Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Bungklang Bungkling: Rubbish (Sampah) by Wayan Juniartha

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Sampah’, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 5th June 2011. Translated by Putu Semiada.

Rubbish (Sampah)

“The real problem in Bali at the moment is rubbish (sampah),” comes an opinion from one of the palm toddy association members.

Sampah? What do you mean by sampah? It is sampah masyarakat (bad people) you are referring to, such as criminals, gigolos, drug dealers? If so, it’s not a big problem. It’s easy to get rid of them,” says I Made Ulah ALuh Asal Elah ( Never Take Problem As Serious Matter).

“Criminal? It’s easy: you just shoot them down. It’s no use if you just bust them. They are very clever. Even though are in prison, they still have access to attend seminars and workshop with their criminal friends and even exchange ideas. In prison, they get good meals, they don’t need to go to work, no need to cooperate with the community, nor pay tax. What they do just to discuss and do exercises. So once they are free, they become cleverer have good body.”

Just shoot them down. Kill them. If they take people’s money, seize all their wealth. By shooting them down, lots of money can be saved; no need to waste time for long and boring trials, no need to feed them in jails,” says I Made.

Other ‘sampah masyarakat’ such as prostitutes is much easier to deal with. Just put them in one place. Now they are in many different places; some are by the schools, some of them work in beauty salons. That’s probably why HIVS/AIDS disease is difficult to control.

“If hey are in one place, it will be much easier to control. Their health can be controlled as well. The revenue from parking and commission from the girls can be used for the village to renovate their meeting hall or temple. We will get used to doing this: we will hold cockfights and other types of gambling for fund-raising and use the money for renovating temples, etc. It’s common in Bali that we use ‘dirty money’ for ‘holy purpose’” adds I Made.

“How dare you say like that, Made. What we are talking about is the ‘sampah’ (rubbish), not ‘sampah masyarakat’ (bad people),” comments I Putu Nyak Punyah Sing Nyak Mayah (Drink A Lot But Pay Less).

I Made laughs loudly because I Putu reminds him of Sigingsul, a member of Da-Makorat political party. Sigingsul often says that his party never makes mistake. If something is wrong with political and economical situation, it should be other parties’ mistakes not his.

“Well, rubbish is much easier to deal with. Rubbish is a ‘dead thing’. Whatever you do to it, it would never complain.”

“And Balinese are famous in dealing with problems. They have ‘Tri Hita Karana’ concept. As long as you do offerings (aci-aci) properly, everything will be fine.”

“Every Balinese ‘seems’ to know about ‘Tri Hita Karana’. The high ranking officials always mention it in their speeches. Even hotels sometimes hold ‘Tri Hita Karana Awards’. So what else are you worried about?

I Made might forget that ‘Tri Hita Karana’ is ‘similar’ to rubbish. It’s a dead thing’ too. If you only say it just to impress people without taking any concrete actions, then rubbish problem will never be solved.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Bungklang Bungkling: Disease (Penyakit) by Wayan Juniartha

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Penyakit’, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 8th May 2011. Translated by Putu Semiada.

Disease (Penyakit)

Who says that being wealthy guarantees a happy life? In fact, the wealthier one is, the more sickness one suffers from.

That kind of opinion comes from I Made Sugih Wadih (Wealthy but Unhappy). I Made has a lot of money as described in a song by Bayu KW: “matumpuk-tumpuk kanti alah gunung” (piles of bank notes as if a mountain of money).

His parents had hectares of lands: 2 rice hullers, 10 trucks and 20 boarding houses.

We could say that I Made’s life was like celebrating “Galungan Day” when everything looks beautiful and welcome.

“Things started to change when his mother got intestinal cancer, followed by his father who suffered lung cancer.”

He had to sell his belongings one by one to pay for his parents’ medication. Medication for such kind of sickness cost him a lot for sure.

When the money has gone, his mother and father left too, no longer on this earth. He became an orphan. His money was almost all gone, just a small amount left.

“And now it’s my ‘turn’, I have diabetes: Do you know how much money I must spend for this sickness?”

