An island blessed by the Gods:
Balinese people are mainly Hindu and their ancient animist traditions are still very present. They are very close to nature and devote a lot of time to offerings and prayers. A lot of altars can therefore be seen near trees, rivers or even on a road crossing, with a view of appeasing the bad spirits. There are also a lot of temples, as every house has its own. The biggest ones are Besakhi, Uluwatu or Tanah Lot.
Ceremonies, rituals and Balinese celebrations regulate day to day life. Each Balinese follows several rituals like teeth filing, marriage and cremation which all lead to magnificent processions.
A peculiar economy:
Until the middle of the 20th century, rice was Bali's mainstay. Around this time, the government encouraged diversification by exporting coffee, vanilla, tobacco or cloves. Marine resources have also been exploited in the south and fishing remains traditional. There is no industry on the island, except in the South where we find small textile and furniture businesses. Hand craft is an important activity principally destined for tourism and exportation. Tourism has been a big part in Balinese economy over the last 30 years representing about two thirds of the island's resources.
A hive for artists:
Art, such as painting and music was initially only destined for secular purpose. Many western artists present in Bali early in the 20th century deeply influenced Balinese art, like for example Walter Spies, painter and musician, or the Dutch painter Rudolf Bonnet. Nowadays, many Balinese painters and sculptors propose their art to visitors and for export.
Living their life:
Balinese dances very often narrate episodes of Indonesian mythological or historical stories. Accompanying music is specific to the island. The orchestra, called "gamelan", mainly comprises percussion instruments, such as gongs or metallophones and is often accompanied by flutes.
There are 4 main dances:
· The Legong: in the past, this dance was reserved for palaces and followed some extremely precise rules. The female dancers always keep their mouths closed. However, eye movement, as well as hand and finger movement are very important. The Legong dancers wear magnificent gold embroidered costumes and flower decorated headpieces. The dancers are usually all very young.
The gestural precision requires a long and arduous apprenticeship. The eye and hand movements demand perfect coordination. In addition to the amazing costumes, the dancers carry fans or flowers in small bamboo woven baskets.
· The Baris, meaning "warrior" in Balinese. This dance is performed by young men. Despite its warrior nature, we can admire this dance in temples during religious celebrations.
About 100 dancers are sitting in a circle around a fire and create the dance rhythm with a "tchac-tchac-tchac" noise, imitating thereby the monkey's scream.