Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the NOW! Bali Magazine, March 2016)

Ubud’s First Family of Royal Indokrupuk

Tjok Sri Maya Kerthyasa and her husband Marcus Tesoriero praying at the Puri Ibah family house temple
(Pamitan ritual: Maya taking leave of her ancestors)

'Indokrupuk' means mixed blood or half-caste. It is my favourite word in the Indonesian (slang) language, because so many of my good friends are indokrupuks.
Bali’s undisputed first family of indokrupuk is the Kerthyasa-Clau of Ubud. Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa, the patriarch, is a senior member of Ubud’s royal family. His wife Asri (daughter of a former private secretary to the NSW Governor) is a firebrand in Bali’s hotel, restaurant, and charity worlds. Their children are all accomplished and gentle-natured, and drop-dead gorgeous. One son, Tjok Gus, even married a Jakarta film star!
Last month, representatives from Ubud’s Rent-a-prince and Gay Rotary Ubud community all gathered at Ibah Warwick, the Kerthyasa-owned hotel, for a blessing ceremony for the wedding of Tjok Sri Maya Kerthyasa and her Australian husband Marcus Tesoriero.

Tjokorda Gede Mahatma Putra Kerthyasa

Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa (Tjok Ibah), family patriarch

31 January 2016: A very special afternoon at Ibah Hotel
Puri Saren Palace has a tradition of pale-faces marrying into the palace: during the early 1950s one of Tjokorda Kerthyasa’s uncles took a French wife and they had a son, named Tjokorda Gerard. The neighbouring palace of Peliatan has taken a few Japanese wives; in the Karangasem Palace, Dutch wives are popular.
Today the Ibah hotel’s palace quarters are like the United Nations, with predominantly Anglo-Saxons and Balinese.
The late visionary Buckminster Fuller famously said, 'By the year 2050, everyone will be tea-coloured'.
I move around documenting the ceremonies and the fashions like a bull in a china shop.

See Video: Blessing Ceremony of Cok Sri Maya Kerthyasa and Marcus Tesoriero Puri Ibah, Ubud, 31 January 2016.

The newlyweds, in purple brocade (songket) skirt cloths and contrasting chemise, look gorgeous.
Asri, in a power palace-aunty outfit, and sporting a silver bun, flutters about entertaining the western guests as she leads her daughter through the complicated rituals.
Even the ceremony’s topeng mask dancer is speaking Balinese with an Australian accent.
High in the prince’s pavilion, Tjokorda Putra, the Ubud royal family patriarch, surveys the scene with affection: it was his father who befriended painter Walter Spies in the 1930s, an act which lead to Ubud’s reputation as a refuge for Western artists.
The Balinese are incredibly accepting and hospitable, to the point of extending their whole culture, the world’s most glamorous, to include our participation.
Jero Asri is a mega-success — as both businesswoman and mother. As a palace wife, married to the Bendesa (cultural head) of the town, she has shown great poise and polish.
I salute you, Jero!

22 January 2016: To the Pond Restaurant, Pengosekan, to open a show by a group of talented Balinese photographers
For years I have followed my mates at the Denpasar Photographers’ Club in documenting special ceremonies in the (mainly) Kuta/Denpasar area.
Their leader, Linggar Saputra Wayan of Kuta, is an amazing photographer and great fun to be with at ceremonies: his sense of humour — while enjoying the ‘invisible’ status of the ceremony paparazzi — is unique. He sees the lighter side of trancing and religious spectacle.

I first met Linggar through admiring his work on Facebook. This lead to our sharing info on rare ceremonies. Many in the group are momentologists — documenting the ceremony’s climax. I try to cover the full story.
I am more photo-journalist than art photographer, but these chaps routinely capture the magic moment, after the spirit of legendary French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Taum Sardika’s photograph of boys bathing
The opening of ‘Pregina’ at the Pond, Pengosekan
M 9 Moto plus one

In my brief opening speech I remind the gathering of the importance of photography in Bali’s emergence as a cultural phenomenon.
It was Gregor Krause’s 1918 photography book on Bali that first alerted Europe to the beauty of the island’s people: E. Hoppe’s work for Life magazine in 1929; Swedish Rolf De Maré’s dance videos in 1934; Rose Covarrubias’ extensive coverage in 1936; Cartier-Bresson’s work in 1948. Hans Hofer’s publishing Guide to Bali in 1970 was pivotal; and today, American John Stanmeyer, Swiss Pier Poretti, and many talented Indonesian photographers (Rio Helmi, Gustra, Rama Surya and the M9 Moto Club) keep up the tradition.
The boys give me a wall clock with my image on it and I take my first ever welfie (group selfie) with a tongsis (tongkat narsis) selfie stick.

Photograph of the trance ceremonies at Pura Selumbung Karangasem
Photo by I Ketut Budi Pertamayasa

20 January 2016: David Bowie’s death resounds in Bali’s Cafe Society
In the late 1980s, David Bowie and Mick Jagger were frequent visitors to Bali ― hooking up with real people in Ubud and beyond. Bowie was even received at court in Solo, Central Java, by Paku Buwono XII, a big fan.
In 1990 I did David Bowie’s garden in Mustique, West Indies, with a team of Balinese garden commandos.
Ever since, when interviewed, I have always been asked, first cab off the rank: ‘What was David Bowie like?’
Well, he was nice.
Today a journo from the Radar Bali newspaper came to interview me about Bowie. He picked his nose and played with the ball and then flicked it on my office floor. I couldn’t remember much about Bowie except that he was a dream client and a total gentleman.
The journo kept asking questions about Amlapura and arak and ashes but I was not going to be drawn into speculation: David Bowie was a career cross-dresser, good father, and a rock star.
I hope his wish to have his ashes scattered off Sanur Beach is honoured, and that all his Bali mates, especially the Balinese he was always so kind to, gather and pay tribute.

Bali doesn’t seem to attract famous artists like it used to. Mick Jagger said 'Never again!' after one gruesome afternoon of following trucks back from East Bali. Mass tourism is anathema to the rich and famous.
There are still lots of good artists and art photographers in Bali — Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado now has a house in Sanur, and famous New York artist Ashley Bickerton resides on the bukit near Uluwatu ― but they don’t make the tabloids in Bali like Garbo and Bowie did.

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