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Our Global Neighbours: Distinguished Visitors Inspecting Balinese Paintings

By: Dr Stan Florek, Category: Science, Date: 13 Nov 2017

On Cultural Mission from Indonesia.

Visit: Professors W Djojonegoro and M Bandem, 2017 D

Visit: Professors W Djojonegoro and M Bandem, 2017 D
Photographer: Stan Florek © Stan Florek

Our Global Neighbours is a blog series comprising stories from and about cultures around the world.

A generous selection of Balinese characters: gods, villains, heroes and monsters were in full view again. With their spiritual and narrative ancestry in ancient Hindu scripture and bodily form and costumes inspired by Javanese shadow puppets, they dazzled our visitors and some of the Museum staff yet again with variety of ochre colours and snippets of amazing tales.

This time the images on cloth were “rolled out” for our distinguished visitors from Indonesia: Professor Wardiman Djojonegoro, former Minister for Education and Culture in Indonesian Government and Professor Made Bandem, former director of the art school in Denpasar and highly regarded scholar of Balinese dance and music. They were accompanied by Ms Zani Murnia, Indonesian Consul for Information, Social and Cultural Affairs. And for the occasion we were also joined by Professor Adrian Vickers and Dr Siobhan Campbell of the Southeast Asian Studies from the University of Sydney.

Balinese paintings with their uniquely original aesthetics have a special role in Indonesian culture and history, so much so that there is a plan to nominate them for the Memory of the World register - UNESCO initiative (since 1992) for a recognition of outstanding cultural objects, practices and traditions to ensure their preservation, wide public access and global appreciation.

The nomination would focus on a few major collections, from the Nyoman Gunarsa Museum in Bali, Leiden Ethnographic Museum in Netherlands and the Australian Museum in Sydney. The Australian Museum Collection of Balinese paintings is best researched and documented, most accessible and fully digitised. It is nice to think this amazing cultural tradition is likely to get a much wider public exposure and the appreciation it deserves.

In the meantime, our eminent visitors, and some of us here in the Museum will go to back to the proverbial drawing board to prepare a nomination, the best we can make. And this will present us with an opportunity to rethink, yet again, how to best describe and articulate importance of this wonderful artistic and cultural practice.