Jakarta. The second Association of Southeast Asian Nations Literary Festival, designed to bring together hundreds of poets, fiction writers, dramatists and literary critics from all over the Asia-Pacific region, is expected to attract a much larger crowd of both participants and spectators this year with the involvement of Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt and Algeria.
Hundreds of writers from 32 countries have been invited to join the festival, slated to run from March 15 to 22.
A joint initiative between Jakarta-based Yayasan Muara, a foundation dedicated to promoting Indonesia’s educational system and cultural heritage, and the ministry of foreign Affairs, organizers aim to make the Asean Literary Festival the region’s hub for all things literature.
“It will build on the huge success of the first Asean Literary Festival held early last year at the Taman Marzuki Cultural Center in Jakarta, in which participants from Indonesia and 18 other countries intensively discussed a variety of topics, including the role of writers in the struggle for democracy and human rights and in our maturing of society,” said Tommy F. Awuy, a member of the festival’s steering board.
Last year, the festival posthumously honored Indonesian poet and human rights activist Wiji Thukul with the 2014 Asean Literary Award.
Wiji was among the many who “disappeared” during former President Suharto’s authoritarian reign. He remains missing to this day.
The festival’s steering board, which is composed of scholars, academics and literary critics, are in the process of selecting this year’s recipient.
According to festival rules, only literary writers from the Asean region are eligible for the award.
“The awardee will be announced during the festival’s opening ceremony,” said Jamil Maidan Flores of the Philippines, also a member of the steering board.
President Joko Widodo has been invited to preside over the event’s inaugural address.
Unlike last year’s festival, which ran for three days and was held exclusively at the Taman Marzuki Cultural Center, this year’s event will last an entire week.
The agenda will include film viewings and excursions to various university campuses in Jakarta and Bandung.
Panel discussions will focus on the various ways writers can respond to the global realities of our time through their works, and how they should deal with the great moral questions they and their respective countries are currently facing.
The second annual Asean Literary Festival will also provide writers from Indonesia and the Asean region a unique opportunity to showcase their written works as part of the envisioned Asean Sociocultural Community, one of the three pillars of the long-awaited Asean Economic Community, which will be established by the end of this year.
The second annual Asean Literary Festival seeks to unite writers from across the region.
Photo courtesy of Akarpadi.com