Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2013
Reflections of Afghanistan : Ben Quilty, Agustinus Wibowo & Michael Vatikiotis
Forgotten wars & forgotten people. Hear from two individuals who have made the journey to Afghanistan to record the lives of the people there through their images. What does it look like through their eyes?
Indus, 15 October 2013
Ben Quilty has been widely recognised for his artwork. Quilty’s paintings of his Holden Torana produced a sell-out show in 2002 and since then his work has been seen in many exhibits and art fairs. Some of his work can be seen at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Quilty won the Doug Moran Portrait Prize in 2009 for his painting Jimmy Barnes, ‘There but for the Grace of God Go I, no.2′. In the same year Quilty was named runner up in the Archibald Prize for this portrait. He then won the Archibald Prize two years later for his portrait of fellow artist Margaret Olley.
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Michael Vatikiotis is a writer and novelist who has lived in Southeast Asia since 1987. He has published two novels set in Indonesia and two collections of short stories. His latest novel The Painter of Lost Souls, set in Central Java, is about the tension between Islam and the syncretic Hindu roots of Javanese culture, seen through the eyes of a young painter. The Painter of Lost Souls is Michael Vatikiotis’ fourth book of fiction, following The Spice Garden (2004), a novel of sectarian violence in Maluku, and two acclaimed short-story collections: Debatable Land and Singapore Ground Zero. Formerly a journalist for the BBC and chief editor of the Far East Economic Review, Vatikiotis now lives in Singapore and works for the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, which engages in third party mediation in armed conflict.
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Agustinus Wibowo is an Indonesian travel writer whose travel experiences have taken him through Asia to the Middle East. He is fascinated by cultures and traditions and is curious about how the world works as one when it is constantly divided by history and culture. He prefers to travel overland when he can and once entered Tibet by pretending to be a Chinese citizen. He also volunteered to help victims of a natural disaster in Kashmir, before deciding on a career in photojournalism and taking on an assignment in war-torn Afghanistan. His first book, considered a masterpiece by many, was Selimut Debu (A Blanket of Dust) and chronicles his journey in Afghanistan. It was followed by Garis Batas (Borderlines: A Journey Through Central Asia), which examines issues of borderlines across ex-Soviet republics, including psychological borders and the search for national identity. Most recently, in Titik Nol (Point Zero), he has pioneered a new genre in Indonesian travel literature by allowing readers to experience the writer’s physical, spiritual and emotional journey as they contemplate their own conflicts and anxieties. As Agustinus recounts his final hours with his dying mother, and honours her journey toward the afterlife, the reader is given time for personal reflection. Parallel storylines between mother and son provide unusual insights. Agustinus Wibowo’s contemplative approach toward other cultures and peoples has gained him a large following among readers and fellow writers. He has also set the a standard on what it means to be a travel writer in Indonesia.
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