Honoring and Protecting Our Artists and Friends

Enormously spirited, free of charge, a fixture on the Denpasar calendar and favorite of informed travelers, the 2021 Bali Arts Festival (Pesta Kesenian Bali) was hanging in uncertainty right up to press time.

It was originally hoped that this, one of the world’s longest running cultural festivals, would begin next week with the annual wild parade around Lapangan Puputan Renon. The street party kickoff offersonlookers a preview of performances,though some acts appear in the parade only. It opensseveral weeks of musical, dance, and theatrical excellence at the festival grounds, Taman Werdhi Budaya Arts Centre in Panjer, Denpasar.

For a while, published dates were whittled down to just one week in June. It was touch-and-go, as the festival organizers developed a plan that would protect our valuable artists, performers, and their audiences.

The government has shown their commitment to safeguard the classical arts as well as the local traditions of each regency, right down to the most esoteric. CoVid-19 vaccination of performers became a top priority, and in Gianyar regency alone, 600 such artists have received at least their first jab. Highly specialized arts such as the Balinese language spoken word performance, and skilled Kriyaloka dance opera may not be on the typical tourist program, but these are part of the complex cultural fabric of this island and are part of each year’s festival.

The latest and appropriately optimistic news at press time indicates that the event is very much happening, and it will be a hybrid of online and offline performances. The current schedule has the event taking place June 12 through July 10, so step up and get your own vaccination or, if you simply can’t bear to wear a mask in public, distance yourself from crowds, and wash your hands, just please obey the law and tune in when the PKB announces the virtual sites to enjoy from home.

Key words to search for would be PKB, and Bali Arts Festival 2021, but sometimes Balitourismboardofficial on Instagram has a new post.

As a note for public gatherings of other sorts, be aware that abat press time, Bali’s CoVid19 infection rates are trending gently downward, but the country’s infection rates would not indicate the national pandemic is over. Those hopeful for established “green zone” areas of Bali, where tourism is expected to return first, are now looking more towards July and August.

This is not a health column, so if you would like to see what the known facts are, updated on a nearly daily basis, join the public Facebook group known as Bali Covid-19 Update. Even if this is the one single thing you use Facebook for, the admin’s curated selection of news reports and graphed government stats with grant you a greater local understanding of this public health emergency. Saving readers the overwhelm of internet searches and the stress and annoyances of chat groups, Bali Covid-19 Update’s informative and worthwhile reports are superbly managed by volunteer Jackie Pomeroy and her small team of researchers.

Knowing changes in regulations, knowing how to get vaccinated, knowing local and global travel restrictions, will keep our communities healthier. Not to mention, keep our hosts safe, and this unique culture intact.


Don’t neglect your local studio artists who are painting, drawing, and sculpting through good times and bad. It really takes a team of people to get a show together, and you will support a surprisingly large number of people if you devote a little time each month to seeking out the fine arts. Many exhibitions are promoted so close to their start dates that I am unable to include these events in my column.

So take renowned Indonesian curator Rifky Effendy’s advice and follow thesetwo current and promptly updated Instagram accounts. These should help you be more informed about when shows pop up.Artists are pleased to know their work is being seen:@senidibali and @baliartsroad.


At press time, I cannot announce if the fully vaccinated are able to attend upcoming ceremonies such as the June 7 Tumpek Wayang, or blessing of the puppets. It is my understanding that certain temples will be very active with this ritual, others not. Wayang priests are not in every village, but during this festival, there are those which feature sacred wayang shows at this time.   As always, don’t go anywhere where you will be possibly jeopardizing public health, or breaking custom and the law.   But if you have some puppets on your wall as art, perhaps this is the day to at least give them a dusting.

Photo by Nurmalinda Maharfar


A really sweet home-based ceremony in the Balinese calendar is Tumpek Kandang, which happens this July 3. This is the day for blessing domestic animals, and it is especially fun to see cows with their holiday finery. Some farmers may be able to afford only some palm leaf decoration for the horns, but others really go all out with special yokes that are really beautiful. Great photo ops will be had in the rural areas this day. Perhaps you’d like to have a Balinese friend help you plan for Hindu honors for your pets this day.


By Renee Melchert Thorpe

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