Posts Tagged ‘Bali’

Baris Gede for UNESCO Heritage Listing

July 29, 2010

The traditional Balinese warrior dance, the baris gede (literally: great line) is to be given protection under UNESCO’s heritage register.  The dance has its origins in ritual preparations for battle and is traditionally performed en masse.  Performing the dance often results in the dancers achieving a trance.

Balinese warriors had a fearsome reputation and were often used as mercenaries by the Javanese sultans.  The island, which is a tourist paradise today, was a horror posting for Dutch soldiers during the colonial period as their losses during the guerrilla war following its conquest were horrific.  This clip from 1932 will give you an idea of how it might have been, but by that date the fight had been taken out of the Balinese:

Today, other than important temple occasions, there’s a very good chance you can catch a performance of this dance at a tourist venue.  The quality might not be up to what you’ve just seen, though.  I’m not exactly sure how UNESCO is going to save this dance.  I’ve always thought that if the people don’t care to perform it, it loses its cultural significance and becomes a museum piece (or an amusement for tourists).  So it’s up to the people, not some foreign agency.

Also to be protected is Aceh’s Saman dance.  Traditionally performed on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday.  It’s quite energetic and therefore usually performed by men.  But in this excellent performance, it’s an all girl show:


Updates on Recent Stories

July 11, 2010

For those who follow this blog but don’t keep a close eye on Indonesian news, I thought now would be a good time to update you on developments concerning some of the more popular stories. 

Starting with the most recent:

Mental illness

In my second story concerning the practice of pasung, or chaining of the mentally ill, I found a clip which told about a local doctor, Suryani, who is working on this problem in Bali, applying modern medical techniques and showing miraculous results.   The sad thing was that the local government had cut funding to this project, putting a question mark over its continuation and bringing those patients who could not afford to pay for the medication the fear that they will return to their psychotic state.

I have since heard a rumour that the reason the funding was withdrawn was political jealousy.  Dr Suryani comes from an influential Balinese family and her detractors say she is conducting her work under her own name and not giving the government the credit for its funding.  They also imply that because she is seriously rich, she should pay for the treatment from her own pocket! 

Personally, I think people should put political issues behind them and consider the victims.  Even if she is capable of funding the entire clinic from her own resources, public health is a responsibility which the government has taken upon itself.  The potential cost to Bali’s economy if tourists shunned the island because of their handling of this issue is far greater than the cost of funding the clinic.  Government funds need to be allocated according to where they can do the most good.  Finally, I think it’s something to be encouraged when a member of the elite rolls up their sleeves and does some practical work, something Indonesia’s elite are not famous for.

Dr Suryani has a website for her institute if you would like more information about her work.  You can donate towards her work if you feel inclined to do so.

Tempo’s ‘Sold Out’ Edition

The publishers of Tempo ran a second edition of the magazine which was sold out.  The police are saying they were not involved in buying up the first edition and that it was just a publicity stunt on Tempo’s part.  Members of the police force are now taking a different approach.  They are suing Tempo for defamation in comparing them to pigs.  They are deeply offended because pigs are supposedly haram to devout Muslims.  I may be out of line here, but it has always been my understanding that it is the eating of pigs which is haram, not the pigs themselves.  So perhaps they are being a little precious in being offended on religious grounds.  Seldom mentioned is the fact that unbelievers in Islam are haram, yet I doubt any police general would shun his Balinese colleague on that basis.  More to the point, it is also haram to steal and it is also haram to use one’s position in a corrupt manner.

Perhaps the police would suffer less ridicule and criticism if concentrated on solving corruption within their ranks and got on with actual policing.  It is my feeling that the people respond well when they see their police giving a good example.


At this moment, Nazriel (Ariel) Irham is still being held in custody while Luna Maya and Cut Tari are free.  The prosecutor is obviously trying to avoid provoking the public’s sympathy.  All three have undergone physical examinations to check whether their body shapes match the images in the videos.  Intimate measurements were taken, including those of Ariel’s genitals. 

Meanwhile, police have announced they are ‘about’ to arrest eight suspects for actually uploading the videos.  That was a few days ago, I haven’t heard anything about that so far.

Smoking Baby

CNN have sent a camera crew out to Sumatra to verify that, yes, the story is true.  Although somehow they managed to misspell his name and the American public now know him as ‘Aldi’.   I deeply suspect this whole fuss is a beat-up by the big US tobacco companies to disparage Indonesia in the current trade dispute.  The US is banning flavoured cigarettes, including the kreteks which Indonesia exports.  However, somehow they don’t include the menthol cigarettes which the US manufacturers make in their definition of ‘flavoured’.  Self interest creates double standards.

This Site

There are now two people working on Aboutindo.  Neither of us full time yet 🙂  You might have noticed the marked improvement in quality. 

We are planning to make some big changes soon, including self hosting.   I started a bit less than six months ago, but it seems like only three.  Thanks for your support and comments.

Gamelan Cudamani – “Young Man in Love”

July 10, 2010

In the three months since I started writing, I’ve resisted high culture.  But I couldn’t resist showing you this when I saw it.  

