Who are we as Indonesians? How do we define or redefine our identity as Indonesians?
These questions have been going around in my mind over the past months for two reasons: firstly, because this year’s festival theme is Diversity and secondly, because the recent social and political escalations we have witnessed in Jakarta have tended to divide people who have different political aspirations and different perspectives on religion and culture.
The theme ‘diversity’ reminds me of what Colin Brown describes in his book A Short Story of Indonesia: The Unlikely Nation? : One of the problems of thinking and writing about Indonesia at the beginning of the twenty-first century is working out just what ‘Indonesia’ refers to.… the struggle to give social meaning to theword Indonesia, to persuade the peoples of the archipelago to identify themselves collectively as Indonesians, proved to be a much more difficult…
Perhaps, many people who attend the festival this year will do so with mixed feelings, just like me. I have concerns about the state of our nation, but at the same time I don’t want to lose hope that for Indonesia, made up of peoples from different religions and cultures who believe that Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, diversity is an ultimate condition for our country and people.
With Diversity as the main theme, MIWF opens more room/space for meaningful conversations, intriguing insights and stimulating intellectual exchanges. We want to learn from past conflicts and the ongoing social and political escalations. We hope that through this exchange writers, readers and the general audience will maintain their hopes for a better and humanised Indonesia, a better and humanised World.
With more than 100 writers, performers and artists from many parts of the World, MIWF has strengthened its position as the most anticipated cultural, intellectual and literary event in this region. We are incredibly excited to introduce six emerging writers from Kupang, Mataram, Kendari, Ende, Kolaka and Makassar – a festival tradition since 2011 to select writers from Eastern Indonesia and a source of great excitement every year – to share their writings and stories with a wider audience. We are also excited to share this year’s documentary film about the life of Bissu, the fifth gender of the Bugis, which will certainly enrich our knowledge about this minority group. This year we also launch “Dari Timur” an annual literary publication in partnership with Indonesia’s leading publisher Gramedia Pustaka Utama to showcase new writing from Eastern Indonesia, another milestone on our journey now in its seventh year.
Without a doubt, the impressive line-up and the exciting festival programs we present for you this year reflect the tremendous work of more than 150 volunteers and continuous support from our sponsors and donors. I would like to express my gratitude to our wonderful festival team and volunteers who have been working tirelessly in the last nine months to make this festival happen again.
Our city, our region, our nation are complex by nature but I never want to lose my hope that their complexities have opened avenues to explore our identities and to believe in diversity.
Welcome to the 7th edition of Makassar International Writers Festival.
Lily Yulianti Farid
Founder/Director of Makassar International Writers Festival