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On my last visit in 1978, Bali was a final restful haven at the end of a year long trip away from Australia. During the week at Kuta Beach, we travelled around the southern part of the island on the bema with Balinese people, communicating in sign language and a few broken phrases of Indonesian. I saw a rich culture and met generous, kind people. It was a place to relax and feel safe. I left, vowing to return.

Thirty four years later, much has changed. There is a lot more traffic. Motorbikes and mobile phones are everywhere. Where once there was open countryside in the journey from the airport, there are now only buildings, haphazardly constructed, jostling one another tightly for space along the roadside. My first impression is that the Bali I knew had gone.

But on closer observation, there is evidence of deep beliefs beyond the materiality of tourism. Every morning there is a palm leaf offering filled with richly coloured flowers and fruits sitting in the dirt outside the gate into the hotel. Today, at the Bali Art Festival, a young man made a quiet space in a busy shop as he sprinkled water and said a silent prayer. It is this practice that has drawn me to Bali.

Currently in art, I am exploring the deep connectivity to place, and the special synergic relationships Australians have with land. As a farmer’s daughter, I saw my father clear, till, nurture and love his land. He knew his land through journeys – travelling paddocks to plough, spray, reap, check his stock and visit his waterholes (dams and bores). He listened to the land, and respected its capabilities. My work seeks to show and honour this connectivity. I am hoping the Bali Studio will provide an opportunity to see how the Balinese people interact with their environment through their deep spiritual beliefs that are centred in the Hindu faith. In 2011, I was privileged to work for a short time with the visiting scholars from ISI Denpasar while they were on exchange at UWA. This provided a small glimpse into the traditional culture of Bali and I realised their spiritual beliefs pervade every aspect of their daily lives, including their art practices. I believe a deeper understanding of Balinese culture and its art will enrich me and my own art practice.














Title: Offering
Location: Bali Art Festival
Date: 26 June 2012

I came across this offering, recently made, still burning alongside a busy walkway in the Bali Art Festival. It was evidence of a quiet, private moment of contemplative prayer in a public space.

The aesthetic look of offerings is very important. Small pieces of fruit are carefully composed with flowers and leaves, and bright colours and different shapes are harmonised into pleasing arrangements.

This photo was taken using a hand held Canon 5DX Mark II. ISO setting: 200. Shutter speed 5.6.











Title: First Light
Location: Sanur Beach
Date: 25 June


The beach is crowded. Families and students mill about, waiting expectantly, cameras in hand, staring towards the horizon for the sun to surge forth. As the grey light brightens, the dark ocean begins to lighten and quiver silver.

As an artist I am particularly interested in the momentary quivering silver – the interplay of light and shadow that occurs on wet sand at dawn and dusk. At these times we are often so fixated on the horizon that we fail to notice the subtle, delicate colour transitions occurring at our feet.

This photo was taken using a hand held Canon 5DX Mark II. ISO setting: 50. Shutter speed 2.8.








Title: Universal Culture
Location: Banjar meeting
Date: 29 June 2012

The body is considered to be seventy percent water so Balinese Hindus pray through the mantra of water. They believe water is essential for purification and that dance calms the body. In the circle of fingers the young dancer is capturing the blessing of the life force from the universal God, Shiva – the gift of water – and in her open, outstretched hand she is releasing the blessing into the earth for all to share.

‘We breath the same air. We see with the same light. We hear the same voices (sic). We drink the same water.’ Cultural lecture delivered by Deakan Ni Made Rinu at the Banjar meeting held in the Ashram, Bhrata Wijaya.

This photo was taken using a hand held Canon 5DX Mark II. ISO setting: 160. Shutter speed 4.0.








Title: Tiga Textures
Location: Bali Museum
Date: 26 June 2012

The foundation of the Bali Museum was laid in 1925 by the Dutch, the Balinese King and local artists, with the purpose of preserving ancient artefacts from early Hinduism and Buddhism cultures. However, I didn’t actually enter the museum because the micro elements in courtyard walls and on the statues were so fascinating.

