Ubud Writers & Readers festival Moments That Prove it’s The Best festival Ever


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How It Started

Are you looking for some literary and artistic events? Why not come to Bali and enrich your mind with culture and knowledge while savoring the joy of nature in Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2019.

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is an annual literary pilgrimage for experts and lovers of the literary world ranging from readers and authors, musicians and chefs that is held in Ubud Bali, Indonesia. Organized by a not-to-profit foundation Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati, the festival is usually in October each year. The festival was first conceived of by Janet DeNeefe, Co-founder of the foundation as a healing project in response to the first 2002 Bali bombings. It was first held in 2004 as part of an effort to help revive tourism, the Island’s main economic lifeline, after terrorist bombings devastated the Island’s Kuta district two years earlier.


The Now

From a humble beginning, the literature festival grows bigger every year and up until now has evolved and known as Southeast Asia’s biggest celebrated festival of words, ideas and artistic events. Ubud Writers & Readers Festival brings together the world’s most celebrated writers, artists, thinkers and performers and it is considered as one of the best five similar festivals in the world. Truly an annual pilgrimage for lovers of litarature and conversation, the festival is a platform for meaningful exchange and cross-cultural dialogue. A place where artists and audiences alike can discuss shared inspirations, ideas and concerns.

This year, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival celebrates its 16th year as Southeast Asia’s leading festival of words and ideas from 23-27 October 2019. With more than 180 storytellers from 30 countries and across five days, the festival delivers an eclectic programs of events and will be a treasure trove of discoveries. From fiery conversations to intimate literary lunches, gripping live performances to hands-on workshops and most of the sessions will be held in English, Indonesian or bilingual while translators will be present.

Like many of the festival’s previous themes, this year’s is drawn from a Hindu philosophy but this time it is one that is universally known, KARMA. For many in the West, Karma is simplification of justice served. For Balinese Hindus, Karma Phala is the spiritual principle that each action has its consequence equal in force and similar in form.

As actions in their previous life affect their present, and deeds commited in the present affects their future, Balinese Hindus are aware their fate are not divine in origin but in their own hands”, Janet DeNeefe – UWRF Founder & Director.

“Last year’s theme JAGADHITA : The World We Create, was an important reminder that harmony with others should be one of life’s primary goals” DeNeefe continued. At a time when the consequences of climate change is impossible to ignore and world leaders continue to evade responsibility, we’ll ask what Karma looks in 2019 and consider the tensions that emerge when we do not look it squarely in the face.

This year’s festival, named one of the five best literary events of 2019 by The Telegraph UK, will explore the impacts of our personal and collective actions on our social and physical environments. The compelling conversations between literary luminaries, emerging writers, and leading journalists will ask whether we truly understand the consequences of our actions, and how we can best respond to the actions of others.

Along with the 2019 theme, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival also unveiled the artwork for its 16th year created by community visual artist Samuel Indratma, one of the founders of the prominent Yogyakarta public art collective, Apotik Komik.

As well as translating the spirit of Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, I also tried to translate what Karma is like. Do people change their face? Do they change their form? This is why I choose the symbol of the mask. I imagine Karma as a human cycle that continues to spin, then returns again”, Indratma stated.

The Pioneers

Started as a healing project back in 2004, Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is now becoming one the major annual projects of the Mudra Swari Saraswati Foundation (  Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati ). The foundation is an independent, non-profit, non-government organization. The members of the foundation:

  • Ketut Suardana MPil – Foundation Co Director
  • Janet DeNeefe – Foundation Co Director
  • Ni Wayan Widiatmini – Treasurer
  • Ni Made Sri Purnami – Secretary
  • I Wayan Juniartha
  • Ni Wayan Ariani

is commited to enriching the lives and livelihood of Indonesians through the development of a range of community-building arts and cultural programs.

