Top Five Speakers at Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2019

The 16th Ubud Writers & Readers Festival just over this week, and it was a perfect place to be for all literate and art lovers.

This truly annual pilgrimage for lovers of literature and conversation, the festival is a platform for a mutual exchange and cross-cultural dialogues. A place where both authors and audiences alike can discuss shared inspirations, ideas and concerns.

There will be more than 150 writers and authors around the globe gathered in this magnificent Southeast Asia’s biggest celebrated festival of words, ideas and artistic events but here is some hints for the must see ones.

  1. Bechrouz Boochani

Born in Ilam, Iran on the 23rd of July 1983, this Iranian Kurdish journalist, writer, film maker, poet, refugee advocate as well as human rights defender knows his fields perfectly well. He has described himself as ‘the child of war’ referring to the 1980s war between the Iraqi Ba’athists and Iranian zealots fought largely in his Kurdish homeland in West Iran.

Graduated from Tarbiat Modares University and Tarbiat Moallem University, both in Iran, with master’s degree in political science, political geography and geopolitics, Boochani  began his journalistic career writing for the student newspapaper in Tarbiat Modares University before working as a freelance journalist for several Iranian newspapers. As a member of Kurdish Democratic Party, outlawed in Iran and National Union of Kurdish Student, he was watched closely.

After some incidents with the government he and some of his fellow asylum seekers fled Iran and were detained first on Christmas Island and after one month got transferred to Manus Island Detention Centre in 2013. While living in this Island, Boochani has had many of his articles published in online news and other media. He has also published poems online and narrates his story in the award-winning animated short documantery film ‘Nowhere Lines: Voices of Manus Island’ made by UK film maker Lucas Shrank in 2015.  The film ‘Chauka, Please Tell Us The Time’ was shot inside the Manus Island Detention Centre by Boochani enterily by a mobile phone and was released on June 11th 2017 at The Sydney Film Festival. In February 2018 he wrote an article about the murder of his friend Reza Barati during riots in the camp in 2014 and the injustice of the events that followed.

March 2018 the full length documentary ‘Stop The Boats’ directed by Simon V Kurian was released featuring Boochani and others. July 2018 his memoir ‘Now Friend But The Mountains’ writing form Manus Prison was published by Picador. Written in prose and poetry, it chronicles his boat journey from Indonesia, his detainment in Manus Island and the lives (and deaths) of other prisoners as well as observations on Australian guards and the local Papuan people. It won The Victorian Prize for Literature and The Victorian Premier’s Prize for non-fiction on January 2019.


  1. Jenny Zhang

Born in Shanghai China in 1983, Zhang was five years old when she immigrated to New York Cuty to join her father who at that time was studying Linguistic at New York University and mother who had come to the United States after the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

However, her father withdrew from his PhD program he was enrolled in, began to work as a teacher then re-enrolled for computer programming. Then eventually with the family he moved to Long Island where he opened and ran a computer repair business. Zhang has a younger brother, and after college she moved to San Fransisco where she worked as a union organizer for Chinese home healthcare workers and as an organizer for the writer non-profit 826 Valencia which helps children and young adults learn how to write.

Actally from 2011 to 2014, Zhang was a regular contributor to the online magazine for teen girls ‘Rookie’ for she has written both fiction and nonfiction since the magazine’s inception. In 2012, Zhang published a collection of poetry called ‘Dear Jenny, We All Are Find’ which were submitted to a contest to a small press, Octopus Books. In 2014 Lena Dunham asked Zhang to join a promotional tour of her book ‘Not That Kind Of Girl’ which later led Dunham publishing Zhang’s 2017 book ‘Sour Heart’.

In 2015, she wrote an essay ‘Hags’ and published another essay called ‘How It Feels’ which was nominated for a National Magazine Award. She also wrote an issues of racism in the literary community for Buzz Feed.

August 2017 ‘Sour Heart’ was published by Lena Dunham’sLenny Books imprint on Random House and in May 2019 it was announced that ‘Sour Heart’ would be made into a movie, to be directed by Kathy Yan. Jenny Zhang received honors and many awards from her writings.


