The idea of a literary festival (or similar events like it), for some reasons, is almost always about a space to celebrate recent achievements. Not only we found the most active writers; or the books that are currently widely circulated in bookstores; on the reviewers’ desks whose writing would then appear on online media; or in personal reading spaces, but we also encounter the comments of these writers or thinkers on current events and the daily problems that we faced. This seems like something natural, it is how a cultural landscape was supposed to work, and we keep on doing this year after year, from one place to another. In general, literature and culture is viewed as some type of pyramid, a competition in which a literary festival became its peak.

From here, we can see that there is a huge problem in how literature was consumed and then celebrated. A literary festival — similar to publishers, the media, book clubs, and other pillars of the book industry — is a machine with a pretense in selecting, eliminating, and choosing. And in this work process lays a problem; a number of biases that went on for so long without sufficient questioning. Fences and partitions were then built, and then inequality happened. In the context of world literature, we see how the language of colonialism still has a firm grip, even dominate, how literature is being produced and consumed. We also see how heteronormative discourses is dominant in a gender-bias context. We see these influences in books published globally, or on writers who get to appear in festivals and those who receive literary awards.

By realising the existence of this fence, this border, is one of the ways we can critically viewed how world literature operated and how it was shaped. A fence does not only isolate a group of literary elite from another majority groups, but it also separated one group from another. A fence has not only limit the distribution of knowledge, but it also blocked any possibilities of a healthy dialogue between these different groups, which in the end caused suspicions, or even prejudice and intolerance. We are seeing these problems now. Maybe these problems are already there since a long time ago, but we cannot deny how they have exponentially escalated in our lifetime. Racism, religion-based prejudice, xenophobia, and gender discrimination still happened during a time when globalisation and technology has made it possible for human to mingle and move through increasingly blurred borders. The fence is no longer in the form of a ghetto, or a barbed wire separating one country from another, or an immigration desk, or perhaps a classroom that separates human based on their gender or the colour of their skin. The fence lives deeper – it is inside our mind and it operates nearly unseen.

In being aware of the existence of this fence, we can try to open it to make more space for the marginalised groups. In the context of world literature, we really need to pay attention to works of literature from underrepresented continents: Asia and Africa. We also need to listen to voices from LGBT groups, religious minorities, as well as expressions from ethnic groups that we have not heard from before. But it is not only about that. Within the space where we will try to tear down the fence, we will also try to create a direct dialogue, without any intermediator, between these various groups, so they can freely talk about themselves or talk about each other.

We hope for this festival to be an open space — so we can start questioning the fences that for centuries have been built around us, to start figuring out how to open it, and to create doors connecting us to each other.