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Utan Kayu International Literary Biennale: Jakarta, West Java

Indonesia is not a country well known for a culture of reading and literature. So when writers and poets arrive from as far as Europe, the Middle East and America, it’s a sign that something exceptional is afoot.

The fourth Utan Kayu International Literary Biennale, one of the few literary festivals in the country, will open on Aug. 23 in Jakarta and at the foot of Borobodur in Magelang, Central Java.

In line with this year’s theme of “Force Majeure“, festival organizers have invited writers and guests to contemplate the natural disasters that frequently befall Indonesia.

“Words may be useless when compared to the scale of these disasters. However, rituals to remember the strength of human conscience in rebuilding cultures are definitely not useless,” the event organizers said in their program outline.

As in the three previous festivals, this year’s biennale will feature poetry and book readings. Foreign and Indonesian writers will also be involved in discussions.

“As usual, our core program consists of evening programs which are open for free to the public,” said Kadek Krishna, the festival’s international liaison officer.

The festival will also take its readings and discussions to local high schools and colleges.

In Jakarta, the festival will take place at Teater Kecil at Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) in Central Jakarta and at Teater Utan Kayu (TUK) in East Jakarta.

The events at TIM will run from Aug. 23 to 24, while those at TUK will run from Aug. 25 to 26.

In Magelang, the festival will take place at Galeri Langgeng and an open area next to the ancient Borobudur temple ruins.

The foreign participants scheduled to attend the festival include Dutch playwright Chris Keulemans, Italian author Idanna Pucci, French novelist Kangni Alem, Palestinian novelist Ghassan Zagtan, American writer Terence Ward, Bolivian Edmundo Paz Soldan and Australian Sam Wagan Watson.

Indonesian poets and writers at the festival will include Avi Basuki, Ayu Utami, Dewi Lestari, Joko Pinurbo, Remy Sylado, Laksmi Pamuntjak and Sindhunata.

Highlights, International Literary Biennale

Thursday, Aug.23 at Teater Kecil, TIM* 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Opening
8 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Poetry reading, storytelling

Friday, Aug. 24
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Discussion at the Italian Cultural Institute
1:30 p.m. to 3:30: Visit to SMA Kanisius High School; Launch of
“Terra” at Wisma Budi, Jl Rasuna Said.
7:30 p.m. to 10: Performance at TIM

Saturday, Aug. 25
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Discussion at Indian Embassy
6:45 p.m. to 7:20 p.m.: Photo exhibition at TUK* 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Performance at TUK

Sunday, Aug.26 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Performance at TUK

Tuesday, Aug, 28 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: Opening, Galeri Langgeng, Magelang

*TIM Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center, Jl. Cikini Raya,
Central Jakarta

**TUK Teater Utan Kayu, Jl. Utan Kayu 68H, East Jakarta

Kurniawan Hari