Bali: Gracefulness And Colour

Balinese dancers at the hotel entrance entertained us as we waited for our bus. I wasn’t sure whether it was specifically for our benefit or the usual Saturday night entertainment for hotel guests and visitors.

A burst of gracefulness and colour took me by surprise as two Balinese girls swayed onto the entrance of the Hotel Melia Bali, Nusa Dua. It was so refreshing.

This is my fourth post on the regional conference on ethical tourism that took me to Bali, the tourism mecca of Indonesia.

After the meeting we were bus-sed back to our hotel to get ready for the evening’s programme. Then back to the Hotel Melia Bali for the evening’s programme at the neighbouring Museum Pasifika also in Nusa Dua.

The elaborate headdresses or tiaras are beautiful as are the hand movements.

Whilst waiting for our bus at the entrance and hotel foyer, Balinese dancers gracefully swayed to Balinese gamelan music.

I was not able to get a good picture close up of this gamelan orchestra albeit a smaller one unlike the one at the cultural evening, ‘Desa Kala Patra’ on Friday evening.

The haunting sounds of the gamelan orchestra accompanied the graceful movements of the two Balinese dancers.

I wondered about the potential for these sorts of cultural performances at our hotels in Port Moresby in the evenings so guests can enjoy glimpses of our rich cultural heritage and diversity as well as the growing interest in more contemporary artistic endeavours in PNG especially among the younger generation.

Now that would be something. I think we may turn to more contemporary performances at hotels simply because of the logistics and fees perhaps. Anyway, it would a great way to showcase some of PNG’s rich talent.

The headdress or perhaps an elaborate golden tiara on the dancers head and the fan in her right hand must be the theme of the dance.

This was a cultural interlude and what a beautiful way to start our Saturday evening programme. Again I forgot to ask what kind of a dance this was.

There are many types of Balinese dance. What we saw was one type of dance. The costumes and headdresses or tiaras are quite ornate. With the colorful costumes  red seems quite prominent and am not sure if the colour red has some cultural or religious significance to the Balinese.

The expressive eye movements adds to the mystique of Balinese dance.

I enjoyed the performance although they were still dancing when we left for the Museum Pasifika.

I wondered whether we were going to witness another cultural performance or Balinese dance whilst in Bali as we were herded into two long lines in preparation for the short walk to the Museum Pasifika.

Bali: A Truly Memorable Cultural Evening

One of the stunning opening acts accoompanied by Balinese gamelan music. Hauntingly, beautiful to behold.

This is my third post on my brief visit to Bali for the Asia-Pacific regional meeting on Global Ethics in tourism.

This temple made an awesome and beautiful backdrop to the stunningly colorful performances that followed.

We managed to  make it to the cultural evening. Upon arrival at the festival we were whisked through to our seats before the event begun. Apparantly, this was no ordinary cultural evening. It was a culmination of several cultural events which you can read about in this article in the Jakarta Post.

This was the Opening of the 33rd Bali Art Festival with the theme ‘Desa, Kala, Patra’. We were so fortunate to be invited to this grand opening.

This was one of the posters I saw on the way in…

This was the explanation of the ‘Desa, Kala, Patra given by Mr Putu Wijaya, the Balinese playright of international renown at the inception of the Bali Art Festival a few years back:

“For the Balinese ‘Desa’ (space) is essential to indicate origins, links and directions. By tracing their space the Balinese discover their linkage to their homes, origins, ‘braya-pisaga-semeton’ (society, neighbors and family) and even with their guests. The space is also linked to ‘kala’ (time). Night and day, morning and afternoon, today and tomorrow can change, take form and make those links to time perfect. Finally ‘Patra’ (identity) also means situation and condition, instigating that space and time can be harmonized with what is taking place.”

“‘Desa-kala-patra’ is a value and at the same time, a universal approach. That it grows in the soul of the Balinese people, does not make it the sole property and right of the Balinese. Bali is only one of its choices, because this island is a meeting place for different races and ideologies from all over the world. ‘Desa-kala-patra’ comes to life not because it is discussed, taught, and made a doctrine, but because it is practiced. ‘Desa-kala-patra’ is like a formless soul that freely resides within the bodies of the Balinese without them being aware.”

After the President’s speech the concert began.

H.E. Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia giving the keynote address.

I am so glad we took the trouble to at least look culturallly appropriate, especially with the VIPs there and the President. This was a bonus and although I was not sitting too close to the stage I managed to take a few shots with my Nikon D90 which went with me wherever I went. I didn’t want to miss any great opportunities for taking nice shots.

The formal attire that evening. I was fascinated with the colors and styles down to the elaborate hair. Balinese fashion on display.

What fascinated me was the attire. The men in long-sleeved batik shirts and the women in exquisite fabrics that adorned their beautiful figures – these were figure-hugging and very elegant. They had beautiful hair adornments and the men wore Balinese ‘turbans’ on their heads.

