending people’s interest, enlightening the readers and helping to stop repression and tyranny,” said Okky Madasary, author and festival co-founder, said in an interview with The Jakarta Post.
“It is our recurring theme, as last year we also touched on issues of human rights, the 1965 Tragedy and LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender], although the discussions were cut short due to opposition from some hard-line groups.”
As the festival will be held in conjunction with ASEAN’s 50th anniversary on Aug. 14, with the theme “ASEAN Beyond Imagination.”
Southeast Asia's important writers are slated to take part in the event, including Goenawan Mohamad from Indonesia and Faisal Tehrani from Malaysia.
Malaysian author Faisal Tehrani, whose five novels and a play are currently banned by the Malaysian government , delivered a brief lecture on opening night at Kota Tua’s Fatahillah Square, discussing the overall situation of freedom of expression in Southeast Asia.
In addition to writing workshops and book exhibitions, the festival will also stage pre-events with the National Literature Jamboree for youths and a residency program for selected writers, the latter of which will start on July 27.
“The Writer’s Residency program is getting so well-known that this year, we received nearly 1,000 applicants,” Okky said.
From them, only 12 were accepted — 11 from ASEAN countries and one writer from Japan — and will during their stay be hosted by residents of Kampung Muara in Jagakarsa, South Jakarta.
With the residency program, writers are offered the chance to interact and embed themselves in the subject of their work, with the aims to make literature more accessible.
The four-day festival will also host a culinary bazaar, and art and cultural performances by Filipino spoken word artist and educator Kooky Tuason, Bruneian performing artist Low Kok Wai and Jakarta-based girl group JKT 48.