Modern Woman Festival in Bali
Bali has been treating us so well. The slow, mindful way of living, respect and care for each other and for our planet, vegan foods available on every street corner (literally)… The holistic Balinese lifestyle is in many way aligned with WOMB’s values. Today we want to direct the spotlight onto Modern Woman Festival - an event that challenged, entertained, elevated and inspired us in so many ways!
For women, by women
For the sake of proper introduction, Modern Woman Festival is an initiative by dr. Anastasia Belikova who has previously curated festivals in Russia and Hong Kong, and for the entire duration of the event, dr. Belikova was hands-on, engaged, involved, present. She was chatting to volunteers, interacting with guests, supporting practitioners and performers and sharing her own knowledge and experience during panels and sessions. And since WOMB is a passion project of two modern women, we just wanted to open up by saying thank you and congratulations and express our tremendous respect and appreciation for dr. Belikova’s work.
Hosted at Akasha Restaurant north of Ubud, Bali, the festival did not advertise with a special sustainability policy. Instead of acting like a show-off trying to “tick the green boxes” by dedicating a full Facebook post to eg. banning plastic straws, the sustainable practices were naturally implemented into the festival. We really appreciate that, constantly calling back on Evelyn Mora from Helsinki Fashion Week who said that we do not need Sustainable Fashion Weeks; we need fashion weeks to become sustainable. The same way, Modern Woman Festival naturally implemented quite a few eco-friendly practices. Eco-consciousness was something that was thought about naturally, almost effortlessly, which, we hope, is a sign of (changing) times. Hopefully, in the future this is how events will unfold, there will be no need to ban single-use plastic bottles, because no one will be using them anyway and people will know to bring their reusable accessories.
Let us list some of the naturally “green” steps from Modern Woman Festival; if you bought a fresh coconut, you would get a natural “straw”, made of hollow grass or a piece of bamboo. There were water dispensers everywhere where you could fill up your reusable bottle (in case you forgot how much plastic reusable bottles are saving from going into the landfills and oceans, click here). Plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu (VeggieWorld Hong Kong recently reminded us how much water is saved per day by switching to a plant-based diet), and if you wanted the meal take-away, you would get it in a thin paper box. Shuttle buses were organised so that people could travel to and from Akasha together, and the main workshop schedule and program were only available online and on big laminated prints in the reception, with no unnecessarily printed single-use brochures.
Bustling Market Place
With WOMB’s love for independent brands and designers, we needed to have a glance at the festival’s market place. It did not disappoint!
Niki Zehm presented beautiful notebooks and journals in eco-printed covers that are 100% hand-made, produced locally in Bali. Niki applies her eco-prints of fabrics that end up as journal covers, but are also used for making bags and small accessories.
A noteworthy mention, an initiative known to many who have visited small design studios along Jalan Goutama Selatan in Ubud centre, is ARTCycle Bali. ARTCycle gives new life to old tires and tire inner tubes. The old rubber is turned into bags and wallets, but also unique pieces of jewellery. Tires are not biodegradable, so they need to be recycled and repurposed rather than discarded, and that is what drives ARTCycle Bali on their mission! This waste-reducing Balinese initiative is also… zero waste! No tires or rubber elements go back to landfills, everything is being repurposed! At the same time, ARTCycle Bali stays transparent with their production. On the website you can learn about who is employed in their workshops, they vote for slow production and handcrafts, no mass manufacturing, no human exploitation and no animal cruelty that feed the current, mainstream consumer system.
Last but not least, this time a product, rather than a designer, Sekar Wangi Soaps caught our attention. Their products are made entirely of organic ingredients, sold in biodegradable packaging and honey being only non-vegan ingredient used (only in selected soaps).
Ubud is a hub for travellers, digital nomads, tourists and many other people “on the go”. Hence, the festival attracted a very multicultural, diversified audience from outside of Bali!
We are all visitors on this land, so how do we make sure that what we do, how we act, the rents we stage are of benefit to the local community and this beautiful land? On the program of Modern Woman Festival, there was a panel discussion about “Sustainable Traveling”. Sadly, we missed that one, but we appreciate the fact that conscious traveling was on the agenda. That said…
We saw almost no local participants, no workshops were held in Bahasa Indonesia, to our knowledge, there were no discounted tickets for locals, which is a common practice in Bali, as it is well known that locals do not earn as much as expats, hence, cannot afford event participation on same scale. It strikes interesting that there would be a panel about conscious traveling, and yet, in some ways it felt as if the festival was omitting the local community - a sad practice that we observed many times before.
As mentioned, we did miss the panel discussion, but we had the chance to meet one of the speakers - Bianca Caruana aka. The Altruistic Traveller. It was great to touch base with her, learn about her travels around Asia and other parts of the world, and we sincerely recommend browsing through her blog. She brought our attention to other interesting initiatives like NOMADS FOR CHANGE founded by Tarek Kholoussy.
Modern Woman festival: conscious Conclusion
The reason why we mention Nomads For Change is to spark a discussion. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Modern Woman Festival made a baby with the idea of giving back to the Balinese community and made the festival more accessible to locals? We would love to see eg. traditional batik colouring workshops at the market place. We would love to see more local brands and designers exhibit their products. Maybe an introduction to all the naturally vegan Indonesian dishes, alongside with beautiful raw-food cooking demos led by Sayuri Tanaka? The festival as a place of education, exchanging ideas and opinions, place of growth and forming community, should have space for everyone. And one thing is to say that everybody is welcome, another thing is to actually make participation accessible.