In 2002, Bali was rocked by a series of deadly terrorist attacks that left the tourism industry shaken and community morale at an all time low. As the island – and the Indonesian archipelago – struggled to recover, the need was clear for the development of positive initiatives to celebrate Indonesia’s unique culture, diversity and to promote cross-cultural understanding.
It was from this that the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati was born, a not-for-profit organisation with the mission to support and promote Indonesian culture and community through literature and the arts. The major project of the Yayasan was the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, an annual event with the dual objectives of both showcasing Indonesian cultural diversity and promoting Ubud as an artistic hub for writers, artists and performers from across the world.
From modest beginnings, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival has grown to become one of Southeast Asia’s largest literary events, and a fixture on the global cultural calendar. Last year the Festival (returning in 26–30 October, 2016) attracted up to 30,000 people, spanning five days of programming across more than 50 venues, with a line-up of 150+ speakers, authors and cultural luminaries from across Indonesia and the world. True to its roots, the Festival acts as a platform for both established and emerging Indonesian voices, and is proud to present a large proportion of its program free.
Recognising the need for more pathways that support creative talent in Indonesia, in 2011 the Yayasan launched the Bali Emerging Writers Festival. A three-day event held in Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) and specifically targeted to the younger generation of emerging talent, the Festival provided both the practical skills and necessary networks to a successful career in the arts. This initiative has since been rebranded as the Bali Emerging Voices Festival (to be relaunched in 2017), which will expand to include artists, musicians, designers, digital, cinematographers, fashion designers and all other forms of creative expression.
In 2015, the Yayasan introduced a third initiative, the Ubud Food Festival. A three-day celebration of all things delicious and diverse in Indonesian cuisine, the Festival aims to promote greater awareness of Indonesian food culture and history, support local producers and community groups through meaningful collaboration and discussion, and create pathways for aspiring Indonesian chefs to grow.
From its humble aspiration to help a community to heal, the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati has become a central player that celebrates Indonesian culture and the arts on a world stage. Whether through language and literature, or a delicious plate of food, finding ways to create shared meaning and understanding is at the core of the Yayasan’s philosophy.
Visit the new Yayasan website to learn more, or head to our Donate page if you’d like to support our cause.