Sun, 15 Jun 2003

Balinese celebrate art festival's silver jubilee

Wahyoe Boediwardhana and I Wayan Juniartha, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

A beautifully staged procession on Saturday afternoon highlighted the opening of the 25th Bali Arts Festival, the longest-running annual arts festival in Indonesia.

With the devastating economic and social consequences of last year's bombings continuing to plague the island, the festival stands out as a glowing testament to the aesthetic perseverance, creativity and energy of the people of Bali.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri officially opened the event by releasing an arrow into a giant lotus flower, which unfurled its petals to reveal a beautiful dancer performing the Siwa Nata Raja dance.

In a speech during the opening ceremony, Bali Governor Dewa Made Beratha said the art festival's silver jubilee had been given the appropriate theme of Yadnya Chakra (Cycle of Offering), signifying the Balinese people's intention to maintain the unbroken chain of artistic creation.

The arts festival was first held in 1979, when then Bali governor Ida Bagus Mantra decided the government should provide the space and funding to promote local culture in order to nurture an aesthetic community.

"I believe the Bali Arts Festival is the only annual arts festival of its kind in the world that has managed to reach its 25th year. The reason for this is because the Balinese people have always given their full support to the festival. In fact, this festival is the people's festival all the way, not the government's," said scholar Prof. Dr. Made Bandem.

Bandem, who played a significant role in conceptualizing the festival during its early years, said the festival would serve as a cultural raft on which the Balinese could navigate the strong currents of globalization.

The Bali administration allocated Rp 2.5 billion (US$304,880) to finance the festival's silver jubilee. Some 147 troupes and 8,000 artists and performers from other provinces and countries will take part in the festival, which will run until July 13.

President Megawati also officially inaugurated the Monument of the Balinese Struggle of Bajra Sandhi and the Tanah Lot Temple conservation project.