Wednesday night, at 7:00pm Central Indonesian time, hundreds of heads crowded the yard of Fort Rotterdam. All the attention was focused in one direction, while nine dancers, men and women, appeared on stage dressed in sarongs, performing dance movements accompanied by music and video animation.
“La Galigo: The Beginning” was the theme of the performance. La Galigo traces the story of the first civilization on mother earth. The story was adapted from the first volume of the Buginese epic I La Galigo. The performance was one of the attractions prepared by the Makassar International Writers Festival 2016 as part of the Light and Color Park (Taman Cahaya) program. Every night this program delivers installations based on art both potent visual and audio: music, theater, animation and video art.
Light and Color Park is a collaboration project by choreographer Abdi Karya, musician Juan Manyala and animator Dana Riza. That night the sky was bright from the brilliance of the half moon serving as an indicator to start the Opening Ceremony of the first and only literature festival in Eastern Indonesia: Makassar International Writers Festival (MIWF).
“Tonight we learn from the visual adaptation of La Galigo: The Beginning. Come back again on subsequent nights because we will deliver more performances,” said Lily Yulianti Farid, founder and director of MIWF, during her opening speech.
MIWF is entering its sixth consecutive year of operation. This year the committee has prepared a four-day, seven-location festival with 33 programs that involve 61 national and international writers. Farid guarantees that all programs will bring enjoyment with a delightful environment and quality to rival years past. “we offer world class quality, and for free, with an atmosphere full of love.”
MIWF’s designated theme this year: READ! can be understood in various ways according to Lily. The theme is inspired by the birth of several reading and book communities in Indonesia. The development and growth of these much-needed and literacy-minded communities serve as an acute reminder that reading is a very low priority for our current generation.
Two years ago MIWF stated its ability to proceed completely independently. Lily announced that over one hundred volunteers have come together to become the driving force of MIWF. A majority of the volunteers are in their teens or early twenties, they care about life, and their minds are full of new and fresh ideas every day. The volunteers are the the stepping-stones that embody the festival like big dreams for Makassar, their city, that has become an icon of new culture in Indonesia.
MIWF 2016 commences in the midst of recent book censorship and issues of communism. This is ironic because one group encourages reading culture and the other group prohibits literacy activities. MIWF’s stance is resolute, to oppose such aforementioned censorship attempts. As a representative of the organizing committee, Farid revealed an appeal in front of the attendees of the opening ceremony. The appeal was created after carefully observing a series of book censorships and intimidation that occurred during literacy activities affiliated with the freedom of expression.
We support the declaration which has been issued by writers, literacy campaigners and activists in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bandung, Semarang and other cities to urge police officers and military officers to cease intimidation and censorship towards books, book discussions and other literacy events,” said Lily citing the first of four points within her appeal from Makassar.
On the subsequent points, Lily demanded that civil groups, other parties as well as the government that are involved in censoring good books to stop action and honor the freedom to assemble and express. Indonesian citizens need to pressure the country to take assertive action to eradicate book censorship and intimidation towards literacy activities. Lily also reminded and encouraged MIWF attendees to each bring a favorite book to the closing ceremony of MIWF, 21 May, that coincides with Indonesia’s 18 years of reform. “This is a symbol of opposition toward the book censorship that has resurfaced in our country.”
Towards the end, Farid urged the group to enjoy every MIWF program to the fullest. She compared MIWF to a giant book only open for four days, where all people are free to read. Quoting Tan Malaka, the founder and director of MIWF said, “The goal of education is to sharpen intelligence, strengthen courage and refine opinions.”
The night of the MIWF 2016 ceremony was filled a filled program. Initiator of Pustaka Bergerak (mobile library), Nirwan Ahmad Arsuka, read his essay titled Sharing the Taste of Freedom. He shared his experiences related to forming a network of libraries across the Indonesian archipelago. According to Nirwan, in this era of technological revolution and information, electricity and books are two indicators of freedom. Both help humans liberate themselves from the grasps of darkness; inner and outer darkness.
Like usual, every year MIWF presents a tribute or homage of appreciation to a local figure credited with contributing to the world of literacy. This year the recognition is directed towards Colliq Pujie, a woman who compiled 12 volumes of I La Galigo in the mid 19th century. The screening of a short movie by Makassar filmmaker Andi Burhamzah commemorated the tribute to the local hero.
Deborah Emmanuel, a poet from Singapore, singularly entertained the crowd with the power of her words that wove themes of inner struggle and social issues into a stunning display of personal growth and acceptance through literary art. Following Emmanuel, the musical poetry duo Ari Reda was enlisted as the final act of the opening ceremony. They performed six melodious songs accompanied by acoustic guitar, including some poems by Sapardi Djoko Damono.
“Makassar is the last city on Ari Reda’s tour. But this city was also a determining factor in our undertaking this tour. The warm reception at MIWF has also inspired us to draft a schedule to re-visit other cities,” said Reda Gaudiamo, the duet partner to Ari Malibu.
(MIWF Media Team)
World Readers’ Award Acceptance Speech
I would wholeheartedly like to express my sincerest thanks and appreciation to the World Reader’s Award for their recognition and in honoring my work. This award was given in Hong Kong on the 22nd of March 2016, but at that time I was unable to accept it in person. On this special night, I am deeply honored to be here and I would like to show my appreciation to the Makassar International Writers Festival for presenting this distinction on behalf of the World Readers’ Award.
