By Tatevik Sargsyan, Anamot Press

04 October 2023 - 12:13

 A Venn diagram containing a poem titled 'What does it mean to be nourished?' by Pear Nuallak. ©

Doc. by Anamot Press.

UK’s Anamot Press works with renowned Indonesian queer writer Norman Erikson Passaribu to commission a range of poetry and essays that cover themes around local queer histories, food, and identity that would otherwise not be told in English. 

British Council (BC): How did you first meet your collaborator?

Anamot Press (AP): I first came across Norman Erikson Passaribu’s short stories collection last summer, on a sunny morning in the communal courtyard outside my flat. It really cheered me up, but it was also bittersweet. I loved the humour in his writing, while the parental guilt, love, and complexities felt so familiar. I finished the book in just a few days.

When I saw the opportunity to collaborate with a writer from Indonesia, I immediately thought of Norman. I was hoping he would join me on a journey to highlight Indonesian queer experiences. So I reached out to him with the possibility of collaborating and submitted an application to the British Council.

When we first met on Zoom, it was lots of fun. We shared our ideas, politics, and vision for the project. We were clear on wanting to predominantly highlight stories that were unlikely to be told in English,  thinking about the wide scope of queerness in the past and present of Indonesia.

BC: How was the project overall? How did the partnership go?

AP: This project was a vital contribution towards the aims of Anamot Press, which is to publish Queer Experiences Across Borders and encourage dialogue. I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Norman Erikson Passaribu. We both brought lots of energy to this project and felt that it was an important and relatively rare opportunity for us to highlight queer Indonesian stories and produce an anthology.

BC: How do you build trust with your collaborator when running the project digitally and remotely?

AP: By having meetings and regular emails. Things do get lost in between, as it was impossible to have more meetings and quick check-ins given the funding restraints and our other commitments. But making sure we know what we want to achieve with the publication, what kind of contributions we want to commission, and having clear roles and responsibilities helped us to stay accountable to each other.

BC: What was the most exciting moment during the project?

AP: We had many exciting moments when we were discussing themes and contributors to commission. We both are interested in queer archiving and stories of queer elders. I’m particularly interested in food. We ended up commissioning a range of poetry and essays that cover themes around queer histories, food, and identity. 

BC: Can you share with us the new insights you learned from this project?

AP: I learnt a lot from Norman about the world of translation, some of the queer communities, as well as exciting things happening in Indonesia. I was able to share some of the diaspora writers I loved in the UK, and overall Anamot Press’ work with diaspora communities.

I’d love to do a similar project looking at other countries and communities like Armenia. Overall, the partnership was great. We worked with respect, accountability, fun, challenges, and lots of queering talks and laughs (albeit via emails).

BC: What are you looking forward to now? Any potential new projects or partnerships you'd like to explore?

AP: We’re looking forward to getting the anthology out to readers worldwide and doing an event to celebrate, most likely at the Transit Bookstore in Jakarta. I would love to explore working more with the bookshops and queer spaces there, visiting and connecting with the Queer Indonesian Archives community (who was also engaged with our project).

If funding allows, I’d also like to explore sharing more knowledge and experiences with other publishers in Indonesia exploring similar themes and challenges as Anamot Press as an independent publisher of Queer Experiences Across Borders.