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Ubud Writers & Readers Festival

Media Clippings

In this article: Goenawan Mohamad

Written by Alison Croggon
Originally published in Saturday Paper.

Oct 28, 2023
South-East Asia’s most significant literary event, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, is a chance to not only nurture local writers but also to reflect on global issues.

It’s a day after landing in Bali. I’m slightly jet lagged, still reeling from the sensual shock of South-East Asia – the smell of petrol, incense and clove cigarettes, the exuberant foliage, the humid heat. As part of a packed audience under a bamboo canopy at Taman Baca, the central site for the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, I’m listening to Bangladeshi–American writer and perfumer Tanaïs.

“Perfume,” Tanaïs says, reading from their book In Sensorium: Notes for my people, “is a way to wrest back our bodies from the hard damage of colonisation.” It’s a startling comment, but during a riveting conversation with their interlocutor, writer, poet and artist Eva Fernandes, they unpack their case. How colonialism is an ideology that privileges sight over all other senses, how the intimate senses of the body – touch, smell, taste – are rendered lesser, feminine, base, other. How they have used scent to access memory, both personal and ancestral, and how they create perfumes as a way both to remember trauma and to heal it. “After everything,” they tell us all, “the memory of scent remains.”

Read the full article here.

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