Jakarta. The leafy outdoor space of Suar Artspace was crowded on Saturday afternoon when the art venue in South Jakarta hosted an event they called "Kenduri Kata," or "Feast of Words".
In the one-day gathering, which was open for writers and readers alike, the art space organizers were looking to tap into a group they had never reached out to before: the community of young writers in Jakarta.
Nin Djani, the spokesperson of Suar, dubbed them "word artists" because, instead of creating works with strokes of paint or from clay molds, they play around with words.
In addition to a pop-up market featuring titles from independent book publishers, the main program that day was a relay writing session that POST Santa — an independent bookstore and creative community center based in Jakarta's Pasar Santa — helped organize.
"Today is the time for all of you to experiment," enthused Maesy Angelina, the co-founder of POST Santa, to all participants.
They were divided into four groups, each with a featured writer as an instructor of sorts, and asked to write a short fiction prose — together.
Every group was given two women-related words taken from artist Ika Vantiani's Kata Untuk Perempuan (Words for Women) collage art project and had to use those as guiding themes. In between casual discussions, each participant must jot down a sentence on a piece of paper, which will be continued by the person sitting next to them until the group finished a one-page story.
It was a unique session as each person must let go of their control and work together — a very different experience when compared to the normally solitary act of writing.
The resulting proses, as such, were quite surprising — each a melange of different perspectives and ideas joined together by a single mission of creating a piece of fiction. This reporter's group, for instance, received "stigma" as a prompt, which led to a somewhat absurd and meandering story about a Muslim girl who loses her faith when she finds out that her father is a terrorist.
"It's like what happens when a schizophrenic person writes in his diary," observed Arman Dhani, one of the featured writers. "I started the story with a very liberal and strong sentence, and in the middle it became very conservative. When the paper got back to me again, I 'free' the story again."
Meanwhile, in the group led by screenwriter Irfan Ramli, there were some people who did not read fiction. "But it made the process more fluid. Everyone was expressing their respective thoughts," he said.
This sentiment was echoed by Syarafina Vidyadhana, the co-founder of The Murmur House literary journal, whose group went through "a good exercise in losing control," she said.
Even though not all participants came from a literary background, it did not stop them from having fun and exchanging thoughts during the relay writing session.
"Many people in my group come from various backgrounds and their presence enriched the story we wrote together," remarked poet Adimas Immanuel, who just released a new anthology entitled "Di Hadapan Rahasia."
The short fiction pieces written during the session would later be exhibited in an upcoming showcase at Suar Artspace on Feb. 6.
For more information on Suar Artspace, visit @suarartspace on Instagram.