return to ISACFA



_________________ _________________ _________________ _________________ _________________ _________________










Asia is a continent that has captivated my interest since I can remember. It is only recent, during history lectures at university that my desire to see it for myself has truly been rekindled. When I was younger on the rainy days that I spent at my grandparents house, I would flick through the pages of their National Geographic collection and would stare for hours at photos of extravagant temples, half consumed by moss and monkeys and all the while being secretly hidden within a sea of green mountains. I would look at the faces of people that were quite literally foreign to me and was able to see even then, from afar, that their lives were very different from mine.

I believe this fascination has led me to jump at the first opportunity to submerge myself within a culture I know nothing about. Within a country whose language I do not speak, food I am unfamiliar with, a currency and way with money that I do not know, let alone understand and I ask myself, why? In short, it is curiosity. I want to know what is out there and to experience for myself the honest truth. I am not interested in the tourists' view of Bali, as lovely as that may be, I want to see the island through my own eyes as only this way will I truly be satisfied.

I expect that my senses will overload with sights, smells, flavours and of course the exotic culture; and I am partially aware that I cannot prepare myself for this, however, I know it is necessary to obtain these experiences to further understand and grow, to move forward, so for my sake, I just hope that curiosity doesn't kill the cat.












Title: Hold my hand...
Location: Sanur Beach, Bali
Date: 25 June

Theme: Landscape, Sunset, Sunrise



My experiences so far have met my expectations and beyond. And then, perhaps a little further than even that. This little island that is nestled so snugly between Java and Lombok is a real eye opener, and, as I have discovered for myself these past few days, there are multiple perspectives that one must read about a country before being able to form a true and honest opinion of it. On a more personal note, I find I am learning much about myself as well as how to behave in different situations; examples could include but not at all limited, to buying trinkets on the market and practicing ones ability to barter while not come across as padat, or learning the etiquette of entering temples and other such religious sites.

I think what I am trying to convey here, is a trip such as this is going to be a progressive learning curve that will develop and evolve throughout its duration; my initial experience, somewhat shrouded through eyes of ignorance and inexperience will see this beautiful land more complete and understood than my current perspective come my departure.










Title of work: Expressionless.
Location: Jl. Merdeka IV No. 2, Renon, Denpasar, Bali, Wednesday 27th June, 07:47pm
Date: 27 June

Theme: Fine art portraits, activities.

The other evening, a local art exhibition was held in Denpasar, the venue was located half way down what, at first glance appeared to be a derelict alleyway, however, after quite literally a second drive by it was located and we entered down the dark, rickety driveway.

After conversing with the young artists exhibiting and the curator of the gallery, it was discovered that the purpose behind the event was to empower the relationship between the city of Yogyakarta in Java and Denpasar in Bali; the black sheep being an artist from the Czech Republic. This relationship displays a sense of union and compassion for humanity above political values and language, being brought together from different places through the medium of the arts is a prime example of the way of life for the Balinese people that live here. They truly are the most accepting of any peoples that I have ever encountered.








Title: Traditional Dance.
Location: Jl. Siulan, Gg. Nusa Indah IV No.4, Denpasar, Bali
Date: Saturday 30th June. 01:17pm

Theme: Documentary.

Friday past was my first experience of a traditional Balinese ceremony. We were invited into the home of Sri Hasta Dhala and Dra. Ni Made Rinu where formalities were held, then followed by the group being given traditional clothing to wear for the ceremony. Once all were dressed we proceeded to the Ashram where the ceremony proceeded. In-between speeches there were dances and music and before we knew what was happening we were being included in the ceremony itself.

The group was taught the Shiva Gangge, a simple song that also has a dance to accompany it. One movement was to raise one hand, middle finger to thumb, the form known as Nyempurit while the other hand is below and extending away, flicking the middle finger off the thumb creating an open palm. This then repeats, alternating three moves one way and three the other. The meaning of the words are "I bow to Shiva". Shiva being the consciousness that lives within everything, it refers to the inner self. The significance of the dance is to catch the water from above, Nyempurit and dispel below, it symbolises the cleanse and nourishing of the spirit or soul; reaching for the pure water from above and expelling it below.

