Art Schools not Tourism Schools Bali as Creative HotShop or Cheap Holiday Heaven?


In Bali the opportunities for successful collaboration between foreign resident and local are many and varied. As are the avenues for dispute and disappointment, quite apart from the bureaucratic obstacles encountered along the way.

Of course property deals are the behemoth in the hallway of this particular villa. Suffice it to say that if a foreigner builds and rents out a villa for hundreds of thousands     of dollars over decades, while paying a peppercorn ent, that foreigner can hardly be surprised when the landowner wants to renegotiate the deal. On the other hand, if the deal was essentially fair and legally sound from the outset and the owner (or heirs) are hell-bent on dispossessing their tenant without reasonable discussion or compensation, then there are certainly grounds for grievance.

We sincerely hope the days of runaway villafication are a thing of the past. It was an aberration that benefited only the few and for which Bali continues to pay the price. The overseas wide boys having taken their profits have decamped for pastures new, leaving their local aiders and abettors to play the game as best they can, while ordinary Balinese and their grown children struggle to afford a home of their own.

If the glory days for the realty boys is not what it was, the commercial field for collaboration between foreigner and Balinese remains – full of opportunity, but studded with pitfalls.

Bali is a creative hot shop. It’s environment and skilled artisans make an attractive base for overseas designers, who bring the added artistic and commercial benefits that flow from the cross-fertilisation. Indonesia is remarkable in that it is one of the remaining places on earth where large numbers of its people still make beautiful things in their homes with their hands.

It is the real and the authentic that is the true luxury in this day and age – and Bali is uniquely situated to take advantage of this. But, for that to happen a creative meeting of minds on both the commercial and artistic levels is required.

One way or another Bali has evolved. It is not the place it was. How could it be? Theme park traditionalism, however you dress it up, is no answer. If Balinese cannot keep the rest of Indonesia out and they don’t relish the low-paid low-status jobs hardworking Javanese come here to perform, then they need to trade up. What makes Bali special is precisely that it embodies this creative spirit.

Why then, are so many of it’s young men and women packed off to get ho-hum qualifications designed to serve the F&B and tourism industries? This misallocation should be greatly reduced. Better by far young people starting out are schooled to create themselves or to obtain the skills needed to support creativity in general and creative exports in particular. Bali could then enlarge its role as a window on the world, where young people from the rest of Indonesia, particularly East of here, come to hone and develop their creative expertise.

For collaboration between foreigner and Balinese to work a basic cultural understanding is required that goes beyond initial intent and good will to address the merits and worth of respective input. Without this, a collaboration is unlikely to prosper. Many thriving business go down the drain as the local partner mistakes appearance for substance and gets rid of his foreign partner prematurely. And, how many sound businesses have foundered because an overly legalistic foreign party does not sufficiently involve or respect the input of his or her local partner?

The smartest and most sucessful self-made Balinese businessman I’ve met here was unusually adept in grasping overseas opportunities with no hang-ups about co-opting foreign expertise where necessary, in mutually advantageous deals and without ceding control.


Confiture de Bali – Sweet & Sour


Less than a year after penning a piece in these pages welcoming the opening of Chris Salens’ Spice resaurant in Sanur I was sad to see that it has now closed. This is Sanur’s loss as Spice provided not just delicious food but a very agreeable ambience in an excellent location. The culinary curse of Sanur strikes again….

I mention this because one of the pleasures of this restaurant was the open outside area where on occasion a Saturday market was held with stallholders selling natural produce and handicrafts. This was where I first came across the excellent jams made by Confiture de Bali, illustrating in miniature the opportunites and snags (referred above) of running a cross-cultural business in Bali.

Confiture Michele de Bali was a small company making jam in the traditional French way using fresh fruit and using only 30 percent added sugar rather than the sickeningly sweet 70 percent that is the norm. It was started back in 2013 by a French women and her Balinese co-founder with a small shop in Ubud selling a range of jams and nut butters and also cooking buckwheat crepes for customers to sample the jams. Each of the partners put in the respective expertise needed to make the concept prosper – and it did. The company now offers over 30 kinds of jam along with nut butters and kombucha. The prices are very reasonable for all the jams at Rp52K for a 330mL jar.

Recently I gather there have been some management changes involving a change of name and the departure of the French co-founder Michele and appointment of a senior Balinese employee to manage things.

When we bought our first delectable pot of strawberry jam at Spices market we were served by the manager who was pleasant and knowledgeable and it is she I imagine who is now running things. On subsequent occasions we buy the jam from stockists in Sanur which came with a stiff loading. Learning of the Renon branch I went online to find the address and ended up on the Confiture de Bali page of TripAdvisor. Having got the address I stopped to read the postings. All were uniformly very positive about the quality of the jams and everything else about their experience, while 30 per cent expressed some concerns at recent changes at the company. Another had concerns over changes in staff attitude, the broadening of product range and sourcing.

The trouble with online reviews is you never really know who and where the person posting is coming from and different folk have different tastes. All you can do is read between the lines and use your own judgement.

In this case, I hope the French co-founder has been fairly treated for she clearly played a large part in the setting up and success of the company. Management changes in any company, big or small, are unsettling and business objectives change over time, which can affect the products sold for good or bad. It depends who’s buying. For my part I’ll continue buying so long as price and product remain as good as they are, but am alerted that things could change.

In business as everything else, things change. In Bali, as a foreign resident, it is best to regard any co-operative venture as a temporary occupation. Enjoy it and any rewards it brings but… do not rely upon it as a portable asset. Unless we seek citizenship it is as well to work on the premise that we are guests here, that is to say here on sufferance, and thereby vulnerable should we outstay our welcome in any way.


Alternative Voice


Comments or queries


Copyright © 2018 ParacelsusAsia

You can read all past articles of Alternative Voice at