Ayu Utami is an award-winning Indonesian writer who was the 2000 Prince Claus Award Laureate. During Indonesia's military regime, Ayu was a journalist and press freedom activist. She was one of the founders of The Alliance of Independent Journalists which was later banned by Suharto’s government. Her works include the True Stories trilogy (The Single Parasite, Enrico’s Love Story and The Confession) which deal with sex and gender relations, and the Fu Numeral series, mystery novels about Indonesian culture and heritage. (Short bio form Sydney Writer's Festival 2015)

Name: Justina Ayu Utami

Born: Bogor, 1968

Studied at:  University of Indonesia, Faculty of Letter, Depok; Tarakanita Catholic High School, Jakarta; Regina Pacis Catholic Elementary School, Bogor

Work: Director of Salihara Literary Biennale. Program Director of Komunitas Utan Kayu. Past: Literary Committee at the Jakarta Arts Council, editor at Kalam Journal on Culture; researcher at ISAI (Institute for the Studies of the Free Flow of Information; Komunitas Utan Kayu; Radio 68H; cofounder of The Alliance of Independent Journalists; journalist at Demokrasi & Reformasi and Forum Keadilan news magazine

Fellowships (among others): Iowa Writers' Workshop, USA, 2004; Asian Leadership Fellow Program, International House of Japan, 1999.

Awards (among others): The Jakarta Arts Council's Best Novel 1998 for Saman; Khatulistiwa Literary Award 2008 for Bilangan Fu; Ayu was awarded the 2000 Prince Clause Award and 2008 Mastera (South East Asean Literary Council) Creative Writer Award.


Novels (fiction & nonfiction): Saman (1998), Larung (2001), The Number Fu (2008), Manjali & Cakrabiirawa (2010), Enrico's Love Story (2012), Lalita (2012), The Confession of A (2013), Maya (2014), Simple Miracles (2014)

Other genres: The Single Parasite, collection of essays (2003, renewed 2013); The Moral Trial, playscript and collection of essays (2008), Soegija 100% Indonesia, popular biography of first Indonesian bishop (2012)

Co-author: Banal Aesthetics & Critical Spiritualism (with husband & photographer Erik Prasetya, 2015); The Zodiac Series (with students of Ayu's writing class, 2014)

How-to: A Critical Spiritualist Handbook for Creative Writing and Thinking (2015)


What is Salihara and the Salihara Literary Biennale?

Komunitas Salihara is a cultural enclave active since 2008. It is the continuation of Komunitas Utan Kayu, which was formed in 1997, still in the military regime era, by a number of writers, artists, journalists, and activists as a place to promote freedom of thought and expression. The Salihara Literary Biennale is also a continuation of Utan Kayu Literary Biennale. The organization moved from its initial place at Utan Kayu street to a bigger location at Salihara street in order to cater to bigger audience.

Once named “The Best Art Space” (2010) by the magazine Time Out Jakarta and as one of the “10 Most Unique Places in Jakarta” (2010) by Metro TV, the architecture of Komunitas Salihara has also been described as, “Architecture which applies environmentally friendly aspects” by Green Design Award 2009.

The vision of Komunitas Salihara is to maintain freedom of thought and expression, respect differences and diversity, and to foster and spread artistic and intellectual resources. Komunitas Salihara was onced attacked by The Islamic Defender Front for organizing a discussion with Irshad Manji.

More on Salihara, please visit:

What is The Alliance of Independent Journalists?

During the military regime the press was strictly controlled. One of the most effective means of control is the Association of Indonesian Journalists (Persatuan Wartawan Indonesia, PWI), the only press union that was acknowledged and allowed by the govenment. Editors and leaders in the press business had to become its members.

After the banning of three major media, including Tempo magazine in 1994, a group of young journalists decided to fight against censorship. They established the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen). AJI was denounced illegal during the military regime. Three of its activists were imprisoned and several other had to work underground.

In the democratic era, AJI now operates legally.

What is KUK, ISAI and Radio 68H?

The history of KUK, ISAI and Radio 68H relates to the press freedom condition in the last decade of Indonesia's military era (90s). When AJI had been banned and some of its members were in jail, freedom activists realized that they need to continue their activities openly, aside from the underground movement.

A group of militant journalists, including Goenawan Mohamad (founder of Tempo Magazine), established the Institute for the Study of the Free Flow of Information (ISAI). Its legal activity was conducting research, but its main goal was networking and distributing censored information. ISAI is no longer active now. Goenawan Mohamad provided a building complex for this activity at Jln. Utan Kayu 68H, Jakarta. He also established in the same complex a theater, a galery and a cafe. The place was later called Komunitas Utan Kayu (KUK). During the military regime, KUK was always monitored by the state security apparatus. During the democracy era, KUK was once attacked by The Islamic Defender Front for having new activity called the Liberal Islam Network.

The journalists who set up ISAI also started a radio news production KBR68H later on. During the military regime audio-visual news was monopolized by the state television and radio, TVRI and RRI. KBR68H was set up to develop skill and network among journalists as an anticipation of the coming era of information technology. Soon after the political change, KBR68H developed its own station Radio 68H. In consequence of a new radio regulation that forbid national broadcasting of private radio, it has to change its station name. KBR68H news production is still active until now, however most of the share is now owned by other party. See or

What is Demokrasi & Reformasi and Forum Keadilan?

Initially an internal bulletin for judges and lawyers, Forum Keadilan was later published for general public in the early 90s. Half of the shares was owned by Tempo magazine group. Forum reached its popularity when Karni Ilyas was the editor in chief. Later Tempo sold its shares. Forum is no longer a prominent magazine.

Demokrasi & Reformasi (DR) was a news magazine published by ex Tempo workers not long after Tempo had been banned. After General Soeharto stepped down, Tempo was reestablished. DR no longer exists.