Sandy beaches stretching as far as the eye can see, magnificent temples, rolling rice paddies and the perfect surf. That’s Bali. At least, that’s the accepted image. The Tropenmuseum’s Bali – Behind the Scenes exhibition ventures beyond the tourist paradise to explore the island’s other faces. Featuring some 250 objects from the museum’s Indonesia collection alongside works by contemporary Balinese artists and the personal testimonies of island residents, the exhibition shows how this paradise is under pressure but also the resilience of local culture. On show from February 14.
The image of Bali as a latter-day Eden was carefully cultivated during the Dutch colonial era as a way of masking a painful past. Nowadays the Indonesian island is threatened by mass tourism, plastics pollution and the rapid urbanisation encroaching on its rice fields; problems that are replicated throughout the world.
But Balinese culture is as vibrant as ever. Palace treasures from the former kingdoms of Badung, Tabanan and Klungkung tell the story of Dutch colonial rule on the island. Early 20th century posters and photographs trace the way in which the image of Bali as an island idyll of peaceful village life, richly decorative temples and wonderful rice fields was carefully created and curated. Contemporary works of art and videos show the determination and optimism of the Balinese people and their dedication to their culture.
Balinese artist and activist Made Bayak draws attention to the problems of plastic waste with his ‘plasticology’ art. The Hindu priest Ida Dalem Parama Diksita shows how he seeks to preserve long-standing traditions and rituals. And I Dewa Ayu Putu Evayanti, who works in the tourist industry, talks about how she sees the future of an island where the rice paddies look set to disappear.