Bali Arts focuses on contemporary Balinese art and culture.
Its principal emphasis is on the narrative arts that inform religious life on Bali. Shadow plays (wayang kulit), masked dance, other forms of dance-drama, and the gamelan music that accompany them all, are central to Bali’s temple festivals and ritual ceremonies that accompany the passage of a Balinese person though this world and into the next.
This site began with a focus on two Balinese artists Gusti Nyoman Lempad (1862-1978) and Ketut Madra (1940-), and two recent Ubud exhibitions and catalogs celebrating their lives and work: Lempad of Bali: The Illuminating Line and Ketut Madra and 100 Years of Balinese Wayang Painting). While the work of both artists is still featured on the site, it now expands to include other contemporary aspects of Bali’s art – especially those with roots in the Hindu epics and wayang legends – to highlight the continuing vibrant cultural life of this unique island.
From colonial times early in the last century to the present, non-Balinese visitors have been enthralled by the “magic” of Bali and simultaneously convinced that its destruction by outside cultural forces might be imminent (the effect of tourism is always included among these pernicious influences).
Balinese agree that their culture is changing rapidly and will continue to do so. And its continuing strengths are certainly less evident to visitors in the beachfront metropolis south and west of Denpasar. But in small-town and rural-village Bali, away from the large population centers in Badung and Gianyar regencies, it is evident to any observer that Balinese life still centers around the rhythms of the land, the seasons, and Bali’s complex cultural calendar.
Balinese are also quick to acknowledge that their culture is threatened by outside forces. Many of their most urgent concerns are environmental and ecological. They see changing climate patterns, especially in heat and rainfall that affect rice crops. They worry about pressures of development on fresh water resources and coastal resilience. And they protest. Like other Indonesians, too, they also have concerns about growing inequality of wealth, pressures of private and public corruption, and fragility of young democratic systems.
But few seem to doubt that Bali will endure and its culture will survive. This site celebrates that optimism and the continuing health of Bali’s art and culture.