Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the Hello Bali Magazine, August 2006)


Not so long ago the owner of this magazine was dragged over the hot coals for publishing a photo of a golf ball in a temple offering.
It seemed odd, at the time, for the powers that be to decide to stand and fight cultural prostitution based on this harmless mistake – especially when there are so many blatant miscreants!
Last month, World Cup month, for example, Indonesian television featured an ad for a popular brand of oral aphrodisiac. It showed a soccer player in a white loin cloth juggling a ball in the centre of a ring of Ketjak dancers!!
Now, it should here be noted that the Ketjak dance is not particularly sacred: it was invented by a German and has been re-invented many times over the years; most famously restyled, in 1999, with a festive faux-fellatio segment, for a Mick Jagger party in Ubud! The point is that this faux Ketjak ad sends the wrong message to Hindu youth: the message that their culture is up for grabs. Would the Muslim community put up with an advertisement of a Pengajian (circle of Al Koran-readers) with a prancing full-back in its midst?

• • •

Meanwhile, it seems that the philistine faction on the island is again focusing on my design office’s master-works (it’s a yearly occurrence – beauty has its own rules). This time an exquisite Bali Aga (original Bali) coastal temple we have designed for the world’s latest, best-ever resort, is “not Balinese enough” for some local experts. Presumably because it hasn’t got the flaming finials and Ubud-a-go-go whirly-gigs now associated with florid early 21st century Balinese temple design.
“The Balinese are nothing if not fashion-conscious!!” a Balinese pundit once remarked.

How many fabulous romantic old Balinese temples have to hit the dust in favour of black andesite stone monsters, I ask you!!
Even my Bali Aga landscape/pavilionscape entrance design for this same property (see photos left) is under attack by revisionists! They say it’s “not Balinese, but monumental.” Have they not read the book “Monumental Bali,” by A.J. Bernard Kempers, the famed Dutch archaeologist? It is my bible.
We shall overcome!
The price for peace is eternal vigilance!
“We are all surrounded by evil midgets,” a Bali-based writer recently confided in me, and he was not being racist!! His lament holds true at the high end of landscape design too: some people are threatened by great beauty. Others weep.
Fortunately the hotel’s owner is a man of great taste and distinction and the Bali Aga-scape may survive. Let us pray!
Now read on!

From Left: A. Agung Ngurah “Ngurah Manik” Parasara with Dokter Ngurah, Ida Bagus Gede,
Tim Street-Porter and Annie Kelly

23rd June 2006: to Kepaon, for a royal re-union, and cremation
The mother of Ngurah Dokter has died after a long illness. She was the pretty sister of our village liege lord and chose, after her husband died in 1970, to raise her family of clever children back in Kepaon Palace, her ancestral home.
The cremation was a beauteous affair – the deceased was popular in the community, as well as being the favourite sister of the prince. The event was also a free-range census, to allow everyone to keep track of dynastic developments. Indeed, it had been years since stock was taken!
Most alarmingly, one of Ngurah Dokter’s bright daughters has turned Australian, and married a Darwiner of Timor Leste Chinese descent (soon he’ll be buying half of Gitgit, you wait!). At the start of the funeral procession another knock-out niece – a D.J., born and raised in Holland – yelped as she was hoisted high on the jempana palanquin, to the great amusement of the gathered banjar. Her brother is a dashing sinetron star in Jakarta.
All of Denpasar’s royal families were present at the graveyard, even regional heart-throb Ngurah Manik, Prince of Pemecutan, not seen on the ceremonial circuit since he was convicted of murdering his brother in a palace skirmish.
“Where’s my Poleng magazine,” he bellowed at me across the crowds of gathered courtiers.
You could’ve knocked me over with a feather!


24th June 2OO6, a blast of Balinese humour
Once a month Bog-Bog cartoon magazine arrives at my office and it cheers us all up!
It’s the Balinese doing what they do best – wise-cracking! The magazine is homage to social commentary and mad-cap humour, based on their deep love of their own culture. This month’s theme is the World Cup and the cartoons (featured on the previous page) are ribald, whacky and ‘irreverent’, like the Balinese Drama Gong or Topeng theatre.
The Balinese are not ‘precious’ about their culture, that’s why it survives.
Bog Bog has interpreted the soccer craze through the Balinese culture, rather than glibly annexing some obvious cultural elements – the Ketjak for example – and casting it as pretty background.

25th June 2OO6: to One World Gallery in Seminyak for a taste of cosmopolitan Bali
Twenty years ago, Melbourne artists Philip Lakeman and Graham Oldroyd came to Bali on a holiday and fell in love with the vibrant culture. Quickly they decided they would like to set up a fine art ceramics factory and contacted the late Brent Hesselyn, founder of Jenggala, who, in turn, connected them to Sanur Don, Wija Waworuntu. Wija already had artist Donald Friend, Brent, and Australian painter Ian Van Wieringen and this writer, in his stable - in his incarnation as an avant-gardener. Philip and Graham’s work from their Pesamuan kiln and art factory in Sanur in the 1990s – whether functional ceramic art or as in Graham’s case, painting – was always bright, dynamic and culturally-referenced.

And then came the Zen explosion: their collective clientele’s rectum shrank like heroin-dilated pupils.
Today they opened a great new gallery in Basang Kasa – in Bali’s new Gay ‘Rodeo’ Drive District (Ride’em cowboy) – featuring a new collection of art by Philip based on Balinese Kamasan painting – defying the Zen trend – and a new collection of homewares that is chic and cheerful.
Bravo the arty Ozzie battlers.

Legian, 26th June 2006 Togo vs France

26th June 2OO6:
I go to a Legian pub for today’s Togo vs France match. There is a large Australian tourist there in black-face and fancy costume.
She purports to be Madame Ganas Di Nenes, wife of the Portuguese Junior Consul to Timor Leste, and she is an ardent Togo fan!
I tell you, the World Cup brings out all types!


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