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Bali Blog - Article About Bali Holiday Island

Balinese Making Arts Creativity

5 June 2009

Your holiday to Bali will be more special this month. Apart from enjoying the nature of Bali and interacting with its inhabitants, you can also watch the Bali Arts Festival (BAF) that takes place for a month. This annual event has been performed for the past 31 years.

This activity, as the anthropologist Miguel Covarrubias says, can be evidence that all Balinese people are artists. In the morning and at noon they work in various sectors—civil officers, farmers, and worker in building or road construction— while in the evening they are pragina (artists) that are good at dancing and playing game/an. Probably, some of them even entertain you at hotels or other tourist objects in the evening. How is the existence of Balinese arts in the past, its current development in keeping with the condition of Bali as a tourism destination can be seen at BAF? Of course, BAF does not only present art performances and exhibitions of arts articles, but there are also seminars or discussions that examines the past, present and future of Balinese art.

Except for that, BAF involves artists and the Balinese community from the oldies, adults, youngsters and children as a reflection of circular movement of the Balinese culture from the past, present and future. The late cultural observer Ida Bagus Mantra initiated BAF when he was the governor of Bali. It aimed at preserving the Balinese arts and culture that is inspired by Hinduism. In addition, BAF constitutes a medium for the young generation to recognize and know more about Balinese arts and culture.

As a world tourist destination, BAF activity in Bali is expected to have the capability of being one major tourist attraction. By tourist visits it’s expected that the creativity of Balinese community will flourish in creating various kinds of arts and eventually be able to improve their standard of life. The time of BAF execution is chosen June-July because it is a long school holiday and high season for foreign tourists. BAF 2009 takes place on 13 June-11 July 2009.

Stiffened with Cultural Activity ,
How can the Balinese be so stiffened with art creativity? This matter is inseparable from the existence of Balinese predecessors from time immemorial that had instinct to always improve their civilization. Various historical remains that today become tourist objects prove that Balinese arts and culture grows variously in accordance with the demand of Balinese human life that constitutes gratitude on God’s generosity. They also maintain their life harmony with nature and reinforce the menyama braya (brotherhood) relationship in the life of social community. As farmers for instance, in achieving spiritual and bodily balance, they venerate the Goddess Sri as the symbol of fecundity. Or a fisherman that relies on the sea will worship the Lord Varuna, Lord of wind and so forth that can ensure the safety of their life. Similarly, it is also accompanied with recital of mantra that can summon psychic spirit that has been believed to come true.

Starting from the manifestation of such bhakti (gratitude) was born artistic paraphernalia as a ritual complement of Hindu like the art of painting, dancing, architecture, sculpture and so forth. Just have a look at the sanctum (temple and shrine) must have been full of artistic ornament. In the past, the function of arts was more emphasized on the interest of religious ceremonies, either at temples or royal palaces. The art of dancing, playing gamelan and painting for instance, indeed presented to accompany the ritual procession, painting for temple ornaments, royal residences and the house of punggawa (royal official of high rank). Thus, artists can understand the secret of work conception as presentation and work as medium to make them closer to the Almighty God.

Balinese artists, from time immemorial have implemented the essence of work as manifestation of yajna (holy sacrifice). Painting, dancing, playing gamelan, sculpting, carving, mekidung-mewirama (chanting a Hindu hymn or sacred text) is one form of sincere devotion to God, to their leader and to the community. By implementing the concept of this yajna, the artists of the past never mentioned their name personally in works of arts. They were more tolerant that put priority on togetherness or the Balinese express it in expression: asahasih-asuh, paras-paros-sarpanaya, sagilik-saguluksalunglung-sabayantaka that essentially puts forward the principles of togetherness and harmony as mandated in the tn hita karana concept.

Therefore, it is found many anonymous works of art as Balinese traditional fine arts that was more communal and so are the art of dancing and playing gamelan that are presented on the occasion of rituals at temples or other sanctums. On the performance, the dancers experience trance as if they were penetrated by psychic powers.

Today, the Balinese make art creativity not only intended for the needs of ritual at temple or sanctum but also for tourist entertainment. Dissimilar forms of Balinese arts grow and develop following the dynamic of the tourism industry. Several art items as mass products are made to cater the needs of tourism. Its price can be inexpensive at art shop or tourist objects provided that you are good at bargaining. Just as the making of a number of creation dances with movement and modern technological touch that are really inappropriate to be presented at temples or sacred place. Sometimes, the palleh (storyline) of the dance and gamelan that is presented at hotel or tourism objects are cut to adjust with the short time visits of tourist and hotel party’s can pay the artists cheaply.

Do not be surprised if you see Balinese artists leaving for hotels transported by truck or some may ride motorbikes in ready-to-show costume as their art creativity is paid less so they cannot afford transport that is more convenient. Nowadays, the government of Bali Province has tried to make an effort in order for Balinese artists that make a show at hotel’s get reasonable honorarium and good facility of transport even though this endeavor has not indicated a pleasurable result yet.

Three Functions of Arts
Balinese arts are generally classified into three: (1) wali arts, special sacred arts that are earmarked for ritual purpose and may not be performed at any places like Wayang Lemah, Sidakarya Mask, Sang Hyang Dedari and so on; (2) bebali art, namely arts that are staged at jaba pura (outermost courtyard of the temple) in relation to complete the ritual procession and entertain the devotees that carry out the ceremony—the artists are totally ngayah (without honorarium), they are just provided with food and drink: (3) balih-blilhan art, namely art that is staged that has not something to do with the ritual and merely intended for entertainment like art performed at hotels, village meeting halls or arenas of Bali Arts Festival. The artists received reasonable honorarium. Prior to the performance, they make an agreement on honorarium with the organizing committee.

At the BAF arena, miscellaneous elements of Balinese arts and cultures can be found. Assuredly, it pertains to the theme of BAF that concerns with the history and existence of the current arts and its preservation in the future. Hopefully, your vacation will be pleasurable and memorable. Wishing you happy watching!

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