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Bali Arts Festival 2014: A Month to Celebrate the Balinese Arts and Performances

Topeng - Bali Arts Festival
(A participant dressed in Balinese costume with a mask (topeng) during the Grand Parade of Bali Arts Festival. Photo credit: Agus Kurniawan)

Each year, Bali has an annual art festival that is centered on its capital city, Denpasar. This year, the 36th Bali Arts Festival or known locally as Pesta Kesenian Bali will be held from June 14th to July 12th, 2014. The theme of the festival this year is “Kertamasa”, depicting the dynamics of the Balinese agrarian community in reaching universal prosperity and welfare. It’s a festival that worth a visit for those who’s interested to know more about Balinese arts and traditional performances as well as other Indonesian cultures and international participants that take a part in the festival.

What’s the festival all about?

This a-month-long festival will show daily traditional art performances from 9 different areas in Bali, 8 regencies and 1 capital city where each area will perform their unique traditional arts or their new modern creation. Not only that, some art performances are also being competed with an annual trophy which is considered as a prestigious achievement for the winning regency.

The festival firstly introduced in 1979 by the Bali’s governor, Prof. Ida Bagus Mantra, and it was originally designed as the basic forum for the growth of love of the arts, where people can celebrate it in the most accessible public area. Bali Art Center, the cultural complex designed in Balinese architecture which houses a museum of artifacts was chosen as the place since then. As it becomes, the festival is no longer a celebration of arts alone but it is also a place for many locals to gather and see it as an alternative attraction for weekend recreation where in the evening there are art performances to see, the handicraft and food stalls are opened from morning till night.

Who will participate this year?

The opening day of the festival is celebrated in a grand scale, as it is known as Grand Parade. This year the parade starts at the Bajra Sandhi, a monument in Renon, Denpasar that is built as a memorial of Balinese struggle against Dutch colonialism, with the parade ends at the Bali Art Center. At this opening day, annually the president of Indonesia is invited and will open the festival officially. On the parade, each regency is represented with their special kind of art from their area where gamelan orchestra will enliven the event as people dressed in their traditional Balinese dress.

Pesta Kesenian Bali
(Left: a participant holding the signpost of “Tabanan”, one of regencies in Bali. Right: the participants from Papua on the Grand Parade last year. The crowd of photographers and spectators can be seen in the bakcground. Photo credit: Kama Dwipayana & Wisnadi Tyaga)

Each year, it’s not only Bali areas that are involved in the festival but plenty of participants from others areas, both national and international come to participate. This year, some cultural departments that partake in the event are from Palangkaraya, Bantul, Gunung Kidul, North Jakarta, West Bandung, West Kalimantan, Lombok, Banda Aceh, Yogyakarta, Bima city of Sumbawa, Jember, and Blitar. International participants that will perform this year include Japan and USA.

After the parade, the entire festival will be held at Bali’s Art Center or locally known as Taman Werdi Budaya Art Center in Denpasar where all arts performances will be sprinkled on six different stages, namely Ardha Candra Open Stage (an amphitheater mostly for Sendratari ballet which can hold up to 6,000 spectators), Ksirarnawa Stage, Ayodya Stage, Ratna Kanda Stage, Wantilan Stage, and Angsoka Stage. Each day the Bali Art Center will showcase 6-8 performances spread at those stages, and most importantly, they are free of charge to the public and for some shows where ticket is needed are sold at affordable price.

What arts and culture performances to see this year?

Grand Parade
Saturday, June 14, 2014,
Venue: Bajra Sandhi Renon Park, Denpasar
Time: at 3:30 pm.
Although it is televised on local TV (Bali TV or TVRI Bali) but watching it live will be a different experience. If you’re interested to see the parade live, do get to Renon Park early in order to get the front row or the best spot possible to see the parade as the crowd will flock the park that day. Bring hat or an umbrella as the heat might be too much during the day.

