Mystery, Myth & Magic

The Balinese Gigolo

Culture | Jan 29, 2018

When he pulled up next to me, riding his big BMW bike, I immediately knew he was a beach boy, a “Kuta cowboy”, as we say here. His long hair was red from too much sun and salt. He was broad-shouldered, darkly handsome and looked straight into your eyes in an almost provocative way, very […]

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Penjor: The Meaning Behind Bali’s Decorative Bamboo Poles

Culture | Dec 16, 2017

The Balinese have a knack for displaying their religious spirit in various visual ways. Their rituals are so beautiful, indeed, that one sometimes wonders whether they are not almost a purposeless waste of beauty? They are actually, as we shall see representations of religious symbols. When Galungan day approaches, beauty comes to Bali in the […]

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Warni: Another Sad Story

Culture | Nov 20, 2017

People sometimes say that quarrelling is the salt and pepper of a couple’s life. Hardly a day goes by in Warni’s life when she does not quarrel with her Sasak man from Lombok (Sasak people are the main ethnic group from the island). They never set any special time for their daily fight: it might […]

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Why Are All Balinese Artists?

Culture | Oct 03, 2017

It is a truism to say that all Balinese are artists. Even though many are just villagers, it is a fact that almost all can carve, paint and play music. There are explanations to it. Most go back to the psychology days of anthropology, before World War Two. Such anthropology is criticised nowadays, but for […]

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Banten Jotan: An Offering for Good and Evil

Culture | Sep 22, 2017

The Balinese religion is dominated by “deeds” rather than thought, by orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy. In rituals thus performed, peculiar attention is paid to the offering of food to what are called the witnesses (saksi) of the world: the gods (dewasaksi); the humans (manusasaksi) and the demons (butasaksi). Most tourists have seen, conjured up by […]

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The Story of Gatot, The Javanese Barber in Bali

Culture | Aug 13, 2017

Gatot was really fed up with his job as’ a Kernet (conductor) of a run down Oplet (collective taxi) between the terminals (stations) of Banyuwangi and Pesanggaran, in East Java. Although he could sometimes, on good days, make as much as 40,000 rupiah (about 25.50 US$), he had also noticed that there were ever more […]

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Garuda: The Myth & The Symbol

Culture | Aug 10, 2017

  Garuda, Indonesia’s symbol. Steeped in both legend, mythology and modern symbolism the Garuda bird (be it the God bird of myth or Javan Eagle of modern interpretation) holds an esteemed position in the eyes and hearts of Indonesian citizens. Here, our culture writer Jean Couteau brings us closer to the story of Garuda of ancient […]

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Bodily Care in Bali: Toothbrushing, Delousing & Bathing

Culture | Jun 19, 2017

Balinese are nowadays basically like you and me. So when they kiss, it is on the mouth. Yet, if you pay attention, or are in the middle of a kiss, you may notice a difference. All of a sudden, and without understanding his/her logic, you may see your Balinese partner take himself/herself off your mouth, […]

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Changes in Balinese Religion: Hinduism Strengthens

Culture | May 16, 2017

When we talk about Balinese religion, we tend to immobilise it into intemporality, as if the kind of religious belief and practice that existed 100 years ago when the Dutch took over Bali, was still valid today. Of course the Balinese continue referring to a belief system that combines cult of ancestors and natural forces […]

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Caste in Modern Balinese Hinduism

Culture | Apr 03, 2017

Since the puputans (fight to the end) of 1906 and 1908, which destroyed the political system of Bali and integrated the island into the Dutch-run archipelago, the Balinese quadripartite caste system (Brahmana, Satria, Wesia and Sudra) has undergone many changes, some inherent to the economic transformation of Balinese society itself, other origination in the exposure […]

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