Diabetes is a kind of “modern” disease (related to diet); the more you are ‘addicted’ to being ‘modern’ the more kinds of diseases you may have. Cholesterol is considered as one of them (too much KFC, pizza and steak); heart disease is another one (too much cigarettes (2 packs a day) and rarely exercise, stroke (thinking too much of many different things), and sickness due to black magic (being very rich that makes your neighbors envy and hate you so that they want you to suffer).

Besides diabetes, I Made also suffers a kind of ‘black magic’ disease: his money is finished and his health goes down too. It’s difficult being rich in Bali.

“I heard that lots of plants can be used as traditional medicines even for serious diseases, which means I can save lots of money. ‘Purple’ sweet potatoes can be used as medicine for cancer, says I Putu Usada Mara (Amateur Medicine Man).

“What did you say? You think that I’m so poor? No matter how poor I am, I can still go and see medical specialists, and I can still even pay the most powerful shaman. Cassavas and sweet potatoes are poor people’s medicine, people who can not even afford for rice. It’s all bullshit.”

In addition to suffering from serious diseases, it seems that I Made also suffers from a ‘lifestyle’ diseases, that is ‘prestige arrogance’.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

TRAVEL DIARIES: Taj Bekal - Balikpapan - Bali

Published in Now! Jakarta, June 2011


Handsome Agathi village bearer

I have been looking for the perfect village in South Asia for over 40 years — ‘perfect’, that is, in terms of architecture and conviviality.

Bali has one perfect village : the walled medieval village of Tenganan, which has for centuries had a free-wheeling communal lifestyle, now, sadly, based on selling things to indifferent tourists.

In Central Vietnam the riverside ceramics village of Hoi An has perfect noodle-vendors with perfectly visible panty lines and sublime 17th and 18th century town houses.

In North and West Sumatra there are any number of sublime longhouse-strewn villages, where water buffaloes roam and strong women weave sombre cloths on shady verandahs.

Last month I discovered a really pretty, really charming rural village called Agathi which lies just after that point, at the end of India’s ugliest highway, North of Mumbai, when despair turns to thoughts of suicide.

What was so special about this Maharashtra vernacular village that so tweaked my fancy? Of course one is always elated during that two minutes of countryside situated beyond the city limits of grungy Mumbai before one descends into the grit and grime of Suburban Pune: one is elated to be still alive and breathing, and still in possession of one’s natural dignity.

But there was something more profound about Agathi, where every one of the broad verandahs facing the pretty communal court has a colourfully-clad grandmother on a flat-bed swing.

‘Beauty Queen’ grandmother (and inset) and grandson, Agathi Village

And the village is full of surprises: handsome homeowners meet you at the front door of their heritage homes with cricket balls in their hands. ‘Legendary beauty’ grandmothers are then produced; grandmothers who are still strong, and still strikingly beautiful.

It wasn’t so much that the village is on the Gulf of Arabia, like nearly all Indian coastal resorts — where, due to a plethora of energy supplier billboards and Tandoor outlets, one never quite sees the sea — nor was it the fact that there are, nearby, a slew of kitschy water parks with ample parking, and nursery after nursery of distressed hibiscus bushes aggressively over-bearing.

It was just the ‘niceness’ of the villagers — all called Patil, most of them cousins — who were so friendly and contented, and the villagescape was so perfect.

This one village restored my faith in humanity: I now know that there is one corner of Maharashtra were the ‘tribals’ (as the Indians call their aborigines) are housed, modestly, and New Asian architecture has yet to arrive.

That evening I went to Yoko Sizzler in West Santa Cruz to celebrate my good fortune. They didn’t serve beer so I went to a nearby Barista coffee shop where one can smoke in the gutter with the scavenging jackals.

My host for the evening — who lives in a dusty apartment block full of Gujarati maiden aunts behind “Yoko Sizzler” — was late so I ‘people- watched’ while force-feeding a Nepali driver who had never had a grilled chicken Tandoor and Billboard sandwich. Soon I realized that there were no people worth watching — most of the pedestrians were just office workers walking home from the day before — so I went shopping. I bought a dozen baby yellow roses which the nice man wrapped, after a fashion, and threw at me.

