The entrepreneurial spirit is a vital essence of the Balinese and Indonesian character. The foundation of preservation and self-empowerment, through this energy, creative and commercial opportunities are realised. The Ubud Artisan Market, an initiative by Yayasan Mudra Suwari Sarasvati, the foundation responsible for the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF) and the Ubud Food Festival (UFF), is a vibrant new community happening to assist the local economy while providing opportunities for Bali’s young entrepreneurs.
According to the market’s founder Janet DeNeefe, it is a response to the modernisation of Bali and the ongoing loss of cultural practices. “I am passionate about Balinese and Indonesian handcrafts, especially the tenun handwoven textiles. But more recently I have been worried that some traditions might disappear through the lack of regeneration. I started the Ubud Artisan Market in mid-2019, once a month with strong support from the local community.”
Set out across the sprawling Taman Baca in Sanggingan that enjoys stunning views of the Wos river valley across to the Campuhan Ridge. The market presents handcrafted textiles, homewares, clothing, jewellery, beauty products, artisan produce and traditional Indonesian home-cooked cuisine. The event includes live music and performances, workshops, exhibitions, cooking demonstrations and family friendly activities throughout the day and into the evening.
“Early last year the escalation of the pandemic led to the postponement of the market. Then I was involved with organizing the 2020 UWRF. The next most practical step was introducing the festival team; the organization infrastructure of the UWRF and UFF to help in the market’s resurrection and next growth stage. We rebirthed the market in December 2020; however, the pandemic again led to its postponement,” Janet explained. Revived again in March 2021, it was decided to conduct the market over the entire weekend. The response was excellent, Sunday afternoons, especially, flowing with people and activity.
Optimism flourishes during the Pandemic
Once employed in tourism, many Balinese have now returned to their villages. They are re-immersing themselves in agricultural and traditional projects and past times. A growing number of tech-savvy young creatives have sensed opportunity and are establishing online Peer-2-Peer businesses in produce and handcrafted items from local, sustainable sources. The 21st-century digital creative economy has granted access to local entrepreneurs to new and burgeoning domestic and international markets.
“The entrepreneurial spirit is very much a part of the Balinese DNA and heritage. They are highly creative, optimistic, resilient people who believe anything is possible; they have certain freedoms to give small enterprises a go. Their trading spirit has evolved from their bartering heritage. The pandemic has triggered a new era of entrepreneurship,” Janet stated. “Many of the younger generations recently have had the time to focus inward upon their passions. The Internet provides information and education sources on YouTube. They are learning from the experts. Most of these enterprises require little start-up capital investment.”
“The 2021 market features more food vendors as many young people are redeveloping their careers in this sector and are looking for opportunities. The market offers participants opportunities to make a small income and an emotional boost,” Janet explained. “The Balinese and Indonesian participants look forward to the market, they have fun, and they get a sense of what life pre-Covid used to be like.”
Some of the workshops held in the office space of Taman Baca include ‘Play with Colors’, Acrylic Painting Class with Wayan Donal, ‘Do Your Own Tarot Reading’ by Aghumi and ‘How to Make an Organic Soap Workshop’ with Fiore Ccent. The stage at Taman Baca is the platform for an array of excellent live music. The Poetry Slam is an hour of feisty and captivating entertainment, featuring locals and foreigners presenting self-written prose. From the light-hearted to the dramatic, words to inspired and trigger the imagination. A small army of vibrant and multi-talented volunteers are essential to the event’s success.
Education and professional development
From March, the Ubud Artisan Market began offering midweek workshops designed for professional development, including drawing, photography, incense making, indigo printing and painting, charging a minimum fee to cover operation costs. “Everything that the Mudra Suwari Sarasvati Foundation initiates has a basis in education and creating opportunities,” Janet told me.
“With the assistance of an international NGO, we have provided free webinars to vendors to help develop their businesses featuring brand development advice, social media content creation, basic business management, and how to succeed in becoming sustainable entrepreneurs. So often, the key to growing economies is educated women. As a result, we can now imagine the bigger picture for the artisan market.”
“This year, we have focused on developing meaningful collaborations to help build the community. In addition, we are continuing to foster young Indonesian writers throughout the archipelago via the internet. The voice of the young Indonesian writers is essential in the transformation that is underway.”
“I am thrilled to see how the market has evolved as a hub of learning. Through the inclusion of the art community, people are gaining and sharing new skills. Seeing the small industries evolve and the participation of people you know in the community is extremely heart-warming. I believe this market will grow in leaps and bounds.”
A robust, sustainable economy is forged from the ground up. The local entrepreneurial spirit has kicked into overdrive, and exciting commercial opportunities and creative potential are realised. While the international corporate media report on the doom and gloom, inspiring good news stories highlighting dynamic human endeavour are typical and describe communities throughout Bali.