Having been cancelled in 2020, the island’s most respected cultural festival makes a comeback. The Bali Arts Festival 2021, known locally as Pesta Kesenian Bali or PKB, has begun its month long showcase of Balinese culture from 12 June 2021 – 10 July 2021.
This year marks the 43rd Bali Arts Festival (Pesta Kesenian Bali ke-43), which was first held in 1979 by the late Professor Ida Bagus Mantra. The main purpose of this festival is to preserve Balinese art, music, and literature, gaining a strong base for national identity. This year it holds the theme ‘”Purna Jiwa: Prananing Wana Kerthi (Jiwa Paripurna Napas Pohon Kehidupan)’.
It is always held at the Taman Werdhi Budaya Arts Center in Denpasar, a complex comprised of elaborate Balinese-architecture buildings and amphitheatres, setting the scene for the month-long display of cultural heritage.
Normally, the festival area is packed everyday with dancers young and old, dressed in their traditional attire or costumes, and crowds clambering for seats or exploring the food stalls set up all around. Of course, this year is different, and new regulations and precautions have made for lighter version of the Bali Arts Festival, with a mixture of online and offline programs helping to reduce big crowds.
The famous Bali Arts Festival opening parade was not held this year, instead a live show was presented online, featuring a mixture of official speeches, dances, theatrical productions and interviews. The opening event also received an official video from President Joko Widodo himself, dressed top-to-toe in regal Balinese traditional attire.
Through the speeches from the officials, including Bali’s Governor, Wayan Koster; Indonesian Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Sandiaga Uno; and also President Joko Widodo; it was made clear that this year’s festival had to continue, as an effort to preserve and celebrate the island’s classical arts and regional traditions.
The Bali Arts Festival 2021 : What to Expect
First and foremost, the festival’s continuation is done to reward the many talented artists, musicians and dancers that normally come to showcase their work and also be judged by a panel. The competition (Wimbakara) will continue, as will the Art Awards and other programs. Around 10.000 artists will participate in the month-long event.
For watchers, this year’s event is hybrid, meaning that dances and shows will be streamed live on the Bali Tourism Office’s YouTube Channel, and a limited number of viewers (approximately 100) will be allowed to watch performances in person at the main theatre of Taman Werdhi Budaya Arts Center or at the Indonesian Institute of Arts Denpasar (ISI Denpasar). Note that the seating availability is not assured, and each venue will maintain high safety and hygiene protocols.
The live streams are very professionally done, and a new stream will be made available everyday for a month, with different dances and productions being performed by different troupes from all around Bali. This will be a treat for anyone around the world hoping to get a taste of Bali.
The Taman Werdhi Budaya Arts Center has already set up their indoor marketplace for some Balinese arts, crafts, textiles, jewellery and more, though options are limited.
Here’s a video of what previous Bali Art Festivals looked like: