An atmosphere of refined joy embraced guests as they entered the courtyard of Ubud Royal Palace. A Gong Gede ensemble next to the stage played a joyous welcoming composition, while a subtle, touching sound of Selonding, an ancient ensemble usually reserved for rituals, hovered in the air.
Writers from various countries filled the chairs set before the stage, with the beautifully carved gate of the palace’s inner yard standing tall in the background.
More than 400 guests, the festival’s participants and high-ranking officials, attended the gala opening. Among them were Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, Gianyar Regent Tjokorda Oka Ardana Sukawati, festival director Janet DeNeefe, the festival’s patron, Warwick Purser, and the founder of Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati, Ketut Suardana, as well as an expert from the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, Hari Untoro Drajat.
Corecipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Ramos-Horta told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the festival’s Gala Opening on Wednesday, “This is a great opportunity not only to meet the authors but also to spread the literature of peace and harmony among cultures and the people throughout the region.”
He recalled his meeting with Pramoedya Ananta Toer and his admiration of the late Indonesian author.
“I was very fortunate to meet Pramoedya in New York more than 10 years ago, when he was allowed to finally leave Indonesia. Meeting Pramoedya was like meeting Gabriel Garcia Márquez or some of the greatest writers of this century.”
“Pramoedya belongs to the generation that was so victimized after 1949. So many Indonesian journalists, writers, intellectuals, fell as victims of that period of time in Indonesian history. He was jailed and forbidden to spread his wisdom and beautiful writings. Pramoedya is more than an author, he is a fighter for freedom and democracy in Indonesia,” he said.
The five-day festival features a wider variety of literary genres, as well as introducing 15 short listed emerging writers nationwide.
“Part of our mission has always been about promoting Indonesian literature and emerging young Indonesian writers. So many years down the track, our Indonesian audience has grown and our outreach program is growing as well. So, I feel we are closer to fulfilling our vision,” festival founder, author and restaurant owner DeNeefe told journalists.
The festival was born one year after the 2002 Bali bombings, taking the theme Habis Gelap, Terbitlah Terang (After the Dark, Light is Born) from the book authored by Indonesia’s national heroine, R.A. Kartini. This year’s theme, Bumi Manusia (This Earth of Mankind), is the literary work of the late Pramoedya. (Jakarta Post)