West Santa Cruz is full of exciting moments like this — “turning moments into memories” is the town’s motto. Getting there in bumper to bumper traffic one gets to go through the carpark of Juhu Chowpati beach. This afternoon there was too much smog so I couldn’t see the sea — but I did see Haji Abdul’s Fruit Juice shop. That’s the other great thing about Mumbai: there’s always a fabulous Muslim Juice bar blocking a famous sea view so one doesn’t have to be disappointed because actually most of the beach views are just a browny-grey ‘smudge’.

That’s really why I loved Agathi: it was a precious respite from the visual pollution and urban sprawl that is engulfing most of South Asia’s cities — even Denpasar — and it’s important that we keep on being optimistic while enduring the 21st century travel experience because hope dies last.

Images of the remarkable Taj Bekal, Kerala

I next travelled to Balikpapan, another big ugly city on the island of Borneo.

I had been commissioned to take photos with no humans or animals in them, for a restaurant I have designed for a South Asian with animism issues. I spent a morning at the Klandasan Market, on the waterfront facing the Straits of Makassar : the market place was alive with beauty and incredibly good-natured folk.

It may seem far-fetched to recommend visiting a place just because of its morning market — but this market is a feast for the senses. It is a feast of produce — being on fairly unfished seas and in a region of rich soil and equatorial abundance — and of personalities. The Buton, Bugis, Dayak, Sulawesian mix that makes up the market-load of happy merchants, bearers and jesters-parking-attendant is a veritable cornucopia of conviviality and comic wit.

The aristocrats of the market are the egg-sellers who flank the seaward entrance, attended by a squadron of colourful Madurese matrons skinning pineapples at low tables. The fish section is like a Hermes store — with everything artistically laid out — manned by the cast of the Beggar’s Opera.

Outside, that day, were the magnificent seven — real men husking coconuts — and on the markets north western side, military types were weaving ketupat baskets as if they were at the corner pub.

There is no hostility but a lot cajoling and contesting. The market’s toilet, a confection in pink and blue tiles, is guarded by a languid male siren who wraps himself around a door jam like Lily Marlene.

Such simple pleasures are so rare in a travel-world full of hype and hyperbole.

View from the Klandasan Market, Balikpapan

Artistic produce display at the Klandasan Market, Balikpapan

World’s best banana shop, Klandasan Market Balikpapan

LEFT: Borneo beauty in Freedom Park, Balikpapan
RIGHT: Saucy rest room attendant, Klandasan Market, Balikpapan

Saturday 16th April: A Tale of Two Communities in Bali

Last night I went to two block-buster events: one with hundreds of members of the old Kuta-Legian-Seminyak gang (local and expat) from the salubrious, fibre-filled 1970s, who were gathered under white tents on the vast tea lawn of the Villa Gajah Putih at Brawa Permai to celebrate the wedding of Bali-born 'INDOKRUPUK' sweeties Afandy Dharma Fairbrother and Dewi Cynthia Bradley; the second was a 'vernissage' (pre-show showing) of AMAZING RECENT PAINTINGS of New York-Bali artist du jour Ashley Bickerton's at this complicated but cozy almost cliffside Chateau Rinjani on the Alila Uluwatu Road. I ran gauntlets of old friends/flames/foes/fiends/fashionista at the first party, where the heavenly nymphs of the tea-coloured next generation smooched under the stars, on the dance floor, in figure-hugging ball gowns (no figure more hugged than that of bridesmaid Luna Maya (Oh Mama, I now have some stills to go with my videos).

The goddess Luna Maya (right), bridesmaid at Afandy and Dewi’s wedding, Canggu, Bali

At the second event, I ran an obstacle course of the treacherous and self-absorbed (Artists and Surfies and Herbal Suffragettes) while trying to take in the length and breadth of Ashley's articulate, exquisite hottie-stud-chub and Gaugin-esque grotesques. Amongst the glitterati and clitteratti (Carolla the Luna Maya of the Haut Bohemian set) wandered Ashley and Rinjani’s beautiful 5 year old son, great Grandchild of Louis-Charles DAMAIS, the French Etymologist who deciphered the inscriptions on the ancient candi of Java.

