In Bali, Indonesia, art is a way of life
MANILA, Philippines - Art, art everywhere.
At least that's what it felt like when I traveled around Bali, especially in Ubud, the island’s arts capital.
And I’m not just talking about paintings or colorful batiks sold in the streets. I’m talking about art as a part of the daily lives of Balinese.
For instance, upon waking at the home of my host in Denpasar, I saw beds of woven coconut palm leaves with colorful flowers and rice. They were offerings for the gods, and they were made from scratch by my new friends, the residents in the home I stayed at.
Even at the inn I later stayed at in Ubud and all the public temples I saw, there were these colorful daily offerings, some more elaborate than others.
As devout Hindus, the Balinese create art like these to offer to the gods. It is not uncommon for those who make these offerings to learn to make them when they were children.
Their high regard for art and beauty can also be seen in the temples they built, which, no matter how big or small, have aesthetic details. The bigger temples usually have intricate carvings.
Dances and cultural performances have also been a way of life for the Balinese, even before tourists became drawn to them. I suspect that this is the reason why these performances have reaped high success as tourist attractions. Many children and youth are trained in dance, and are given a chance to perform in temple festivals.
It is also not uncommon for laborers to change into elaborate costumes in the evening to perform. In fact, Ketut, the humble, unassuming staff at the inn I stayed at in Ubud, performs regularly on evenings.
Bali’s government is also supportive of the preservation of the island’s dance and other performances. In Hinduism Today, Indonesian Institute of Arts dancer and professor Dr. Nyoman Catra said that their government is “invested” in the people’s art and culture. High schools, too, offer formal art education.
Even seemingly mundane tasks have an artistic element to them. During a walk with tour guide and herbalist Made Westi, my friends and I learned that after harvesting rice, farmers clean and trim the rice fields or terraces for artistic purposes. Doing this is important as the appearance of the rice fields or terraces are a reflection of the farmers and their families.
Indeed, each Balinese is an artist in his or her own way. Having seen Bali’s rich artistic spirit and the economic success they reaped partly as a result, I also wish for the same art consciousness among us Filipinos.
Watch this video of the traditional Legong Dance, just one of the many cultural performances to see in Ubud, Bali:
Claire Madarang is a writer, traveler, and seeker. Her wanderlust takes her on adventures like backpacking for 7 weeks straight. Her seeking leads her to different wellness practices like meditation and healthy (mostly vegetarian) eating. Follow her adventures, tips, and epiphanies at her blog, Traveling Light.