This Cudamani group from the Balinese village of Pengosekan has excellent timing and a rich, full sound.  The additional hand movements are also unusual.  The dancer is exquisite.  It’s a superior, professional troupe.  

Although Pengosekan is said to be a low-caste village there must be something in the water there because it punches above its weight in artistic abilities.  The village is also famed for its paintings.

Before starting, the dancer is led by a priest (in white) to make an offering to a barong, which is a kind of Balinese dragon.  As with Asian dragons, the barong is a benevolent force.

Is this the Way to Treat a God?

July 1, 2010

This video is 15 minutes, but well worth watching all the way through.

I wasn’t aware of this clip when I wrote my post about mental illness in Indonesia.  Lack of treatment of psychotic patients leads to them being chained or imprisoned for years as their families have no other means of restraining them.

I did not know that there are already some Indonesian doctors who have taken it upon themselves to liberate the mentally ill.  This clip shows the miraculous changes that modern medicine can bring to the psychotic.  In every case, they were able to recover sufficiently to contribute at least something to their communities.

Unfortunately, many of the families involved are too poor to afford the drugs.  As the funding for this program has been dramatically reduced, there is a danger that some of them will have to revert to their previous life in chains.  There is an interview with Bali’s Governor, who was responsible for cutting the funding even though his own grandmother suffered the same fate of being chained for her insanity.  I would love to know the true story behind this budget cut (anyone able to enlighten me?).

Every person deserves to be treated with respect.  Maybe not as much as we would give to a god, but at least better treatment than the mentally ill are getting in many countries today.

His Wife a Cow, She Died soon after Marriage

June 12, 2010

Unfortunately he isn’t interested in the sort of cowgirl shown in the pic above.  18 year old Ngurah Alit of Jembrana in Bali was caught stark naked in the act of bestiality with a cow in the middle of a rice paddy.  You can’t get more ‘caught’ than that. 

Alit claimed the cow magically assumed the form of a beautiful girl and it seduced him.

Instead of throwing him in jail, local custom has its own way of dealing with such cases.  Alit was forced to marry the victim of his crime in a full traditional wedding ceremony, presumably with the intention of shaming the man so much that he will never do this crime again.  In fact the ceremony, involving the entire village, police, press and curious people from other villages, had such an effect on him that he was overcome and fainted.

Following the ceremony, man and ‘wife’ were bathed and symbolically drowned in the beach.  The cow was actually drowned and Alit had just his clothes thrown into the sea.  This was done to cleanse Alit and the village of his desecration.

If Alit had comitted his crime in a Western country, it is likely that he would be put through the court system and receive a criminal record, maybe even spend some time in prison.  I think that this Balinese method is a far better way of dealing with these cases.  He has been ridiculed in front of everyone he knows, and so he will surely never do such an act again and people seeing his punishment will think twice before they try to copy him.  Although he will bear the shame all his life, at least it is not officially recorded, it will not prevent him from travelling or getting a job in the future.  Most of all, his village has not lost a good worker to Crime University – the prison system.

As for the cow?  Well, it won’t be seducing any more farm boys.  You may think its fate was harsh, but it really was the most humane decision.  The animal would probably not feel comfortable around humans and in any case, there is no danger that someone will again defile it.

Crackdown on Kuta Cowboys

April 28, 2010

(Edit: For a better copy of this clip, there’s a link in the comments.  For some reason I haven’t been able to edit it into this post)

Publicity prior to the release of this documentary “Cowboys in Paradise” has created a bit of a stir in Bali.  In fact, the stir has been so big that 28 “beach boys” were recently rounded up on male prostitution charges.  It’s a pity they didn’t round up their customers too.

My guess is that the 28 were blow-ins from Java and Madura.  It’s typical for the local people to blame immigrants.  Judging from what you can see in a short stroll down the street in Kuta, there are many more male sex workers than those 28.  In fact, this problem has been dogging Bali for at least two decades that I know of.  And it is a problem.  The documentary seems to show prostitution in a light-hearted way, but I have met solo female tourists who have had to flee Kuta because of the unwanted attentions of these ‘cowboys’.  I guess it’s ok for those women who go there for the sex, and I’ve not heard of women accompanied by a male being harassed, but there are many more of these male prostitutes than there are customers and these guys are desperate to make money.

The other issues I’m hearing from internet forums are that the documentary is all lies and the relationships between the female tourists and their Balinese ‘boyfriends’ are healthy and in keeping with the local culture.  Well, the film hasn’t been released yet, so I won’t comment on its veracity.  However, although I’m no anthropologist, from the little I know of Balinese society, those relationships are not normal, they only exist because the women have money and offer a potential opportunity for an overseas lifestyle.  Certainly, some are in it for the pleasure, but considering nearly all of them already have wives I’m not sure if that makes the situation so much better.

I suspect there is an even darker undercurrent to this matter.  It would be interesting to know if the lives of these gigolos have been mapped out by social workers.  I believe many of them have drifted in to Kuta as street kids and then forced into prostitution after suffering abuse at the hands of older boys or pedophile tourists.

If the Balinese police were to arrest a few customers, I’m sure this industry would be finished very quickly.