Some of the VIPs that evening with the organizers of the event. Note the batik attire.

My limited Bahasa Indonesia captured some of the official speech by the President and others but not entirely – guess am out of practice. Nonetheless, the presence of the President at this festival was very important to everyone and especially the organizers. His presence no doubt gave the opening event  a very high profile and to the planned cultural and artistic events for that festival period.

One of the Balinese epics…awesome.

I was sitting too far away from the centre of action but managed to capture some of the beauty of the concert as it unfolded.

…the epic unfolded…

The setting was so apt. We found ourselves facing a temple which was appropriately decorated. A fitting backdrop to the performances that followed. 

Group after group took to the stage and entertained the audience. I was in 7th heaven! This is the life, I thought to myself.

Colour, sound and action!

We were given more small boxes which contained fruit and traditional sweets as well as bottles of water so we did not go hungry during the concert which took several hours.

I really felt looked after.

This was my only shot of the Balinese gamelan orchestra. I had to use the zoom and from where I sat not a bad shot although I’d have liked to take it from another angle.

The performances began with the unmistakable haunting sounds of the Balinese gamelan orchestra. These are instruments that resemble zylophones and there were the gongs.

Another performance graced the stage. Just love their costumes…so beautiful and delicate.

I was fascinated with the dancing and the epic story that was related through dance. The colourful costumes, the dances and the atmosphere was sobering.

I couldn’t help wondering how we could showcase some of our stage plays written by PNG playrights such as Kasaipwalova, Tawali, Kaniku, et al and how we should stage these in the villages and communities througout PNG.

The grand finale when the cast assembled on stage. What an evening, what an eye-opener. Part of the Bali experience. Without a doubt!

One thing for sure during this visit, we were very well taken care of.  Balinese hospitality knows no bounds. What a gracious people. What a privilege indeed.

On our way back to our hotel, the Grand Bali Nusa Dua, I reflected on the cultural extravanganza just witnessed and I realised that the opening of the festival showcased the profound spirituality of the Balinese.

‘The Crocodile Prize” Competition Finesses The Writing Talent of Papua New Guinea

The publication - 'The Crocodile Prize - Anthology 2011" - contains the literary expressions of 21 PNG writers

Behold! the conscience of PNG speaks from the shadows no more!

I was most privileged and honored to take part in the inaugural launch of ‘The Crocodile’ Prize Awards, which took place yesterday at the Australian High Commission. No-one would have known that on the grounds of the Australian High Commission, taking place behind closed doors was a birthing of the PNG writers’ collective resolve: to make writing as prominent as the eye can see, the nose can smell, the ear can hear and the mouth can spread the news, that PNG writers are not a dying breed. Far from it!

Keith Jackson (with glasses), Phil Fitzpatrick and our host HE Mr Kemish, the Australian High Commissioner to PNG

I found myself holding back my emotions as I gazed into the happy expectant faces of upcoming contemporary PNG writing pioneers and the assurance of the future of PNG literature. A group united in spirit to make their mark on PNG’s future and its destiny. I felt an overwhelming sense of oneness with this eclectic group of vibrant and perceptive writers whose country is the bedrock of the content of their literary expressions.

PNG writing has come of age, olgeta! The new generation has discovered its own ‘wave of motivation and inspiration’ to drive their literary talent into the public domain. Thanks in no small measure to Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick and the great support received through Keith’s ‘PNG Attitude’ blog that saw yesterday happen. It was a labour of love that was not in vain.

I could hear and feel in my spirit that for each of these writers their literary journey has truly begun. It was a long time coming. This is a journey that they most certainly will not travel alone. Wherever we are these are our voices too. We must lend them our strong support so that they can continue to give us, through their writing, the checks and balances we need to maintain, in how we relate to eachother as Papua New Guineans and how we should deal with the challenges that we advertently or inadvertently have brought upon ourselves and from which we are struggling to free ourselves.

I did not know many of them but when I started reading their works in the recently published ‘The Crocodile Prize – An Anthology 2011’ I realized that I do know them. I recognized the struggles, successes, uncertainly and so on that they are experiencing as they strive to understand where they have come from and where they should be going. Some of which I totally identify with.

Some of the writers. Russell Soaba in the foreground (with purple shirt) - he was one of the iconic pre-Independence PNG pioneer writers.

We are united through their interests and concerns from the political to social and communal issues to their spiritual belonging to PNG and their experiences while growing up in their villages, Port Moresby and other places in PNG as well as life in general.

The Anthology contains the literary expressions of, if you like, their reality.

These are the voices that need to be heard. As the winner of the Essay Award whose essay entitled ‘The Political Economy of Everything That’s Wrong in Developing PNG’ quite succinctly stated in his winning essay when he read to us an extract of his writing upon receiving his well-deserved award:

“…I don’t dream anymore, I am grounded in reality. I grapple with the facts as they are. Perhaps there are too many visionaries and dreamers such that no one is there to deal with the reality of life in Papua New Guinea. Even a vast majority of people who are trapped like me do not wish to deal with reality.”