  1. Nuvoyo Rosa Tshuma

This writer author was born on the 28th of January 1988 in Bulawayo, a maor city in Zimbabwe. She completed her high-school education in Girl’s College Bulawayo where she studied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Frenchfor he A levels. She is also an alumni of Witwatersrand University where she studied Economics and Science.

In 2009 her short story ‘You In Paradise’ won the Intwasa Short Story Competition (Now the Yvonne Vera Award) for short fiction before shot to recognition in 2013 following the release of her collection ‘Shadows’ which was published by Kwela Books. ‘Shadows’ was nominated at the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature and also won the Herman Charles Bosman Prize.

In 2014, Tshuma was listed as part of Africa39, a collaborative project by Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club recognising 39 of the most promising writers from Africa under the age of 40. A one-time Magtag Fellow at the MFA Creative Writing Programme at the University of Iowa, Tshuma is presently pursuing her PhD at the University of Houston’s Literature & Creative Writing Programme.

Tshuma’s novel, House of Stone, has been shortlisted for the 2019 Dylan Thomas Prize. House of Stone won a 2019 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award in the “fiction with a sense of place” category.


  1. Laksmi Pamuntjak

Born on the 22nd of December 1977, Laksmi who has one daughter of 22 years old is an Indonesian poet, essayist, and award-winning novelist and food writer. She writes for numerous novels as well as local and international publications including opinion articles for the Guardian.

A Minangkabau descent from Sungai Puar, West Sumatra, her grand father was Kasoema Sutan Pamuntjak, an editor of Balai Pustaka and founder of CV Djambatan, a publishing company.  Laksmi who writes in Indonesian and English, is the author of two collections of poetry; a collection of poetry and prose; a treatise on the relationship between man and violence based on the Iliad; a collection of short stories based on paintings; four editions of the award-winning The Jakarta Good Food Guide,  two translations of the works of leading Indonesian poet and essayist Goenawan Mohamad, and two best-selling novels.

Laksmi’s first novel Amba, a national bestseller, was the winner of the Literaturpreis 2016. It is the only German literary prize awarded to women authors from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Arab World. The novel is a modern take on The Mahabharata,set against the backdrop of the Indonesian mass killings of 1965 and the Buru penal colony.

The novel has been translated into English, German and Dutch. The US edition of the English translation, The Question of Red, was published in July 2016. The English translation of her second novel, ‘Aruna dan Lidahnya’ is due for publication in the United States in early 2017. A movie adaptation based on the book is announced to star Indonesian actress Dian Sastrowardoyo. In August 2015, the German translation of ‘Amba’, ‘Alle Farben Rot’, was Number 1 on the Weltempfaenger  list for the best international work of fiction translated into German. It has also appeared on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s list of 8 Most Important Novels of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015, De Bild’s Top 10 Books of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015, and the ORF Kultur (Austria)’s Top 10 List for November 2015. In 2012, Laksmi, who is co-founder of the bilingual Aksara Bookstore, was selected as the Indonesian representative at the Poetry Parnassus/Cultural Olympics, the largest poetry festival in the UK,[citation needed] held in conjunction with the London Olympics. Her prose and poetry have been published in many international journals, including the preface to ‘Not a Muse: A World Poetry Anthology’ (2008).

Between 2009 and 2011, Laksmi was jury member of the Prince Claus Awards based in Amsterdam. In 2016, Laksmi received LiBeraturpreis, a German literary award sponsored by the Frankfurt Book Fair, for her novel Amba.

  1. Rayya Makarim

Rayya Makarim is a famous Indonesian screenwriter and producer. Her films include Pasir Berbisik (2001), Rumah Ketujuh (2003), Banyu Biru (2005), Jermal (2009), Buffalo Boys (2018), and the series Grisse produced by HBO Asia (2018). Her latest script for 27 Steps of May (2018) won Skenario Pilihan Tempo at Tempo Film Festival 2018.


Quite n interesting list of great authors and writers, isn’t it?