Upon reflection of the days events I couldn't help but feel deeply moved at the compassion and embrace that was extended upon us. To be given so much from a country with so little, yet so rich and fulfilling of culture is beginning to make me see the value of everyday life very differently. I want to explore this further because I believe it is an important factor behind the understanding of this way of life.










Title of work: Little Bannana.
Location: Jl. Siulan, Gg. Nusa Indah IV No.4, Denpasar, Bali
Date: Saturday 30th June. 03:08pm

Theme: Still Life.

Art in Balinese culture is directly related to religion, spirituality and tradition. These different devotions are so far from one-another and yet at the same time they become one and the same. Religion is regarded as art and in return art is created for religion. In Bali one is expected to have a chosen religion, quite simply it is not accepted to be agnostic. The logic this leads towards, is in some way or another, every Balinese can be seen as being an artist. This can be expressed through simple prayer to extravagant carvings, paintings, dance, weaving and daily offerings that can be found absolutely everywhere. The architecture is especially prevalent in this concept with the majority of homes (all those that are occupied by Balinese Hindu) having a dedicated shrine; these are also found all throughout the island too.










Title: Moving On.
Location: Roof of Don Antonio Blanco Museum, Jalan Campuhan, Ubud, Bali
Date: Tuesday 3rd July, 03:58pm

Theme: Streetscape.

Today was a field trip to the Bajra Sandi, a monument located in central Denpasar. The building represents a reminder of the many generations of Balinese whom have been subjugated to harsh difficulties throughout history. It especially has an emphasis to acknowledge those who lost their lives during the Dutch intervention at the beginning of the 20th Century; also referred to as the Puputan. The meaning behind the word Puputan, when translated from Balinese, refers to mass ritual suicide.

In short the events that occurred and took place were due to the Dutch colonies expanding, they would travel and demand that the peoples kneel before the Dutch monarch, however, the response from the Balinese locale was opposed to the views of the Dutch. In Bali, the people bow before God, not a monarch. Rather then bow before the Dutch, the Royal procession emerged from the palace and halted in front of the invading force; the Raja stepping down from his palanquin signalled a priest to stab a dagger into his chest, the impetus for the rest of the procession to begin killing themselves and one another. A stray shot from the Dutch prompted them to open fire. It is believed that around 1000 Balinese died.

The Dutch invaded with an overwhelming force. The Balinese bow only to God. One perspective that has been raised is the Dutch committed this genocide as a show of power, to prove that if a people do not bow, to metaphorically give their lives over, then they would be taken.

I find that the image that I took today, like the Bajra Sandi, have similar symbolic value. The green represents new growth, of acknowledging the past and being able to live with it, to grow and learn from it, while the man on the motorbike symbolises the act of moving on, being free again.









Title: Through Open Doors...
Location: Bajra Sandi, Jl. Puputan Niti Mandala Raya, Denpasar, Bali
Date: Tuesday 3rd July. 09:35am

Theme: Architecture.

Traditional Balinese architecture is filled with intricacy and meticulous detail that ranges from small to large in scale and detail. A profuse amount of thought is behind every shape and form, every cut, join, placing and every material chosen for every traditional build. This passage merely scratches the surface with regards to the architecture, but it has created a niche of knowledge with which I fully intend to expand if only to further broaden my understanding and satisfy my personal interest.

The name given to an established traditional Balinese architect is 'Undagi'. Not only must the Undagi have a complete understanding of design and tradition but also the knowledge of the engineering involved and all aspects relating to Hinduism; the art, culture, etc. Along with this there are guidelines found within the Manuscript (a very old text preserved in a museum in Bali) that must be followed with regard to traditional construction.

