• Ayu Utami © Erik Prasetya
  • © Intan Paramaditha
  • Laurence Vielle © Andy Huysmans
  • © Ben Sohib
  • Alfred Birney © George Philip Birney

Diverse Voices in Contemporary Indonesian Literature


Curators Melani Budianta & Manneke Budiman

Like the natural sociocultural landscape of the country, Indonesian literature is heterogeneous and fluid, as mixed as the style of its population, and a reflection of traditions old and new. It would require large volumes of collected works to justify its richness and diversity.

Out of this bulk of material, only a few works by outstanding names – such as the Nobel Prize nominee Pramoedya Ananta Toer – stand out globally. The revisiting of political trauma,  such as the 1965 anticommunist cleansing, and the rise of women writers in the past 20 decades did bring more exposure to contemporarywriting. However, the international promotion of Indonesian literature is still centred mainly on theisland ofJava and the capital city, Jakarta.

The EUROPALIA literature programme aims to widen this horizon by selecting authors from diverse regions, from Java to Bali, Aceh and Makassar, including lesser-known writers with their own creative potential. The programme introduces various thematic frames in which to discuss the works, such as the diversity of Islamic expression, different ways of representing gender and sexuality, cultural hybridity and multiple positioning of the cultural others within the nation. 

The dozen invited writers and poets can only give the audience a small taste of what Indonesian literature has to offer. To represent the diversity of Indonesian voices, the guests were chosen taking into account geographical spread, gender, and ethnicity. The theme of EUROPALIA’s three main exhibitions has also influenced the choice of authors, who will broach subjects such as the relevance of ancestral inspiration, the colonial and postcolonial experience, and the biodiversity of Indonesia’s maritime culture. 

A literary dialogue between Indonesia and Belgium has been initiated by the Belgian national poetess Laurence Vielle, who has worked in residence with writer and journalist Lily Yulianti Farid in Makassar. The latter will be in residence herself in Brussels, where in October she will give lectures on the position of Muslim women in contemporary society.