Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise


(Published in the NOW! Bali Magazine, September 2012)



Magnificent entrance doors to the Nyoman Gunarsa Museum Klassik, designed by the maestro himself.

Museum Mania

How did the Balinese get so clever?
Is there anything they can’t do?
Well, to start with, they are hyper-active:  as a people they can’t stand to be idle, and have invented many art forms and outlets for their creativity ― including monster kite-flying, synchronized go-go boy line-dancing (with Ozzie chick appendages) and late night walkie-talkie hollering. Many other more mundane creative pursuits ― such as fancy dress marching bands, monster effigy-making, glass A-frame multi-denominational wedding chapels and convention facility building ― have been taken to such new heights that they have had to invent festivals and build museums to showcase their achievements.
In the last year alone we have seen the emergence of festivals for un-cooked food, meditation, midwifery and Islamic fashion, and museums to marketing, motorcycles and baby turtles.
The most impressive museum, architecturally (it’s a mini-Nuremburg), is ‘maestro’ Nyoman Gunarsa’s Museum of Classic Balinese Art in Takmung, Klungkung.

Dr. Nyoman Gunarsa.

Last month the undefatigable Gunarsa opened a new wing at the vast museum complex ― an exhibition space for rare parchments of classic Wayang art (Bali’s only indigenous painting art form) which are used to decorate pavilions and platforms at times of ceremonies. Assisting him and his equally undefatigable and well-preserved wife Indrawati were academics Siobhan Campbell (representing Professor Peter Worsley, former head of The University of Sydney Department of Indonesian Studies), Hedi Hinsler from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and Dr. Adrian Vickers, Director of the Australian  Centre for Asian Art and Archaeology  at The University of Sydney also assisted.

28 July 2012: To Klungkung for the Gunarsa Museum’s latest mega-event
I arrive early at the wrong gate at dusk.
Stumbling through the courtyards of the dimly lit museum in search of the first international festival of classical Balinese painting I discovered a swimming pool-side cabana being used as a dressing room for six foot tall  legong dancers from California. In their midst, beaming with pride, is their guru ― 70 year old eternal prima-ballerina assoluta Ketut Arini.


Guru Ibu Ketut Arini (right) with an American dancer from Sekar Jaya Troup, California

Next I find a camp of policemen having dinner between cigarettes  in a specially-erected tent, then an alley of drop-dead gorgeous gamelan musicians from Pengosekan, and, finally, a car-load of western museumologists and anthropologists in versions of formal Balinese dress (You’d think that they’d look at the paintings, or the painters, for clues!).
Soon I spy Gunarsa’s greatest masterpiece, the biggest temple gate in Balinese history, once ‘goal posts’ for a massive Gunarsa-sponsored First International Barong Festival. It looks magnificient tonight, professionally lit. Shortly after, I see his second greatest masterpiece Noni, his dancing daughter.
Indrawati Gunarsa, greets all the guests at the entry to the large concrete bunker (the new museum) which is a bit like a player’s pit at a baseball park; it is slightly submerged and opens at one end onto an amphitheatre and stage, where the speeches have started.
The Who’s Who of the Balinese art world are here, all in inspired classical Balinese dress, as are many of the island’s expatriate performing artists and cultural observers.

In the tunnel that leads to the stage I am accosted by a facebook  friend: one of my ‘Balinese intellectuals in Berlin’ pals, who turns out to be Ibu Arini’s eldest daughter is sitting with her German husband and four children.
Noni’s American husband is next in line, then Rucina Ballinger (Peliatan‘s answer to Gracie Fields) and, next to her, Wayang veteran Professor Hedi Hinsler on the arm of my old Bali Hyatt tennis partner now a Sri Rsi (high priest) in Singaraja.
The night is a great success ― the dances are spectacular, the museum collection superb. One hopes that the Gunarsa clan go on and on show-casing classical Balinese culture at this superb museum venue /police station.
(See video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GXxFMBRgIQ)

19 July 2012: To the Grand Bali Beach for  the launch of a new book on Bali Tourism
This column has, over the centuries, applauded the pioneering efforts of independent entrepreneur Wija Wawo-Runtu of the Tandjung Sari hotel ― for many years one of the chicest places on the planet ― forgetting to mention the Ida Bagus Kompiangs of Segara Beach Village hotel fame who did ground-breaking working bringing tourists to Bali in the 1960s.


Ida Bagus Kompiang and Anak Agung Mirah Astuti, his wife, in 1951

Today a book is launched detailing their efforts on behalf of the Bali Tourism Promotion Board over fifty years.
One of the best tales of the fledging republic’s first steps into tourism promotion involves a 7,000 ton ship, the Tampomas, which toured Asian ports in 1961 emblazoned with a banner “Indonesian Floating Fair”. President Soekarno was a great promoter of Bali and chose-the Kompiangs as his ambassadors.
Wasp-waisted Astuti, with her aristocrat bearing, and the affable Pak Kompiang were great ambassador, for Balinese culture too — introducing the world to the charm and grace and for which the island has since become famous.

Always a colorful character, from a prominent Denpasar Brahman family, Ida Bagus Kompiang is today a high priest, as is his wife legendary beauty Astuti, a priestess.
In the 1970s I remember his dashing father Ida Bagus Karang who had five wives dashing and 17 children motoring up and down the Sanur Road on a Vespa, always with a fighting cock in a basket on his lap. He became a high priest too. Over the decades the Kompiangs and their son Ida Bagus Ngurah turned their Sanur seaside property the Hotel Segara Village into one of Bali’s premier hotels.

16 July 2012: Poet-Film Maker John Darling’s ashes sprinkled into the river at Campuan, Ubud
For the Balinese the Nganyud ritual, where the ashes are thrown into the sea or a river is a joyous occasion: it means that the complicated series of death-related rituals are complete and that soul purification rituals can start. (Balinese beatification is a long process).


Local priest , Gusti Nyoman Rupa (centre), Diana Darling, Sara Darling at John Darling’s Nganyud at Campuan, Ubud.

Photo right: Cokorda Raka Kerthyasa (standing with black jacket) and Asri Ghafar (seated with white dog), Photos by Rio Helmi

Today John’s widow, Sara and a gathering of friends — including Carole Muller and Robin Lim — and his Balinese family (Diana Darling, the Lempad family, Asri Kerthyasa’s family, and his old man Friday Gusti Nyoman holding the ashes) — gave John’s mortal remains a fitting send-off in the town he loved.
I was in Sydney so I arranged a lunch with John’s Taman Sari Film Production pals and old flames.


The John Darling Memorial Lunch at Lavender Bay, Sydney; held to co-incide with the Nganyud: (Left to right): John Mayall,
Tony Gordon, Nicola Flamer-Caldera,Helen SImons, Wendy Whiteley, Lissa Coote, Victoria Aplin, Stephen Little, Gabrielle Goddard, Dasha Ross, Me (kneeling, holding Jon Lewis’ 1979 photo of John Darling at Pura Sakenan) (photo by Jon Lewis).


The general consensus (see my video SYDNEY MEMORIAL LUNCH:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkWKl35UO5k) was that John had been generous and profound: he introduced real mystical Bali to so many friends and, through his films, to the world.

 


| back |

E-mail your request, and kindly send letters or useful travel tips to: wwords@indosat.net.id


Copyright© 2012, strangerinparadise.com