Each year, Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati puts a call out to emerging voices across the Indonesian archipelago : send us your stories. From hundreds of submissions, an independent curatorial board selects works that are then translated and published in the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival’s Emerging Writing Anthology Series. The winning writers are then flown to Ubud to take part in the festival, and launch the publication in front of international audiences.

Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati is also the founding body of Ubud Food Festival.


Why Ubud

The founders are Ubudians, might be the right answer if there is ever a question popped about why the festival has to be in Ubud and not in other place in Bali.

Ubud, a town in central Bali and is regarded as the cultural centre of the Island. It is famous as an arts and crafts hub and much of the town and nearby villages seems to consist of artist’s workshops and galleries.  Remarkable architectural and other beautiful sights like verdant rice terraces, majestic Hindu temples are to be found and a general feeling of well being to be enjoyed, all thanks to the spirit, surroundings and climate of the place.  People who come to Ubud also love the world class resorts, incredible gastronomy.

Ubud seems to outsiders as one small town, but in fact it has fourteen villages which each is run by its own banjar (village committee). This town has grown rapidly and some central parts are creaking under the strain of coping with the number of visitors but away from town centre, regular, quiet village life carries on relatively undisturbed.

Bali overall is always a phenomenal place to visit but here’s some reasons why you must attend the festival in Ubud :

  • Inspiring international speakers. UWRF always has an impressive list of international speakers that will be ready to share their knowledge and experience in literary world.

Headlining this year’s UWRF is Kurdish-Iranian journalist, scholar, cultural advocate, writer and film maker Behrouz Boochani. Currently incarcerated by the Australian Government in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre in Papua New Guinea, he’ll appear in Festival via WhatsApp. Jenny Zhang, Chinese American author award-winning “Sour Heart” will be joined by leading global strategy advisor and best-selling author Parag Khanna, who believes the future is Asian. The festival is also appearing Tara June Winch who writes about reclaiming indigenous language, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma an American-Zimbabwe writer radically retelling colonization and uncolonization and Yotam Ottolenghi, one of Britain’s most beloved food writer.  Richard Fidler, Australian most love voices, history lover who will be appear alongside Susan Orlean author of the bestsellers “The Library Book” and “The Orchid Thief” which was made into the Academy Award winning film “Adaptation”.

  • Amazing national speakers. Some of Indonesian most interesting artists, writers, will be appearing at every UWRF. Laksmi Pamuntjak an award-winning novelist who believes that food is vital for self-discovery, Human Rights Watch Andreas Harsono and Lala Bohang, a visual artist and writer experimenting with matters deemed invisible, forbidden and imaginary in Indonesian society. The Festival’s Indonesian Film Programs offers international audiences a rare opportunity to enjoy local productions and hear from its industry members, Rayya Makarim screenwriter and producer behind some of Indonesian most breathtaking films.
  • Ubud is creative-artistic hub. In between attending the UWRF sessions, there are tens of galleries and museums open for visiting. Tjampuhan Ridgewalk, Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Agung Rai Musuem of Art, Ubud Palace, Antonio Blanco Museum or even rent a bike and have a round trip to visit and enjoy the beautiful sceneries of padi fields & rice terraces of Ubud.
  • Scrumptious festival foods which presenting a wide range of food focused workshops, classes and discussions, best picks for foodlovers.
  • Skill building workshops.

Cultural and artistic diversity has been always the core of Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, and this first round of international and Indonesian speakers is testament to this. And what is more important is, Ubud Writers & Readers Festival isn’t just forestablished voices and professionals. It is also a perfect place to encourage budding ones to grow. Designed for inspiring Affandis and Eka Kurniawans, UWRF’s Children & Youth Program is a series of hands-on workshops spanning writing, drawing, poetry and performance.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your things, prepare your luggage or backpack and head off to Bali. Enjoy the festival, enrich your knowledge, explore Ubud at your best and no need to worry for any health problems that might occur because Unicare Ubud Clinic will be there providing both as sponsor as well as your health guard.