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Utan Kayu Literary Biennale

Written by eastern writer on Sunday, December 09, 2007

In 2001, Komunitas Utan Kayu hosted an unprecedented international literary event with authors and poets from Indonesia and nine other nations performing for audiences in Jakarta and Yogyakarta. The 2001 program was a collaboration between KUK and Winternachten of the Hague, Netherlands.

In each location, Indonesian authors and those from out of the country presented a dynamic reading of their work and held discussions with the audience. The work of the foreign authors were translated to Indonesian for the audience and projected on a screen while they read. Similarly, for the foreign participants, Indonesian work is translated to English. A compilation of all works read during the festival is given to audience members in two languages, Indonesian and English.

Following the success of this event, KUK held a second literary event in 2003, with participation of the Winternachten program and the Vienna Poetry School, Austria. That year the literary festival traveled to three cities: Denpasar, Surakarta (Solo), and Jakarta. The 2003 Festival showed some of crème-de-la-crème of literature and poetry from Indonesia, including major authors and poets such as Sapardi Djoko Damono and Putu Wijaya as well as important newcomers. Visiting authors came from South Africa, The Netherlands, Suriname, Dutch Antilles, Germany, Austria, and Malaysia. Again, all work was translated to English or Indonesian, projected on-screen behind the performers, and published as a small book for audience members.

In 2005, the program toured to 3 Indonesian cities and included a wide range of Indonesian poets and authors as well as international participants in Bandung, West Java and Lampung, Sumatra before concluding in Jakarta. Winternachten and a number of embassies and cultural centers worked together to bring outstanding international authors and poets to Indonesia. Translations of all work were compiled and published as a small book for the audience.

Komunitas Utan Kayu (Utan Kayu Community)

During the New Order, limitations on freedom in every sector, especially freedom of the press, inspired a group of journalists, intellectuals, and writers to establish a “pocket” where alternative art, thought and journalism could mutually support each other in creating a network for freedom of expression.

In 1994, three print media outlets were closed by the government: Tempo, Editor, and Detik. This led to the establishment of Komunitas Utan Kayu. In a complex of old houses and stores at Jalan Utan Kayu 68-H East Jakarta, the Institut Studi Arus Informasi was established in 1995, with Galeri Lontar following in 1996. Teater Utan Kayu opened in 1997.

Komunitas Utan Kayu (KUK) consists of three organizations working in the arts: Teater Utan Kayu, Galeri Lontar, and the cultural journal Kalam. KUK also includes three other institutions – Institut Studi Arus Informasi, Radio 68-H, and the Liberal Islam Network.

Now the institutions that form Komunitas Utan Kayu work in their individual fields but continue to support each other to maintain the energy and principles of freedom of thought and expression. Komunitas Utan Kayu believes that experimentation and sophistication in various fields is a sign of a society that is democratic, open and progressive.

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    "There is only one school of literature - that of talent."
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