The mottled gray stone/concrete was covered in splotches of white and black lichen. In parts the stone was powdering to a creamy dust, while some bricks were crumbling, exposing a coarse, rich orange hue that contrasted with the solid, intricately carved wooden doors.

I deliberately divided this photo into three textures and colour elements like the tiga that is a fundamental part of Balinese culture and religious life.  In Bali, for example, the body has three sections – the head that is the sacred or private place, the body which is semi-private and the legs that are public.

Shooting close up meant that only one small section is in focus. The blurred image becomes an interplay of colour and texture rather than a record of a specific, historic building.












Title: Bali Coffee
Location: Alam Bali Agriculture
Date: 1 July 2012

Being a farmer’s daughter, I am particularly interested the spices, cocoa, tea and coffee we saw at the Alam Bali Agriculture coffee plantation. I picked ripe coffee beans off the bush, and for the first time tasted the sweet, red fleshy skin, spitting out the raw coffee beans inside. We saw raw beans being roasted and were told about the different varieties of coffee grown and processed – Arabia, Bali and Luwak.

Afterwards, we were given small glass cups of small unsweetened cocoa, a rich milky latte style coffee, very sweet but flavoursome ginger and lemon teas and a full bodied, slightly gritty Bali coffee to taste. To take this photo, I aligned the cups, making sure all the handles were precisely in parallel. I wanted the single front cup of Bali coffee to be in sharp focus and the background to dissolve into a hazy blur. In composing this photo I aimed to acknowledge an important local agricultural product – Balinese coffee.











Title: Harmony
Location: Museum Rudana
Date: 3 July 2012

On our arrival at the Museum Rudana we were greeted by Bapak Wyan Muka. He was dressed for ceremony, ready to visit the temple because it was full moon, a time of special prayers and offerings.

On his right hand, Bapak had an extremely long thumbnail. When asked about it, he said he had four daughters and one son, and the nail which is hooked, almost dagger like in appearance is to protect his daughters. He went on to say that he is a landowner, and in his will he has bequeathed one half of the land to his son and divided the remaining half between his daughters so in future they will always have security and a safe place to stay. Apparently it is unusual for Balinese females to own land and he has secured their entitlements with legally enforceable documents.

As he escorted us around the Museum (which is actually a private fine art gallery owned by an artist with the government conferred title of Maestro), Bapak spoke about his Hindu faith, explaining how the internal organs of the human body need to be in harmony with one another in order for man to achieve ‘a plane of transcendental desire where God resides’. Mental harmony can only be attained when knowledge and experience are in equilibrium. With this balance, communion becomes a ‘living river’ between God and the soul within the body.

In this photo, I hope Bapak’s intense gaze and outstretched hand portray a deeply religious man of faith and integrity who is reaching out, telling others that God simply, ‘is’.









Title: Lak Lak
Date: 27 June 2012
Location: Bali Art Festival

Theme: Food

Lak Lak are steamed, slightly rubbery pancakes. At the Bali Art Festival they were cooked in cast iron griddles that were heated over open fires. Halfway through cooking, each individual pancake was covered with a cone to ‘steam’ them and facilitate rising. They were served on a banana leaf, garnished with freshly grated coconut and palm sugar syrup. A delicious Indonesian snack!

250 g rice flour
250 ml hot water
600 ml hot coconut milk
2 tbsp pandanus leaf juice or green food colour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
100 g brown or palm sugar 
150 g sugar
1 pandanus leaf
300 ml water
100 g grated coconut steamed with ½ tsp salt

1. Place rice flour in a bowl and gradually pour hot water while kneading by hand, add coconut milk gradually and continue kneading until you get smooth thick batter.

2. Add the pandanus leaf juice, salt and baking powder and mix well.

3. Heat a small wok (made of clay or Teflon), pour 1/2 soup spoon of the batter, cook, cover the wok until done, set aside.

4. Arrange the Lak Lak on serving dish, scatter grated coconut on top and pour brown sugar sauce on it.

5. To make brown sugar sauce: in a sauce pan put brown sugar, sugar, pandanus leaf and water, bring to boil, sieve and boil again until thick.