The main areas within the Manuscript can be broken down into six parts. These are as follow:

Lontar Asta Bhumi. This part is the description of the plot and arrangement of buildings.
Lontar Asta Dewa dan lontar Asta Kosala/ Kosali. This is the list of accepted traditional materials to be used for the construction; to be included also are shape or form and building name.
Lontar Wismakarma. The procedure to become Undagi, a traditional Balinese architect.
Padmabhumi. The history on how to place temple in Bali, this relate to geography with regard to the location of the mountains (primarily Mt. Agung) and the ocean.
Dewatatwa. These are the ceremonial sacrifices performed by the religious sect, not the Undagi.
Jananthaka. This is the description of wood classification for sacred buildings.

Below is an Indonesian poem (translated), that I was able find online. I thought it was rather fitting for the theme of this submission.

Ruang (Space)

By Rendra Adi Wibawa

Six flat sides, side by side, and trim
The place of imagination and creativity pour
So quiet and lonely
As if to live alone

Light come, though bright and calm
Light off, though dark and giddy
You motionless
You are only the visible form of illusion

Where you pour all complaints
You are witnesses of happy moments
You throw a troubled place in the soul
You are the witness of all events

But you just a six-sided space
Side by side and flat-brimmed
You are blind, dumb, and deaf
You are just a mirror of imagination with no meaning










Title: Floating.
Location: Suklu Painting Studio, Klungkung, Bali.
Date: Tuesday 10th July. 08:54am

Theme: Abstract.

The time is 02:15am and I sit cross-legged, six stories in the sky, atop The Tower in my Asiatic peregrination. Curious thoughts progressed from push to shove to lead me here, I would otherwise be elsewhere, but that is of little significance. The sounds audible at this hour are stimulating to ones ears; so unaccustomed are we to merely stop and take the moment to listen, that only when we do, does one realise or appreciate the true nature of their surroundings. The primary sound for 360 degrees appear to be the city dogs extending their vocals into the early, still morning. A cockerel prematurely and repeatedly attempts to announce dawn. Scooters reverberate off the hard walled lanes and alleys. Water noisily flows from an over-full tank.

Streetlights offer their luminescence in a vague attempt to illuminate the hole-gaped streets, a never-ending battle until the awaited arrival of dawn. A window here and there glows behind a thin layer of dirty glass. The silhouette of the hills against the inky smoke-sponged sky offers an unfeeling embrace to the nest of buildings within. Red lights blink from the radio towers, now swallowed by the night.

On its own volition, my mind returns two days previous, to the rocks. The rocks that were caught in suspended animation, no longer free to fall, all momentum caught in an extended period of time. Brimming with potential. They were unable to fall, their downward force not exceeding their upward force; total equilibrium. Floating, but not. The rocks were completely uncommitted to falling, all effort exceeding their capacity to do likewise. So here I present Floating, read it as if you are caught in a moment, and for just an instant, extend your ears outwards and observe and perhaps appreciate where you are, just without the looking.










Title: Hanging Graveyard.
Location: Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Date: Monday 16th July.

Theme: Heritage the Environment.

Death is different for everyone. The way we deal with it personally and how we are affected, as I have come to realise, can be closely related to the culture in which we are brought up. For myself, I was taught that it is a natural part of life, without death there cannot be life and vice-versa. It is a part of a natural cycle that we are born into and the sooner we come to terms with, the easier one becomes accustomed to it. From my experience when someone dies we swiftly organise the body of the deceased to either be buried or cremated and have a small ceremony in memory of the loved individual; this usually taking place sooner rather than later.

