What to expect at Southeast Asia’s biggest festival of words and ideas
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What to expect at Southeast Asia’s biggest festival of words and ideas

WHAT is mankind’s greatest pursuit in life? Health? Wealth? Happiness? Or is there something else?

Speak to a Balinese Hindu and the answer is likely to achieve Moksha and Jagadhita, two Hindu philosophies that refer to a harmonious existence and relationship between humanity, nature and the divine.

According to The Bali Times, Moksha in Sanskrit means liberation, ie. a spiritual process of liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Jagadhita, on the other hand, is a worldly happiness that can be achieved through good deeds.

It is Jagadhita, which prescribes the individual pursuit of universal harmony as one of mankind’s primary goals, that forms the bedrock of life in Bali, an idyllic Indonesian island famed for its arts and culture.

SEE ALSO: Ubud Writers Festival to showcase Indonesian literature in October

It is also the central theme of this year’s Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF), an annual gathering of the world’s most celebrated writers, artists, thinkers and performers that will take place this Oct 24 to 28.

“Last year’s theme, ‘Sangkan Paraning Dumadi’, or ‘Origins’, was an important reminder of our shared humanity,” explained UWRF Founder & Director Janet DeNeefe when unveiling this year’s theme.

“At a time when disparities rather than shared values are shaping political decision-making, we’ll ask what harmony and prosperity looks like in 2018, and consider the tensions that have emerged between personal and collective fortunes in contemporary life.

“In our 15th year, we’ll be celebrating the writers, artists, thinkers and activists from across Indonesia and the region who have made a powerful contribution to our harmony and prosperity,” continued DeNeefe.

“Through the Balinese Hindu philosophy of Jagadhita, we’ll explore the world they create.”


Located at the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with Java to the west and Lombok to the east, Bali is known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddy fields, beaches, and coral reefs.

A paradise destination for many, the island has something for everyone and for every type of traveler.

On one end of the spectrum, the beachside city of Kuta has a vibrant party scene. While on the other end in the uplands of Bali is the town of Ubud, the heart of the island’s cultural and religious sites surrounded by lush greens and sprawling nature.

This is why the breathtaking Ubud is the perfect location to host the UWRF.

Bringing together some of the world’s most powerful voices in a melting pot of artists, authors, thinkers and performers, the festival is a platform for meaningful exchange and cross-cultural dialogue.

If you’re headed to Ubud for the festival this month-end, here’s what y0u can expect:

70 sessions over four days

One thing is certain: UWRF will, as always, deliver an eclectic itinerary.

From fiery conversations to intimate literary lunches, gripping live performances to hands-on workshops, there will be plenty of ideas for creative minds to explore.

Kickstart your experience at this year’s festival with traditional Balinese treats and coffee then indulge your inner wanderer with stories of searching and serendipity over a lavish lunch or discover local produce at a traditional market before trying your hand at a spot of batik painting.

At UWRF 2018, you will have opportunities to fast-track your way to learning about Balinese culture through worldly experiences.

SEE ALSO: Asean Literary Festival celebrates art, free speech and 50 years of regional cooperation

Start them young

The festival is not just for established voices – it is also a place to encourage budding ones to grow.

Designed for aspiring Affandis and Eka Kurniawans, its Children & Youth program is a series of hands-on workshops spanning writing, drawing, poetry, and performance.

From creative writing to publishing a comic book, letter writing to charcoal drawing, there is plenty to keep you and your family stimulated and inspired at the Festival.

Nourish your soul

Listen, read, dance, and sing. Let your very being be swept away by all the wonderment the festival has to offer.

Sure, you will probably return home with a couple of books in tow and pictures that will stir up nostalgia time and time again, but more importantly, you will be packing with you a wealth of words and ideas.

UWRF 2018 is the major annual project of the not-for-profit foundation, the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati.

It was first conceived by DeNeefe as a healing project in response to the first Bali bombing in 2002, during which 202 people were killed.

Stay tuned to their website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates.

This post was adapted from an article on our sister website Travel Wire Asia. Travel Wire Asia is a media partner for the UWRF 2018 and will be attending this year’s festival in Ubud from Oct 24 to 28. For details and updates, drop us a line at editor@travelwireasia.com or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.