These photos were taken using a hand held Canon 5DX Mark II.  ISO setting: 200. Shutter speed 5.6.












Name: Valdene Buckley
Title of work: Blue light
Date of work: 29 June 2012
Location: Jl. Siulan, Gg. Nusa Indah IV No.4, Denpasar, Bali

Theme: Architecture

After the Banjar meeting where we were inducted into the philosophy of Balinese Hinduism, I changed from the special ceremony clothes in the upstairs bedroom of the beautiful home of Sri Hasta Dhala and Dra Ni Made Rinu. It is a gracious house that blends traditional Hindu craft into a modern, functional home, showcasing the best art and sculpture of Bali. The rooms are ordered and neat except for the fine art works that are stacked everywhere, several deep along the marble walls and against the hand carved timber staircase.

In the upstairs sitting area, the warm tones of the striated cream and brown marble walls and the ornately carved gilded timber balustrade were muted by the diffuse light seeping through three wall vents. The room was bathed in an eerie bluish haze. Reviewing the photo, I was surprised to see three blue after-images floating mid air in the photographic plane. Mirroring the vents, they had a mystical, other world appearance that subdued the modern architecture.

sEarlier at the Banjar meeting we had been taken down to a meditation room below the meeting space. There we are shown a photo that had a revered place since mysterious blotches had inexplicably appeared in the print. It was considered to be a message from God. I was stuck by the parallels. The Banjar meeting had been such an extraordinary event that I was left wondering if these after-images were also a message – that the mystical has a place within modern buildings.











Title: Inside a Tongkonan
Location: Sillanan, Tana Toraja, Surawesi
Date: 15 July 2012

Theme: Ethnic

This photograph shows two of the three interior spaces in a tongkonan – the traditional family dwelling in Tana Toraja.

Tongkonan houses are designed so they comply with traditional, symbolic beliefs. Torajans believe each house represents the microcosm where philosophy and values begin so that it is critical it is correctly aligned in the macrocosm of the universe. Since the creator, Puang Matua is believed to live in the north tongkonans always face north. The south part of the house is associated with the afterworld (heaven, or Puya) whereas the west and the east are thought of as the left and right hands of the human body. While there are no physical divisions for the west and east – offerings to the gods are always made to the east of the centre line and offerings to the ancestors on the western side of the house.

The photograph shows the southern and middle divisions of an ordinary tongkonan, (since the interior is all on one level). The parents sleep in the southern, far end. This is also where valuables are kept and if a person dies, their embalmed body is stored until they are buried. Apparently, it is common practice for bodies to be stored for several months so that the funeral can be conducted after the rice harvest. The family consider the dead person to be merely sick – they sleep with the body, talk to the deceased person, tell jokes and offer food. The middle division is the children’s room and the place where visitors to the tongkonan sleep, and the entrance space, where the photograph was taken is used for cooking and eating. Comfort does not seem to be a priority in the traditional dwellings – families sleep on hard wooden boards, and cook on open fires in dimly lit interiors.









Title of work: Tabang
Date of work: 18 July 2012
Location: Ratutumanga Mountain, Tana Toraja, Surawesi

Theme: Food/medicine

This beautiful Alizarin crimson plant is everywhere in Tana Toraja. It is grown in most gardens and alongside the road. At the house ceremony we attended, I noticed it was used to decorate the upright bamboo poles on the pig carriers.

Tabang is a sacred plant in Torajan society, revered for its healing properties. It is especially important in the house ceremony. As part of the highest ritual, one senior person, possibly the Torajan village priest makes a single, sharp incision across his belly or his tongue with a long knife. Only the Tabang leaves can be used to heal this wound. Nowadays, only about twenty percent of house ceremonies feature this ritual since it is not practised by Christian families.

I took this photo in the early light on Ratutumanga Mountain when the crimson leaves contrasted with the deep green in the surrounding foliage, providing a glow of warmth in the chill of the dawn.