Opening Ceremony
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Venue: Ardha Candra amphitheater, Bali Art Center, Jl. Nusa Indah, Denpasar
Time: 8.00 pm
The ceremony will be opened by students and lecturers of Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) Denpasar which will present an oratorio, a colossal dance entitled ‘Bali Dwipa’ that includes percussion and gong orchestra.

Bali Arts Festival - Wayang & Ardha Candra
(Left: A young puppeteer is performing on stage as a part of Children Shadow Puppet competition. This is one of competitions during the festival where it invites young puppeteers from around Bali island to compete each year. Right: the Ardha Candra stage, the largest stage in Bali Art Center where it places as the main venue for the opening and closing ceremony of the festival. Photo credit: Made Yudistira and Gandarini)

Children Shadow Puppets Art Competition
June 15-21, 2014
Venue: Wantilan Stage, Bali Art Center, Jl. Nusa Indah, Denpasar
Time: 8.00 pm
A competition for young shadow puppeteers who represented their home regency. Shadow puppets is the most popular puppets show in Indonesia where it depicts the story of Ramayana and Mahabharata and it’s accompanied by gamelan orchestra.

Female Gong Kebyar Exhibition
June 16, 2014
Venue: Ardha Candra Open Stage, Bali Art Center, Jl. Nusa Indah, Denpasar
Time: 8.00 pm
Gong Kebyar is a gamelan gong orchestra that usually requires 25 musicians to perform. The gong kebyar consists of wide-ranging repertoire of instrumental and dance music, blending styles and techniques from other gamelan types. There are some gong kebyar exhibitions during the festival this year including children and adults performers. Please check the schedule for more details information.

Arja Performance
June 25, 2014
Venue: Wantilan Stage, Bali Art Center, Jl. Nusa Indah, Denpasar
Time: 8.00 pm
Arja is a genre of Balinese drama stage that blends opera and ballet. Arja is considered to be extremely demanding, because performers must be first class dancers, singers, and actors at the same time. This Arja performance will be performed by Arja Putra Jelantik Arts Comunity from Apuan Village, Bangli Regency.

Tari Legong - Bali Arts Festival
(Legong dance performed by a Japanese from Basundhari dance studio at Bali Arts Festival last year. Bali – Japan collaboration has been performing routine on the festival, including this year. Photo credit: Made Suwita)

Barong Bali and Barong Sae Dance Performance
July 7, 2014
Venue: Ayodya Stage, Bali Art Center, Jl. Nusa Indah, Denpasar
Time: 5.00 pm
Dance collaboration of Barong Bali, a lion-like creature in the Balinese mythology with Barong Sae, a dragon-like creature. The dance will be performed by Paripurna arts group from Bona village, Blahbatuh sub-districts of Gianyar Regency.

Foreign Participation (Japan) by Wiryahita Studio
July 10, 2014
Venue: Wantilan Stage, Bali Art Center, Jl. Nusa Indah, Denpasar
Time: 8.00 pm
Bali – Japan collaboration performed by Wiryahita Studio.

In total, there are more than 130 art performances and competitions during the festival from handicrafts competition, Joged Bumbung (a fun and somewhat flirtatious Balinese dance), baleganjur (Balinese traditional music) competition, Topeng (Balinese mask dance) performances, painting and coloring contest, documentary movies screening, contemporary art performances, and many others art shows including some performances from national and international participants.

To view the entire schedule of the Bali Arts Festival 2014, you can download it here.


5 Things You Might Not Know about Nyepi in Bali

Nyepi Day, or the day of silence in Bali this year falls on March 31st, or exactly on the last date of the month. Balinese Hindu will flock beaches days before the day to clean the earth with offerings and prayers, while at night, the ogoh-ogoh parade will live up and ignite the island with noise and glorious shouts before a total silence the next day. It’s an observance that has been known by many people around the world. Today, in the spirit of welcoming Nyepi, we have noted 5 things that you might not know about this Balinese New Year celebration. These might surprise you.

