This autumn we were pleased to welcome Avianti ArmandNuril Basri and Debby Lukito Goeyardi to Norwich for a week-long residency funded by the Indonesian National Book Committe. During this visit, Nuril and Debby met with two of our Young Ambassadors Lucas Nieboer and Sophie Brown to discuss their work.

Lucas Nieboer

In a bleary grey classroom under the shadow of Norwich Cathedral spire, Sophie and I were lucky enough to be able to interview two Indonesian writers visiting Norwich as part of an international writers’ residency in association with the Indonesian National Book Committee

Debby Lukito Goeyardi and Nuril Basri greet us both with warm smiles and handshakes. Debby, a children’s book author, hands us a bookmark taken from her new book. On the back is a cute golden owl, flying among stars with bright rosy cheeks. On the other side is a quote from the book; “enchanting the world with your words”. A neat summary of Debby’s approach to literature and her work. Alongside her writing career Debby is a keen environmentalist (part of ‘The Green Team Indonesia’), an advocate and spokesperson for creative writing and literacy, as well as chair of the Society for the Advancement of Children’s Literature in Bali. However, writing and serving the community are far from mutually exclusive for Debby. Her most recent book It’s Time for Cepuk to Fly (winner of the Samsung Kidstime Author’s Award 2016) – about an owl who discovers his potential to fly – reflects her belief in the need for and power of education and specifically literary education in Indonesia and indeed around the world.

Nuril, on the other hand, hails from a slightly different tradition to literature and writing. Growing up in a small rural village a few miles outside of Jakarta he only started reading in his late teens/early twenties and was inspired to write his own fiction soon after. Varying in genre, mood, and length, Nuril’s work – written with the young adult in mind – confronts taboos and assumptions within Indonesian society, speaking up for the quieter voices society as well as addressing big themes like coming of age, love, and friendship.

Sophie Brown

On Saturday 30 September fellow young ambassador, Lucas, and I were invited to Norwich School to meet two inspirational Indonesian writers. Debby Lukito Goeyardi and Nuril Basri, from Bali and Jakarta respectively, have both been encouraging young people to get creative and express themselves through reading and writing.

Basri grew up in a small village in Indonesia. When he moved to Jakarta to go to university he was shocked at how little people knew about the countryside. With family and his hometown being Basri’s main influences he knew he wanted to bring his experiences to those with a completely different lifestyle. His work gives people a new perspective of living in Indonesia – a perspective that is rarely talked about. In his debut novel for young adults, he tackles the subject of being gay in a Muslim country. This is very much a taboo subject and his book hasn’t been in print since its first publication in 2010. His novel has recently been translated into English, the title becoming I Am Not a Virgin, with the aim to raise awareness of the controversial topic by encouraging young people to talk about it and eventually breaking the stigma surrounding homosexuality in Indonesia.

Goeyardi has an entirely different approach to writing; her work is aimed at young children and children who struggle to read. She has led many workshops with children who are homeless, have special educational needs or reading difficulties, to help improve the lives of disadvantaged children. However, the main objective of these workshops is to improve Indonesia’s literacy rate. They mostly read Goeyardi’s work which is simplistic; this encourages children to tell stories and express themselves through the imagination. The workshops focus on folklore, a subject that features in Goeyardi’s books, which the children enjoy. Not only does she work with children, she works with aspiring children’s writers to ensure there are good quality books available. One of Goeyardi’s current projects aims to make schooling free as education is only available to a select few in Indonesia.

Basri and Goyardi have completely different styles of writing but they both have the same goal: to encourage young people to express themselves through the beautiful media of literature.

Image: Nuril Basri, Debby Lukito Goeyardi and Avianti Armand meet WCN staff