One of the things I love about Bali is the fact that there is literally no limit to what you can do here. Not only there is something for everyone, but the possibility of what you can experience is utterly endless. This is one of the reasons for many people to come to Bali for vacation, and then ended up moving to the island for good (although it does take some legwork). Whether this is your first visit or 3rd year living in Bali, learning some of the cultural craft just like the Balinese does can enhance your experience to a whole other level. It’s not just about the crafts itself, but also embracing the environment and togetherness surrounding the art of creating one. The following Balinese crafts are normally done in groups, and often a part of religious or cultural festive celebration.
Canang Sari is a part of daily Balinese praying and offering ritual. You can buy this in local market or little shops on almost every street. However, many families still make their own Canang Sari on a daily basis, especially those who lives in a Balinese Compound. The ladies sit around together on the porch or bale of the compound and make this Canang together while chit-chatting about their days – basically, hanging out and being girls. The art of making Canang is passed down from mother to daughter through generations, so to have a Balinese woman teaching you how to make Canang is a huge privilege! Plus you get to work with colorful flowers that smell heavenly.
For Balinese Hindus, Penjor is a devotion to the Almighty Creator that also symbolizes the prosperity of the Universe.
Installed one day before Galungan, the Hindus seek to make the most beautiful Penjor in order to express their sincerity when crafting it. The making of Penjor is usually done by men, although women of the family also have their roles in crafting parts of the offering and decoration. Using mainly bamboo and coconut tree leaves, it really takes a skill to create a beautiful Penjor; hence the Balinese take pride in their Penjor very religiously. Should you find yourself interested in learning to make one, you will also experience the excitement of entire family taking part in the cutting, decorating, and the pride of erecting one together.
Approximately a month before Nyepi Holiday, the young Balinese men gather in the Banjar to create ogoh-ogoh to paraded and then burned on the eve of Nyepi Holiday. The giant ogoh-ogoh is also competed against so each Banjar thrive to make the biggest, tallest, and most magnificent demon looking paper mache statue year after year. Crafting this giant doll made from bamboo frames and paper mache is no easy task; ensuring it would stand is another challenge. It’s an honor for the youth to be chosen to take part in making ogoh-ogoh so learning this highly prized skill would be something unique you’d have the right to brag about.
There’s something about Balinese men and creating giant things. Aside from Ogoh-Ogoh, young Balinese men gather at the Banjar to make a giant Kite which will be battled against during Kite Festival season. Each Banjar usually has a Kite Team consisting of at least 10 men. They do take this Kite Festival and Competition very seriously! In order to be in the team you need to be fit to carry the Kite, and also have a balanced and happy life as they believe this affects how well the Kite would fly, and how pretty the sound it makes as it dances with the wind. The way they show their religious devotion through art and beautiful occasion is one to admire of the Balinese Community. Yet another thing to take under your belt to show how cool it is to make an enormous kite that will fly and sings the song of sunshine and love.
The first time I learned Batik was in Jogjakarta, and I was taught by an old lady who was very patient and thoughtful in teaching me. Balinese Batik is rather a newer addition to the culture compared to Javanese Batik. However, it has its own unique mark and style with variety in levels of difficulty. Batik making classes can easily be found as part of a cultural tour. This art of Batik making is not a skill everyone learned. It takes passion and dedication for a Balinese to choose to be a Batik Artist. Imagine the pride of wearing a Batik clothes you crafted yourself.
I was once invited to a cooking preparation of a big ceremony in a Balinese Village. The entire member of Banjar gathered as early as 4am in the morning and start preparing the food that will be served as the ceremony feast. This was an opportunity I enjoy immensely; not only because I get to taste the special ceremonial food, but also become a part of making it. The men, women and children all have different roles in preparing this food. They are divided in groups. The men are responsible for slaughtering and cleaning the pigs, some cutting the meat, making spices, putting meat in skewers, and cooking or grilling them. The women prepare the rice, snacks, and make coffee for the men. Children serve coffee and cigarettes for the men, delivering them in trays. This is a next level cooking lesson experience that simply cannot be compared to other Balinese cooking classes. They said the best food is made with love; well, the Balinese put their heart and soul on their ceremonial dishes, thus making it impossible to compare the taste to Balinese cuisine you find in restaurants.
Have you ever taken part in these activities? Is there another craft you’ve learned while touring Bali?
Let us know in the comments!
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