1. A Village in Bali Celebrates Nyepi, Twice

(The jorogan procession on Nyepi Kasa in Buahan Village. Photo credit: Anggara Mahendra)

In Buahan Village, Payangan, Gianyar regency, people do not only observe Nyepi for one time in a year, instead they observe it twice. Besides Nyepi Day, they also have Nyepi Kasa, a silent day that is only observed by people in this village on the first month of the Balinese calendar (4 months after the regular Nyepi Day) in which “kasa” means “first’”, hence the name of “Nyepi Kasa”.

Nyepi Kasa began centuries ago when the village suffered from deadly disease (known locally as gerubug). So, people in the village prayed to Gods to discontinue the plague until one villager finally gained a holy revelation and asserted that the village must conduct a silent day (Nyepi) on the first month of the Balinese calendar.

On Nyepi Kasa, the village is the only area that is silent in the island. No vehicles, no lights in sight, and the road to Kintamani that passes through this village will be closed down for a day. Unlike the regular Nyepi Day, this Nyepi Kasa has unique procession held a day before the silent day. In the morning there is a sacrifice of a calf in which the calf will be set free to walk but then slowly it will be stabbed until it bleeds and dies. The meat will be shared to all householders in the village. In the afternoon, there is a procession named, jorogan, in which women scramble and thrust at each other to grab the offerings that have been devoted by the Hindu priest. Although it sounds like a competition, they all will end up with laughter. To close the ritual, at night, ogoh-ogoh parade is held where it rounds the village for three times.

2. A Village in Bali Doesn’t Celebrate Nyepi, At All

Tenganan Village
(Traditional house in Tenganan Village. Photo credit: Robin Nichols)

When most parts in Bali refrain physical activity on Nyepi Day, there’s actually one village in Bali that does not observe the day, at all. It’s Tenganan Village in Karangasem regency.
Tenganan is an ancient village where Bali Aga (Bali’s original tribe) lives. Bali Aga does not have the influence of Majapahit kingdom like most part of Bali, therefore, beside Nyepi, the village also doesn’t celebrate Galungan and Kuningan, two other most celebrated festival in the island that are originally brought by Majapahit kingdom. On the Nyepi Day, people in Tenganan will still be like in their usual day with lights on, but they still respect others Balinese who observe the day by not doing activity outside the village.

With that rarity, the village is often visited by tourists who want to know closer about their daily life such as their traditional houses and their strict policy that visitors must leave when the village gates are sealed each evening. Furthermore, Tenganan people respect their village rules, known as awig-awig, where marriage can be only among those within the village. That makes a villager who marries outside the village descendants will be not considered as the village native anymore. Their burial procession is also dissimilar to most Balinese Hindu. The dead man must be buried the day when they died, unlike most Balinese who seek certain date to precede burial. They also don’t carry out ngaben, the Balinese cremation ceremony.

3. A Village in Bali Celebrates Nyepi with a Mass Kissing Ritual

Omed-Omedan Ritual
(People are cheering over two teenagers who are snatching kiss during omed-omedan procession in Sesetan Village, Denpasar. Photo credit: Henry Sudarman)

Yes, you read it right. A mass kissing ritual before Nyepi Day can be witnessed at Banjar Kaja, Sesetan Village, in Denpasar. It’s a century old ritual that can only be found in the village, where the village natives from 17 to 30 years old will gather on the village’s main road. Omed-omedan came from the word ‘omed’ which means ‘pull’, indicates how the event conducted.

Omed-omedan is originated about century ago when there was a strange incident in the village in which two pigs, male and female, strangely fighting in the village. That was believed to be a sign of negativity and believed if the ritual abstains in a year, a tragedy will happen. The ritual symbolizes a ceremony for the youths to express their joy, achieving positivity.