An Ashley Bickerton artwork

Art lovers, models and groovers at the Ashley Bickerton show, Pecatu, Bali

Wednesday, 11 May 2011



Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Stranger in Paradise: Bali’s Old Guard

Anak Agung Putu ‘Tameng’ Adi, Jero Tengah Pemeragan , Denpasar, seen here at the Puri Pemecutan.

Anak Agung Putu ‘Tameng’ Adi was a reviled executioner during the chaotic ‘communist’ purges in Bali in the early 1960s.

Last month I saw him at a fabulous temple festival in West Denpasar, leading the most exquisite pair of giant ‘Barong Landung’ puppets into the inner sanctum. He is now also a priest, and a vassal prince of the Pemecutan empire, representing Jero Lanang Cempaka palace at Pemeregan. He is these days a gentle man — with great fashion sense and presence — who occasionally ducks behind a tree to down two bottles of beer. His gang of merry-men — who form the inner court of the Pemecutan Prince — mock his sexual prowess (he has five wives) and his war-time antics (he was said to have drunk the blood of the communist victims he beheaded) and his ostentatious jewelry.

LEFT: Komang Tri Darma in front of the famous Pura Penambangan Badung rangda masks.
RIGHT: Three brothers — Pemecutan loyalist toger-cubs

At the same temple festival — the magnificent odalan Pura Penambangan Badung, Pemedilan, held in Denpasar’s finest Majapahit-era temple — I met 13 year old Komang Tri Dharma whose father is a policeman and a member of the Pemecutan Prince’s security detail (full duties yet to be disclosed but there seems to be a whiff of skirt in the job description). Komang, like all his siblings, was born in East Timor; but a more trenchantly Balinese teenager you could not hope to find. He danced in the evening’s Barong performance, which lead to a mass trance-in with all the heavy petters transformed into evil-eye-Vetters. Komang pestered me all night to be photographed in front of the Rangda masks in the temple pavilion because they had just been ‘refurbished’ by the brother of the prince of Ubud, Cokorda Gede Raka Sukawati (Cok Gede), a renowned carver and funeral bier designer.

Amazingly the night after this Barong-a-thon at Pemedilan I met Cok Gede at a Gianyar Mayoral function honoring 30 artists, town’s 340th anniversary and the opening of the island’s second colossal open stage, which spills down form the mayor’s multi-purpose function centre onto the town square, the alun-alun.

The extended Pemecutan Family prepare for prayers at the climax of the Pura Penambangan Badung temple festival

LEFT: Temple priests at Pura Penambangan Badung, Denpasar
RIGHT: Natty dresser Pemangku Puri Kerobokan at the temple

LEFT: The Pemecutan Palace geese who attended the temple festival with their liege lord.
RIGHT: Ratu Gede of Pemeregan

Anak Agung Putu ‘Tameng’ Adi officiates as priests in front of his temple’s Barong Landung puppets

My old buddy, Agung Bagus form Peliatan had invited me to the ceremony as he was getting a “Wija Kusuma” award.

He had sent me 50 sms reminders so I really had to go, as much as I loath government events in Bali (the non-governmental events are so much more rewarding).

The hall was full of the Who’s Who of the Balinese art world — dancer Made Jimat from Batuan, legendary legong Gusti Ayu Raka from Peliatan, puppet master Made Sadia (who was to dance the part of the Majapahit-era ogre-oligarch Kebo Iwa in tonight’s dance spectacular of the same name) — and I quickly got to chatting about old days (1979-1981) at the dance academy, a time when this column was pretty much devoted to Dance and Trance.

The Stranger with H.R.H. Ida Cokorda Pemecutan XI at the Pemecutan Palace

After the awards ceremony I lingered backstage for house as the corps de ballet and prima ballerina pruned and preened. Gung Bagus had the attention of a young Ubud dancer who was entranced by the grand Dance Signeurs pearls of wisdom, about finger-flicks and eye darting.

The ‘conversation’ was a joy to behold — so beautiful and uncomplicated are these Balinese dance stars. The evening’s program went off without a hitch: and I refused, like the other 10,000 people watching to let rising pulmonary thrombosis from the toxic coloured smoke affects get in the way of a good night’s entertainment.

