New Trends in Balinese Creativity

Last month, at a Bongkasa high priest’s cremation, I saw a contemporary-cum-ceremonial dance performance staged around the funeral pyre. It resembled a chorus line from a very classy Balinese production of CATS. In a 1940s ditty, legendary songster and wit Noel Coward wrote, rather snidely, that the Balinese suffered from far too much creative endeavour.

Calonarang Season – A Star is Born

Last month I let loose my handsome protégé Mustakim of Malang (East Java) on a string of Calonarang performances in exotic temples, to test his mettle (mettle-testing is my forte). He performed with flying colours. Calonarang are the popular spooky witch-dance dramas that that are held sporadically in Balinese village squares. They involve teams of

Bali’s Expat Beauty Warriors

Despite architectural hacks filling in every vacant lot — and a few not so vacant ones (green belts, for example) — with cheesy modernist schtick, it is to the work of a handful of die-hard traditionalists and classicists that the Balinese design world looks. Bali has a reputation as the cutting edge of tropical hotel

Tale of Two Kingdoms

Many social observers (expat experts and such) falsely believe that the Age of Rajas is over in Bali. The truth is, the feudal nature of Bali and the pre-eminence of the nobility in civic government is still strong. In the mid-14th century, the prime minister of the Hindu-Javanese Majapahit Empire  sent a young prince, Sri

Clouds Gathering Over The Rainbow?

Developers screaming “culture neutral” is much more of a threat to the way of life than a Gay Pride parade It’s hard watching the mangroves of Benoa Bay disappear, bit by bit, as they are  turned into heli-pads, cable ski enterprises and chain restaurants. They are the only green space left in South Bali and

Ubud’s First Family of Royal Indokrupuk

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. ‘Indokrupuk’ means mixed blood or half-caste. It is my favourite word in the Indonesian (slang) language, because so

Bogan Heroes

To be fair, however, it’s hard to justify the constant Facebook shrieking — by the West Coast Expat herbal suffragettes, lead by Conan the Librarian (Susi Johnston) — about environmental degradation, street crimes and pollution when the expat C.U.B. (Cashed Up Bogans) themselves are responsible for some pretty irresponsible and illegal development, particularly along the

Peliatan Style

A lifetime achievement award also went to Milo for services to batik, the Baris Cina troupe of Renon for trance-wear and Janet De Neefe, for services to bulletproof white corsettes.

The Brahmans are Coming

Will it eventually be like Hindu India, where the Brahmans now rule the roost and control the land deals; the ksatria having disappeared up their collective bottoms and down their perfume bottles decades ago? So many princely houses have folded lately — sold due to gambling debts, or just deserted under the weight of the

Bali’s Wild Side

I have been documenting Bali for 40 years now — writing this column for almost 25 years — and I am sick of trying to explain the irrational. People often ask me why the Balinese are always flailing about and pulling the heads off chickens and I always feel like answering ‘Because you’re a twit’. I

Bali Tourism at the Crossroads?

Amongst the plethora of fake festivals, with all their padding and pyrotechnics, there is sometimes a quite purely authentic Balinese ceremony; it is to these that I am drawn, like an old diehard moth to a pre-mass tourism lantern. 20 September 2015 There is an odd article on the front page of today’s Bali Post

Bali Has Soul

Minutes later I find myself in front of a trio of flouncing lady-boy trancees who are welcoming the mighty god of the mask of the Topeng SIdakarya Sudha into their temple. The gamelan is clanging, the exquisite temple forecourt is packed and the sun is shining in on the woven penjor banners fluttering above. Last

Now Bali