The ritual begins with prayer lead by Hindu priest. Participants will be separated into two groups; male and female. When the baleganjur troop starts playing, the Hindu leader is ready to signal the ritual. Both groups will meet in rush in the middle. The male group occasionally pulls the girls and immediately tries to snatch a kiss. They mostly will get to kiss on the cheek but for the lucky one, or the brave one, sometimes could even snatch a kiss on the lips. They all will end up wet as the people around them will throw water above the participants. Uniquely, the aftermath of this ritual not only ends until that. Sometimes, they end up as lovers, event go on into marriages in real life.

4. Ogoh-Ogoh is Only 30 Years Old

Ogoh-Ogoh Parade
(Ogoh-ogoh parade in the night before the Nyepi day. Photo credit: ogiegxc)

According to the inscription of Trunyan A, Nyepi has been observed since 8 BC, making it an old tradition that long lasts until today. Ogoh-Ogoh (the huge paper mache) has very strong relation with the tradition of Nyepi in Bali. But did you know, although Nyepi is already centuries old, ogoh-ogoh is only 30 years old?

Yes, the huge paper mache that is inspired by demons with those scary looks firstly appeared in early 1980s, exactly in 1983. It’s at the time when Indonesian government declared Nyepi as a national holiday. The name of ogoh-ogoh was not originally used; instead people in Bali called it as ‘bhuta’ due to it resembles the looks of demons in Balinese Hindu beliefs. Afterward, the name ogoh-ogoh became popular with more people mentioned it as it derived from ‘ogah-ogah’ which means wiggling or shaking, represents how them are paraded. The rise of ogoh-ogoh in Bali came after it was featured on the 12th Bali Arts Festival where all eight regencies in Bali were invited to showcase their creation. Until then, ogoh-ogoh parade has now become a routine on Nyepi Day.

5. The Meaning of the Pecalang’s Uniform

(A group of pecalangs guards Nyepi day to secure the observance goes well. Photo credit: Yesy)

Pecalang is the Balinese traditional guards who are created to maintain the security of each village in Bali, especially during Nyepi. Each village has its own pecalangs who will keep the security for the entire Nyepi to be safe. People can easily identify a pecalang by their uniform; a sarong (chessboards motif), white shirt, a black waistcoat, a head cloth (known as ‘udeng’) and sometimes a keris (dagger) affixed on the waist. It’s not a mere uniform, instead all of those attributes has each own meaning. The chessboards motif on the sarong for example, with white and black represents the opposition of good and devil in which both bearing into balance and harmony. The sarong is also can be seen on any statues of the gate temples in Bali, which loosely symbolizes guardian. The keris represents the readiness of the guards for any possible condition, in peaceful approach, rather than aggressive. As a whole it reflects that a pecalang main task is not only to control the security of the street during Nyepi but also keeping it silent and peaceful.

So how did you fare? Did you already know all these 5 trivia? Or do you know others things that are not known by many about Nyepi in Bali? Let’s share in the comment section!

More about Nyepi:
Nyepi and its restrictions (Catur Bratha Penyepian)
Nyepi Package for 2014


Experience the Balinese New Year (Nyepi) at The Bene Hotel

In the world history, it may only Bali that celebrates its new year by stopping its entire activity in a day full. There is no lavish party on celebrating a new year; instead it’s in total silence for 24 hours. No vehicles are allowed on the road, no activities, and no lights in the night which makes the island scarcely dark for one night. It’s a one of a kind experience.

The series of Nyepi observance runs for three days with distinct sacred rituals, from offerings to huge papier-mache parade (known as ogoh-ogoh). For Balinese Hindu, it’s a day of self introspection to reflect on values, such as humanity, love, patience, and kindness, while on the other hand it also sends a lovely tribute to energy saving and global warming in the global world.

This year, Nyepi falls on March 31st 2014 and we invite you to experience the tranquility of this day with us. We have special Nyepi packages for couple at our superior and deluxe room, and for family, a special package is arranged at our royal suite room. The packages include benefits of free breakfast, free one time lunch, and dinner on the Nyepi day.

Let’s enjoy the serene side of Bali and share the remarkable holy moment at The Bene Hotel.

Nyepi Package 2014

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