The bestowing of this award is not only about me and my work, but it has turned into a larger and more important momentum for freedom in Indonesia. Book burning, banning, and censorship are raging everywhere, becoming a dark shadow that follows us throughout history. We can’t forget what happened and allow bad events to be repeated again. The seizure of books will murder people and their ideas.
In this internet and digital era, the existence of technology predicts the death of intellectual suppression, but even now this is not necessarily true. Not only book burning, but the blurring of images in visual media, film censorship, and the banning of art events often occurs. The Makassar International Writers Festival is a small corner of Indonesia that celebrates freedom, and we are assembled here to courageously oppose by writing narratives and recording the arbitrary action which aims to silence us.
Since time immemorial, human beings have never stopped telling great stories. Admirable writers teach us about people and their adventures, people and their ties to the cosmos, people and their secrets, and people and humanity. I was taught by them all. I grew up with them. And all along the way, I am accompanied by their thoughts. I heard their voices in every page of the books I read in libraries and bookstores all around the world. With great humility, I remember them and carry them with me over the course of my life.
Today, the Makassar International Writers Festival 2016 will officially come to a close, but the thoughts and ideas conveyed through the many events over the last four days will never cease. The giant walls along Fort Rotterdam, which surround the festival will not be the walls that imprison our minds and freedom. With a feeling of honor, I am delighted if my stories and this award can encourage anyone who is currently walking in solitude and silence.
Makassar, 21 Mei 2016
Saya ingin menyampaikan terima kasih kepada World Reader’s Award yang menganggap karya saya berharga untuk menerima anugerah ini. Penghargaan ini diberikan di Hongkong pada tanggal 22 Maret 2016, tapi pada saat itu saya tidak bisa menerimanya secara langsung. Pada malam istimewa ini, saya merasa terhormat berada di sini dan ingin mengapresiasi Makassar International Writer Festival yang telah menyerahkan anugerah World Reader’s Award kepada saya.
Penghargaan ini bukan saja diberikan kepada saya dan karya saya, tapi juga menjadi sebuah momentum penting bagi kebebasan di Indonesia. Pembakaran, pelarangan, dan sensor buku yang merajalela di mana-mana menjadi bayangan hitam yang selalu mengikuti kita sepanjang sejarah. Kita tidak bisa melupakan dan membiarkan peristiwa-peristiwa buruk mengulang lagi masa lalunya. Pemberangusan buku berarti pembunuhan kepada manusia dan ide-ideanya.
Di era internet dan digital, kehadiran teknologi meramal kematian pemberangusan intelektual, tapi sampai hari ini, kenyataannya tidaklah tepat. Tidak hanya pembakaran buku, tapi pengaburan gambar di media visual, sensor pada film, dan pelarangan acara-acara kesenian menjadi peristiwa yang kerap terjadi. Makassar International Writer Festival adalah sebuah ruang kecil di Indonesia yang merayakan kebebasan itu, dan kita yang berada di sini secara langsung berkumpul untuk berani menuliskan narasi dan catatan kita terhadap kesewenang-wenangan aksi yang bertujuan untuk membungkam.
Sejak dulu, manusia tidak pernah berhenti mendongengkan kisah-kisah hebat. Para penulis agung mengajarkan kita tentang manusia dan petualangannya, manusia dan ikatannya kepada kosmos, manusia dan rahasianya, manusia dan kemanusiaannya. Saya dididik oleh mereka semua, tumbuh, dan ditemani mereka. Saya mendengarkan suara-suara mereka di halaman-halaman buku yang saya baca di perpustakaan-perpustakaan dan toko-toko buku seluruh dunia. Dengan penuh kerendahhatian, saya selalu mengingat para guru-guru rohani saya dan membawa mereka di perjalanan hidup saya.
Hari ini, Makassar International Writer Festival akan ditutup, tapi suara dan ide yang selama empat hari disampaikan lewat berbagai acara tidak akan ditutup. Tembok-tembok raksasa di sepanjang benteng Fort Rotterdam yang mengelilingi acara festival tidak menjadi tembok yang memenjara pikiran dan kebebasan kita. Dengan penuh rasa hormat, saya bergembira jika cerita-cerita saya dan penghargaan ini bisa membesarkan hati siapapun yang sedang berjalan di dalam kesendirian dan kesunyiannya.
Makassar, 21 Mei 2016
Indonesia exists in its locality, its literature. “Our national embryo exists within our local literature,” said Alwy Rachman of Humanities Studies of Universitas Hasanuddin during the panel discussion of Colli’ Pujie, a program in Makassar International Writers Festival 2016, on Thursday afternoon in Aksa Mahmud Hall, Universitas Bosowa.
The panel discussion talking about the script of a Bugis classic literature I La Galigo, also presented an academia from Universitas Hasanuddin, Ahmad Saransi. He hoped that he could build a tradition by talking about I La Galigo. In addition to that, he also hoped that the government of South Sulawesi could support and encourage cultural regulations as well as the continuity of the I La Galigo script existence that is written in traditional lontara or lontara’ bilang.
The I La Galigo script consisting of 12 volumes, copied by Retna Kencana Colli’ Pujie, is now stored in the Leiden University, Netherlands.
Alwy stated that there are many valuable cultures in South Sulawesi and that people should do something in order to preserve the culture, especially of literature, in South Sulawesi. Formal institutions and academics, too, need to contribute in preserving this cultural memory.
Preserving memory of local literature, said Alwy, requires policy and cultural planning that could raise public awareness and participation as well as other private actors. “This kind of participation might be arranged through a series of process on legislation and regulation,” Alwy stated. (MIWF Media Team)