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Monday, 30 June 2008

Bali Culture Festival 2008

30 years of developing and preserving Bali's arts and culture

For the people of Bali, June and July are identical with the Bali Culture Festival (Pesta Kesenian Bali, PKB). In 2008, the festival will celebrate its 30th anniversary. No discussion of the PKB can fail to mention the late Prof. Dr. Ida Bagus Mantra, who initiated it in 1979 while serving as Bali's Governor. The idea arose from the fact that as life becomes more globalized, cultural contact becomes inevitable. His vision was that this cultural contact should not be allowed to destroy the nation's cultural identity; he felt that Bali's culture, with its emphasis on traditional arts and culture in daily life, could and should be maintained and developed.

The Bali Arts Festival is, therefore, not just a means for preserving the arts and culture of the past, but also for delving into their heritage and creating new manifestations.

In Bali, artistic activity is found in all aspects of daily life, as part of the local people's devotional offerings to God, known as Yadnya. They strive to constantly offer their best, based on their sincere devotion born from their culture as the wellspring of the community's mutual love and spiritual civilization. The Bali Arts Festival has survived for 30 years thanks to this spirit, known in Bali as ngayah.

This popular festival is both intracultural celebration for the Balinese themselves and a national and international intercultural event. As it has developed, the festival is no longer just a medium for preserving and developing the arts of Bali; arts from outside Bali and even from abroad are also displayed. The purpose of this is to foster the community's appreciation and achieve a level of artistic maturity and appreciation that accommodates positive aspects from outside to enrich and expand the vocabulary of Bali's arts.

This year's Bali Arts Festival runs from 14 June through 12 July 2008 and takes the theme Citta Wretti Nirodha, meaning "self control leading to balance and harmony". The major events of the festival include a cultural parade, performances, contests and parades, exhibitions, and symposiums. It will also coincide with several other national and international events.

International events include the World Wayang Festival, the All-ASEAN Ethnic Music Festival, and the Bali Cultural Congress, while national-scale events include the Java-Bali Student Arts Festival and the Festival of Traditional Regional Artworks by members of Mitra Praja Utama.

The Bali Provincial Culture Office has announced that to date, 12 foreign arts groups and 20 provinces from Indonesia are scheduled to take part. Even so, the arts of Bali will still dominate a majority of the performances, with local artists from all eight regencies and one city in Bali – an estimated 12,000 artists during the five weeks.

The Culture Parade kicks off the PKB each year, at Puputan Margarana Square, Renon, Denpasar, right in front of the Monument of the Balinese People's Struggle. Most of the other main events will take place at Taman Budaya Bali (Werdhi Budaya), better known locally by the English name Bali Arts Center. The cultural parade that opens the PKB tends to be far better known to tourists than the five weeks of performances that follow at Taman Budaya. Tourists tend to neglect these performances; the audience is mostly Balinese. Although it is not meant purely as a tourist attraction, if you are alert, you can see a great variety of arts during these five weeks – art forms reconstructed from the past, innovative new creations, cultural attractions, and appreciation of local communities' arts and culture. Aside from performing arts, there will also be exhibitions of products of small-scale industries and household handicrafts.

It's no coincidence that the festival is held in June and July, during the long school holidays in Indonesia. As well as attracting tourists and other adult visitors, with this timing the festival hopes to draw the nation's youth to witness the events, so that the PKB will truly be a means for preserving and developing Bali's culture and transmitting it to future generations.