One of the musicians in the amazing Pemeragan gamelan.

I had an epiphany, like Oprah does, as I marveled at the miracles of stage management and lighting and finessing that bring such Balinese shows, temple festivals and cremations to life.

When one experiences the Balinese culture with all stops out, on consecutive nights, (as I just did), one starts to realize that, really, for the Balinese, putting on great ‘shows’ — be festivals, or dance spectaculars — is what their life is all about. So what ………….if the traffic is bad and the island is awash with plastic — the important thing, for the ‘little people’, the average Balinese, is belief in their ability to put on bigger and better spectacles.

16th April 2011: To the Legian for a special director’s screening of “Bali – Island of the Dogs

I am warming to this title, though my first reaction to the invitation was to refuse it, on behalf of Balinese people. “Bali — Island of the Gods” refers to the fact that all Balinese are eventually ‘beatified’, like Pope John Paul II, and become deified ancestor spirits, called dewata.

Dr. Lawrence Bliar with the film’s director, Dean Tolhurst

The film was not half bad — there were just a few clangers — but as co-producer/legendary Legian ‘Lothario’ Dr. Lawrence Blair recently said: “So few people are doing interesting documentaries on Bali these days”. The truth is: one can only see so many documentaries on all the gorgeousness and all the plastic etc, and the bombs (sigh), so let’s give the dogs a go.

Two voluptuous ‘Valkryies’ were responsible for the success of the fabulous beach-side, open air (almost) screening: Pernod-packin Party planner Marie Justine (author of the very outrĂ© Bali Luxe guide) and Legian G.M. Carla von Bismark who endeared herself to the gathered cognoscenti by shouting, after we were asked to turn off our handphones for the screening:
“I vant to hear VUN CLICK!!!”

Enquiring minds can see my full review on wijaya blog and watch “It’s a dog’s life”, on YOUTUBE, a spoof of the film, starring Widji Wienberg, Ketut Ari and Lassie Laserawati.

Made, Milo, Netri, MW, Anita Lacocca

15th April 2011 : To Villa Gajah Putih, the Island’s most expensive, for the wedding reception of my old friend Roma Fairbrother’s boy Afandy Dharma Fairbrother and Dewi Cynthia Bradley

I was mortified not to be invited to the wedding — I mean what are old friends one sees every seven years for? — and fully expected tonight to be just a small schmattah family affair of old expat beaders and jewelers.

I was gobsmacked to find a vast open field — the villa’s beach front garden — alive with a metrosexual rock band, white tents, writhing tea-coloured teenagers (this was THE Indokrupuk event of the season) and the pick of the crop of Legian-Seminyak expatria — survivors from the 1970s, the hey-day of Bali beach parties and miscegenation.

And here were all their offspring, gathered, in one gently gyrating mass of pink satin. The goddess among them bridesmaid Luna Maya, the sensational sex star of the small, small screen and ever smaller screens, say no more. She was sweet and charming.

Back from the dark ages were Giorgio Ubanisasi who had the first refrigerator in an expat villa (now a gay laundromat on Petitenget beach) and Netri, daughter of ‘Moma-dollar’ of Yasa Samudra fame (now the Hard Rock Hotel).

One has such hope for the future, when one sees the second generation so well-behaved and well dressed, dancing to decent music.

Hope dies last!
Congratulations Afandy and Dewi…….!

La Barone Gill Marais

9th April 2011: A private screening of “Sacred and Secret” at the still beautiful Amandari (gardens originally by me but municipalized over the decades by philistines)

La Barones Gill Marais is expatriate’s luminary of the lens: her book of photographs and essays “Sacred and Secret” is a gem and has now inspired a film of the same name.

Tonight I am seeing it for the first time with Gill and Amandari G.M. Sally Baughen who is putting together a film festival of vintage Balinese films with the prestigious Cinemateque Francaise de la Dance, the world’s oldest, at the Wantilan Kedewatan, June 19 – 22nd.

The film is a wonder and quite easily the best film ever done on Balinese culture: it is magnificently shot and edited, with seductive music, and informative interviews with many of the island’s best minds.

Bravo Barone — you rule!