The Globe as you know it is changing.
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To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

Building bridges: the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

By: Antonia Hayes - Posted on: December 16, 2015 | Culture & Life

Since its inception, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has organised satellite events in more than 25 Indonesian cities, from Aceh in the west to Ternate in the east. Australian writer and festival participant Antonia Hayes takes a look at this year’s literary gatherings across the archipelago

Indonesian writer M. Aan Mansyur pointed to the blue and ochre mural painted on the garden walls of Rumata Artspace in Makassar, South Sulawesi. “Makassar had our own Galileo,” he said. “Karaeng Pattingalloang was a local 17th-century intellectual who collected books from around the world and had the Dutch send him a telescope and world atlas. He even spoke seven languages.” Mansyur gestures to the mural’s title – the maritime-themed painting is called “Les Voyages: Knowledge and the Universe”.

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival
Power of books: the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival hosts events across Indonesia to give more people a chance to engage with literature. Photo: Anggara Mahendra

South Sulawesi-born Mansyur is multilingual himself – his first language is the local Buginese, he is fluent in several Indonesian languages and he speaks Arabic and English. He explains how his linguistic diversity brings a conceptual richness to his own writing, that some ideas in one tongue simply cannot be translated into another and this gives his work imaginative complexity. Mansyur – who has published both novels and poetry – often thinks in Buginese, but writes and reads in Bahasa and English, and tells me that he has
a different personality in each language. With more than 700 living languages, in excess of 300 ethnic groups and 17,000 islands, the fact that many Indonesian writers often don’t write in their first language is impressive but not unusual. Most books published locally are written in Bahasa Indonesian.

Mansyur, along with local novelist Faisal Oddang, was a guest at an Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) satellite programme event at Rumata Artspace, one of many that followed the main festival in Ubud, Bali, where more than 165 writers, artists and performers gathered from October 28 to November 1.

Censorship and freedom of artistic expression were key talking points after UWRF cancelled several planned events relating to the 1965 purge of Indonesian communists. Local authorities had threatened to revoke the festival’s operating permit if they went ahead. “It may have been the issue that we weren’t supposed to talk about, but the conversations that took place over the five days of the festival were strongly focused on 1965 and what we, as a creative community, can do to contribute to the type of world we want to live in,” said festival founder and director Janet DeNeefe.

While one aim of the satellite programme is to give local literary communities the opportunity to network with international writers and to offer Indonesian readers who cannot attend the festival a chance to hear from a diverse range of writers, these events are equally about amplifying Indonesian literary voices by bridging cultural and linguistic gaps. UWRF’s satellite programme is a real dialogue between the writers of Indonesia and the world, an intercultural exchange of stories and ideas.

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival
Signing off: journalist Christina Lamb autographs a copy of a book that she co-wrote. Photo: Anggara Mahendra

Iranian-American novelist Porochista Khakpour visited the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and Semarang on the island of Java. She said it was the young Indonesian writers who affected her the most: “Hearing and reading poetry – my first time reading my own in decades, as I’m a prose writer – in front of a bunch of very young local poets, on a gorgeous Jakarta hotel rooftop, with very sudden heavy rains, felt very blissful.”

Rebecca Harkins-Cross and Sam Cooney, both Australian writers and editors, travelled to Solo to participate in a panel event with local literary critic and essayist Bandung Mawardi, and then on to Yogyakarta, where they were joined by veteran writer Iman Budi Santosa. The breadth of knowledge and idiosyncratic approach of writers in Java made a lasting impression on both Australians.

“I was struck by the big questions Indonesian writers were tackling, around politics, social justice, education and spirituality,” Harkins-Cross said. “Local writers spoke philosophically about how the writer should live – questions that aren’t tackled that often at home.”

Cooney noted another difference between writers in Indonesia and his home country: while the Indonesian literary communities he encountered were vibrant and supportive, members also challenged and provoked one another. “There was a directness in both individuals and groups that is not so commonly found in Australian writing – directness from writers talking about their own work and career goals, and also a directness talking to each other,” he said. “It was refreshing to see such bluntness and honesty.”

“In Yogya,” Harkins-Cross said, “Iman Budi Santosa said that the city’s writing community was formed after 1965, born out of horror and struggle. Despite attempts at censorship at this year’s festival, various writers’ small acts of resistance were important and inspiring. The highlight of the festival was surely seeing how writers break open these silences and find strength in the shared noise.”

The pair was also impressed by the local literacy initiatives they encountered. “We visited Bandung Mawardi’s house in the countryside just outside Solo,” Harkins-Cross said. “He sees education as a large part of the literary critic’s role, especially in a country where literature is not currently mandatory in the national curriculum. In his front room he’s amassed a sizeable library – albeit a wonderfully haphazard one, with teetering piles of books everywhere in no discernible order – where each week he holds events including book clubs and discussions of pressing topics. I found this generosity, as well as the self-determined learning and sharing, incredibly inspiring.”

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival
Talking shop: female authors discuss the place of women in modern literature at a UWRF satellite event in Jakarta

Back in Makassar, a similar grassroots generosity and an enthusiasm for making literature inclusive and accessible to everyone exists in the writers’ community. Rumata Artspace hopes to position the city as the new centre for arts and cultural events, a strategic cultural hub in the eastern part of Indonesia. Writers – and locally produced literature – in this city are thriving thanks to such nurturing, creative environments. In addition to hosting its own international writers’ festival, Makassar also has numerous community libraries and independent bookstores. Mansyur told me that he opened a public library, Kafe Baca Biblioholic, to ensure young people in Makassar have access to literature.

During the UWRF satellite event, Faisal Oddang spoke to the audience about writing his latest Bahasa-language novel Puya ke Puya. Oddang, who won the Asean Young Writers Award 2014, discussed using literature to comment on, and even criticise, aspects of contemporary Indonesian culture. Puya ke Puya is about the Tana Toraja indigenous community in Sulawesi, where Oddang stayed to research their culture for the book. One audience member asked why he chose to write some of his previous book in English and the crowd cheered – there is unmistakable pride in Indonesian culture and language – sparking a lively debate about not making linguistic compromises for the global market.

Language differences are often considered a barrier in the publishing world, but instead of obstructing exchanges between international and local writers and audience members, Indonesia’s linguistic diversity proves expansive and inspiring. The creative impulse, the drive to write and the exchange of knowledge are universal. Stories cross borders and transcend languages. In Indonesia, local writers across the archipelago are not only using literature to bridge gaps with the world, they’re also using words and stories to connect with each other and be heard – idea to idea, island to island.

In the same way that being multilingual brings a unique dimension to Mansyur’s writing, exposure to different ways of thinking and self-expression – not to mention stories that could only be told in the archipelago – brings an appreciation of Indonesia’s unique position in global literature. Harkins-Cross considers discovering “the incredible work being produced in that way you can only get on the ground” one of the highlights of the UWRF satellite programme. And with Indonesia featured as guest of honour at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the rest of the globe will hopefully begin to discover more of the remarkable stories coming from these 17,000 islands of imagination. 

Keep reading: Fixing a hole – From heroin-addicted sex worker to best-selling author, Kate Holden tells Southeast Asia Globe about fighting social misconceptions and the literary world’s double standards