Extending over 662.33 km2, Jakarta is a Special Capital Region, a city with a province-level status. As mini-Indonesia, almost all 1,300 existing ethnic groups of the nation are represented in the city. Jakarta holds around 70% of the country’s economic activity and will stay that way even after the plan to move the capital has commenced, said the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance.
A historic port city of the region since pre-colonial era, naturally Jakarta becomes a melting-pot of culture. Due to the growth of scholars in Batavia (colonial name of Jakarta), books became a way for people to exchange ideas which sparked nationalism and then carried Indonesia to independence. Balai Pustaka, Indonesia’s first publishing house, was founded here in 1917, followed by the Indonesian Publishers Association in 1950.
Jakarta also houses the Literature Museum of H.B. Jassin, that archives a comprehensive collection of Indonesian literature. With its massive infrastructure development, Jakarta hosts a number of international events ranging from the Asian Games 1962 and 2018 to the 33rd International Publishers Congress in 2022, alongside annual publishing events and book fairs. With the most books published per year according to International Publisher Association 2013, Jakarta is the driving force of the Southeast Asia book scene. Therefore, Jakarta as UNESCO’s first City of Literature in Southeast Asia means placing literature at the heart of the region.
UNESCO Cities of Literature work together to build strong global partnerships: encouraging literary exchanges, creating cross-cultural initiatives and developing local, national and international literary links. Each City is dedicated to pursuing excellence in literature on a local level, engaging citizens in a dynamic culture of words.