In Toraja, the primary western province of Sulawesi, I have learnt that death is handled quite unalike to anything I have experienced before. It is firstly important to understand that in Toraja there is a 'caste' or 'class' system for the populace. Gold class consists of the Noble family/s of a village, Iron the warrior class and Wood the farming, working class. In this caste system, it is generally the Gold class that has extensive death ceremonies. The body of the passed relative will traditionally be wrapped in preserving herbs and stored in the south side of the Tonjkonan, the traditional Torajan 'family' building. The time period for the body being stored can range from a few months to a couple of years, and not normally longer as the body begins to degrade further. This is to allow relatives and acquaintances of the deceased to come to terms with passing. During this time, although the person is dead, the living residents will still interact on a social level; offering food at meals, conversing and the likes.

The body can only be laid to rest during certain times of the year; for example, during the rice harvest is a big no because the body would be considered to pollute the crop. During the ceremony a series of sacrificial offering will be performed to ensure the spirit of the deceased passes through, this generally consists of a large number of buffalo but there will also be other animal sacrifices too for the other ceremonies. During the ceremonies the buffalo will fight, usually until one buffalo runs away from the other.

From an outside western perspective, someone whom has never entered Asia let alone become immersed within the middle of such a rich and strong culture, to learn all these customs and ways has been a little overwhelming at times; pure sensory overload. However I find this is good, as my eyes are truly being opened to how diverse and different the whole world is.










Title: Good Vs. Evil.
Location: Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Date: Wednesday 19th July.

Theme: Ethnic.

In Balinese Hinduism the belief is that every person has the capacity and choice to do good or bad. With this being the concept that is widely acknowledged you may wonder, what it is that prevent the world from running amok, or any more than it already does? The answer is the parallel belief Karma. This is the sum of ones actions and deeds from past to present existence which will decide their fate come future existences. In short, it is the rule of cause and effect, do good and good be done to you, do bad and continue to exist in suffering.

This is a very brief account of a very deep subject. The Balinese understand that it is possible to do wrong, but in doing so there are consequences that are to be paid. By doing right or good the balance will shift, the bad will reduce and life will be more fulfilling. I find this image reflects this ideology cleanly, light and good one side while shadowed and dark the opposite.









Title: What is Food?
Location: Klungkung, Bali, Indonesia.
Date: Monday 9th July.

Theme: Food.

Monday morning and the group await downstairs, checked out and light bags packed, the majority of our weight being cameras and art material. An hour and a half bus-ride later and we enter the Klungkung regency, the name of the capital itself being Klungkung. After dropping off our bags we proceed to venture into the nearby hills, the green rice paddies passing by in a blur of green, the reflection of blue sky above captured on the surface.

Upon reaching our destination, we climb from our vehicles and walk the short distance down the hill to a bend in the road where a gate awaits, our local guide, Putri, whom lives in the nearby village pushed them open and beaconed us in. The air felt heavier, denser if compared with the cleanly filtered air of the car. This was one location where the locals worked, adults and children alike. It was the entrance to the local waste site. Upon the smoking mounds of burning waste, the animals grazed. Chickens accompanied by chicks, cows, their young calves and pigs tied to tyres roamed the area searching for food.

This is the reality for the third world of Bali. Poverty has its dirty little fingers extended far and wide and Indonesia is not exempt. The children will earn 5000Rp a day for collecting plastic, inhaling toxic fumes, exposing themselves to the risks of disease and the likes. That is the equivalent of 30c a day or 18p. From the waste site a child will find their clothes and shoes and even a meal if it is in an edible condition. And yet, you can't but wander why a child must be exposed to such? The answer is necessity. If the child does not earn the money then they cannot afford to go to school or contribute to buy food for the family. The local school was closed by the government because only 10 students could afford to go, the building now fallen into disrepair and a danger zone to the locals, a place where the children still play, the roof collapsed and a young family of pigs now the new tenants (or students, as Putri joked).

Yes, Bali and Indonesia as a whole does have the most wonderful, colourful and exotic foods, but I felt it an insult to those that live in the small village above the hills of Klungkung, to the families that cannot afford a sumptuous repast, only rice. It would be cruel to advertise such a stereotypical meal that is fit for a tourist; it would seem yet again unfair.