Aren’t You Glad You’re Not in China? (Or: Art and Culture Close to Home)

The future of Balinese art is looking healthy! Celebrating its 4th Anniversary, Yayasan TiTian Bali (YTB) continues to celebrate Bali’s visual artists and their creations. The foundation’s TiTian Art Space in Ubud is displaying the works of this year’s top Balinese artists right alongside some excellent young Balinese artists in their own delightful exhibition of juried works.

One winning artist is 13 year old Wayan Damar Langit Timur, whose father, Made Bayak, an accomplished artist in his own right, watched the boy take up drawing at age 3, and says he’s simply never stopped. Damar’s enormous monster, reminiscent of Lempad, takes pride of place in the show.

Serious collectors will be impressed by the adjacent room, where are displayed several exceptionally strong works competing for the adult TiTian Prize, Bali’s most prestigious distinction for established artists.

TiTian refers to stepping stones, an apt metaphor for the advancement of Balinese art and artists, right down to proper conservation of artworks and careful scholarship.   Exhibition ends 29 February, 9-5, closed Mondays, Jl Nyuh Kuning 5, 08113988444.

l Here’s a new take on Hari Raya Kuningan (29 February), the last hurrah of every Galungan. The village of Munggu (Seseh), will enact their Mekotek Festival. This ancient sacred ceremony has only recently been revived, since Dutch occupiers banned it out of fear of an armed uprising over 100 years ago.

In Bali’s great number of interesting rites of extreme macho, Mekotek is right up there. Its roots go back to the glorification and honor of the royal troops of Mengwi and served as a way to ward off evil. Today, though, the men will not be jousting with long iron spears, as did their ancestors. They’ll show their skills with long sticks of strong pulet wood.

Stunts that follow formal street parades are daring. Dozens of standing men anchor their sticks and push them together into a teepee-like stack of wood. One local volunteer then climbs the swaying cone and stays aloft, ostensibly challenging another group, riding aloft until the men below can no longer support him. Some get down safely, some not. No matter what, this is a wild spectacle.

l Big variety of local culture marks Denpasar’s anniversary party on 27 February. 232 years of the “South Market” city will be celebrated in Puputan Square. Music stage, various competitions and parades, food stalls, and a schedule of cultural performances are in store. All day, goes well into the night. Appropriate for visitors and locals.

l Jakarta’s own Java Jazz Festival, February 28 – March 1, arguably the world’s greatest jazz festival, is right in our front yard. International talents, a massive fairgrounds venue, and lively audiences make this orgy of music a bucket list proposition.


Two festivals just outside the wave break:

l The Perth Festival is in full swing (7 February – 1 March), and even the free cultural offerings are amazing. A highlight in the literature and culture department is debut novelist Tommy Orange, whose Pulitzer-prize shortlisted There There has won raves from all the important reviewers. He’s in conversation on 22 February with Paula Morris.

Orange is a member of the Oklahoma Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes, and there’s a deep power in his retelling of dislocation and genocide. The New York Times lauded     his work as “a tense, prismatic book with inexorable momentum.”

Ten budding literary critics grill their favorite authors in the Curated by Kids event in Perth’s Patricia Crawford Courtyard. It’s a free event on February 23 at 10 and 1.

For a vast array of offerings in music, theatre, family activities and art, go to

l If you decide to take a left turn out of Bandara Ngurah Rai, consider the 2020 New Zealand Festival in Wellington, an extravaganza loaded with first rate international culture. Might want to catch story-telling musician Laurie Anderson on 5 March in conversation with the extraordinary world music makers Horomona Horo and Shahzad Ismaily. Anderson is one of three guest curators of this year’s festival, and her contributions include a virtual-reality experience, an improvisational ensemble, an interactive soundscape, a film screening, and a concert for dogs.

On 6 March, you could check out symphonic masterpiece Here Comes the Ocean at the Michael Fowler Centre. Anderson collaborates with percussionist Ismaily, and this is going to be great! Based on the compositions of her late husband, Velvet Underground guitarist and songwriter Lou Reed.

On the literary front, check out the interview of Serhii Plokhy. Plokhy is a Harvard professor and author of nonfiction award-winning (Baillie Gifford Prize) bestseller, Chernobyl: the History of a Tragedy. His latest book, Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front: An Untold Story of World War II is hot off the press. 23 February, and all of these events are selling quickly at


By Renee Melchert Thorpe

Spreading art news? Make comments and suggestions by email:

Copyright © 2020 MALA Art & Culture

You can read all past articles of MALA Art & Culture at