The annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival that takes over the cultural capital of Bali every October this year takes on a new digital format in lieu of the pandemic.

Set for 29 October – 8 November 2020, KEMBALI 2020 will be a hybrid of both virtual and limited in-person events, presenting a culmination of UFF and UWRF with storytellers and culinary figures coming together in a series of conversations and performances.

With more than 60 online programmes, there is going to something for everyone. Here we’ve handpicked six sessions to showcase the calibre of speakers set to hit the (digital) stage for KEMBALI 2020. These captivating sessions will be for those yearning to keep their artistic passion ablaze during these pandemic days:-

David Byrne: American Utopia

When staying at home was a protocol, former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has been busy. He occupies himself in the kitchen, dishing his strengths and weaknesses on a plate. He oversees an online magazine, Reasons to be Cheerful, collecting stories of positive change in the world; and has worked with Director Spike Lee (BlackKkKlansman) on the adaptation of American Utopia, his acclaimed Broadway production. Next in line, he’s appearing on a panel at Bali’s lauded literary festival to talk about it all.

American Utopia — now streaming on HBOMax — is a career-spanning celebration of Byrne’s music from Talking Heads to his solo work. The Academy Award winning artist has broadened out of the spotlight in rock n roll’s Hall of Fame to composing and producing films. Based on reviews, we’re anticipating chats on America’s current powerful protest against minority violence, making connections with the past and present, paradise and pure bliss — in his own vision of utopia. 

When: 08 Nov 2020 at 14:00 – 15:00

Kevin Kwan: Sex and Vanity

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ author Kevin Kwan caricatured the lifestyles of Asia’s ultra-rich in the best-selling novel turned blockbuster film. He returns with another love story, not shy of his trademark wit. But with Sex and Vanity, he was set to promote diversity by exploring the Asian-American and WASP (slang for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) identity and telling a tale of two Filipina sisters, on top of the romantic premise. Trickling in the same vein as Kwan’s previous works, the book flirts in the playgrounds of privilege, draped in extravagant fashion, and spiced with razor-sharp humour. 

We’re expecting a lively discussion from the Singapore-native on this staple theme of romance, riches, and racial identity; his mark in Hollywood history and the glamour of unveiling Asia’s 1%.

When: 07 Nov 2020 at 14:00 – 15:00

Sand Talk: How indigenous thinking can save the world

“Did you know that Aboriginal people knew that meteorites form craters before Europeans did?” 

In his book Sand Talk, aboriginal scholar Tyson Yunkaporta brings the reader into indigenous ways of perceiving the world, supported by 20 years of research, knowledge, and discussions on traditional objects. It’s been praised as a template for living. How could lines, symbols, and shapes help us make sense of the world? It’s about finding different ways to look at things.

He says that indigenous knowledge is a constant dialogue; that changes depending on the relationship of the people who share it. But there is no quantum computer that could produce the same thinking of 10 people sitting around the same sandy circle drawing sticks. 

Expect a series of thought-provoking conversations from the author and academic of Deakin University, Australia, on how indigenous thinking can lead to innovation and save the world.

When: 29 Oct 2020 at 15:00 – 16:00

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet at Breakfast

Despite scientifically-proven threats of global heating, some people still reject the reality of climate change caused by human activity. In We Are the Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer also points the conversation to the believers — have we modified aspects of our lives in response?

The three time award-winning and international best-selling author explores the global dilemma of our time. He addresses the reality of our planet-turned-factory for growing animal products and living through the repercussions of achieving immediate comforts at the expense of our future. Only collective change can save our home, and it starts with what we eat — and don’t eat — for breakfast.

Expect rhetorical talks as much as scientific ones. This life-changing narrative could forever alter your relationship with food, warn reviews.

When: 30 Oct 2020 at 16:00 – 17:00

The Wandering

Indonesian author Intan Paramaditha ingeniously lets you choose your own adventure in her debut novel, The Wandering, exploring the freedoms and limitations of the choices we make. The premise revolves around the protagonist’s great desire to travel, seemingly out of reach at first, only to be fulfilled by a deal with the devil. Originally published in Indonesian, Gentayangan was translated into English by Stephen J. Epstein and was welcomed by the world with a series of awards.

Tune in to Intan’s talk as she explores the politics and privileges of travelling and globalisation, how borders are closing to the poor whilst the riches waltz in and out, and existential tales of belonging. 

When: 03 Nov 2020 at 18:00 – 19:00

Reading Ancient Texts

Knowledge is sacred and the preservation of tradition are integral to Balinese life. They pay respect to ancestral legacies through nature, prayers, manuscripts, folklores, and other cultural devices. They turn to lontar, ancient palm leaf manuscripts, for wisdom and to grasp their rich history. Lontar has become a medium to preserve thoughts and ideas, and today, they serve as literature bearing valuable information.

Listen to IGA Darma Putra and Ida Bagus Oka as they recite passages from lontar. Time travel through ancient Balinese literature and imagine the age-old cultures being brought back to life.

This is but a small taste of the amazing panels and panelists that will feature in this year’s KEMBALI 2020 festival.

All of the panels are accessed through the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival website – you will first have to donate (IDR 150.000) to receive access to the main program, then you will be given login details where you can browse, watch and even rewatch all of the panels taking place. Free programs.

For more information go to the website and go to the ‘Access’ page.