How many of us public servants hear this ‘voice’, how many of us can understand this writer’s reality who are also grappling with the facts as they are but with a difference. To do something about it by raising our game to be more focused on public service and to make public service our reality so that we can move forward with mitigating or preventing this writer’s pain and many like him. They say that writers are society’s conscience. Has ours arrived or are they too late?

The day ended with the award ceremony kindly hosted by the Australian High Commissioner and his staff in the foyer area. The sight of the awards, a small crocodile figurine mounted on a rectangular wooden base and with a metal plaque, and with such meticulous detail was evidence enough that ‘The Crocodile Prize’ was here to stay. PNG’s literary renaissance would be a force to be reckoned with, without a doubt!

Thank you so much Keith Jackson, of PNG Attitude fame among his other illustrious achievements and of course avid writer and close PNG observer, Phil Fitzpatrick – both close friends of PNG with a passion for PNG writing and writers – for your  commitment spiritually, and financially that saw this inaugural literary competition come into being yesterday. To Keith and Phil, you must have felt like doting parents as your ‘child’ was born. Am sure that Patrick (Big Pat) Levo, Features Editor at the Post Courier felt the the same way too. Thank you gentlemen for your vision and for such an awesome result.

Lady Margaret Eri

One brief moving moment I experienced during the award proceedings is worth mentioning here. I wondered who else may have also caught the moment. When Lady Margaret Eri was asked, impromptu, to say a few words, she did so graciously and I found myself hanging on to every word she said. Lady Margaret  is the widow of one of the iconic sons of PNG. From her disposition, I can see that under that calm and collected exterior she would have been unmistakably the rock and the pillar of strength behind the late Sir Vincent. As she spoke in a quiet dignified and assured way, she mentioned that her beloved husband, the late Sir Vincent Eri passed away in 1993 and that this was the first time that such a significant gesture had been paid her husband. There were no dramatics just simply a statement of fact.

I was moved to tears. I don’t know why but one thing was for sure in my mind – we tend to forget our forebears and the endless possibilities they had opened up for us. We tend to take them for granted. It was truly an eye-opener what she said and a heart-rending reminder of what we need to do more often. Remember those who have blazed the many trails for us – that enabled and empowered us to pursue careers in almost every field of development, our passions, our preoccupations – great and small, our peaceful lifestyles, and above all a nation to be proud of as well as be part of which they had not allowed anyone to take away from us – our birthright Papua New Guinea.  Sir Vincent was one of the pioneers of our nation. Could remembering the trail blazers be another or new ‘wave of motivation and inspiration’ for contemporary PNG writing? Only time will tell.

With Mizraiim Lapa and Lapieh Landu - winner of the Dame Carol Kidu Award for Women's Literature.

The day closed with a small reception to celebrate the launch and the awardees. I was quite pleased that I had managed to get most of the writers to autograph my copy of ‘The Crocodile Prize – Anthology 2011” and took a few photos with them. What a wonderful fulfilling day.

With Keith Jackson - we were classmates at UPNG in the early 70s.

I went home feeling so uplifted. Of all the days during this week, yesterday had to be the highest point. It been the eve of celebrating PNG’s 36th national day, I realized what a fitting tribute the day was, (Thursday, 15th September, 2011) to a soon-to-become a better known group of artists – the PNG writers.

Hello, Papua New Guinea! The writers are coming!

The Turtle: Another Icon of the Pacific Islands

Miss American Samoa - this print really moved me

I realised how much the turtle means to people of the Pacific Islands when I saw the sarong designs and prints sported by the 2010 Miss South Pacific Pageant contestants in November last year here in Port Moresby. Here are some of the reminders on the Sarong and Talent judging evening at the Lamana Hotel.

Miss American Samoa - an award-worthy print!

There should be two additional award categories: one for the prints on the sarong and the other for sarong design. As you can see from these photos, the attention to detail and style needs to be recognized and rewarded.

Miss Samoa - stunning idea! The shell pattern on a turtle's back.

We can find turtles practically anywhere in the Pacific Islands – from Hawaii to Papua New Guinea. Each of us have a special connection to this marine animal. The turtles live in the sea and lay their eggs along the sandy beaches of our lovely islands. These prints and designs show that connection.

Miss Samoa - turtle clasps made of coconut shell or turtle shell on the sarong

What comes to mind when I watched the contestants in their sarongs and these designs and prints is that the turtle has a very significant place in the cultures, as well as the cuisine of the Pacific Islands.

Miss Tonga - a turtle print on her sarong - impressive print

In Samoa one of the top 10 tourist attractions is swimming with turtles. In Hawaii we find the legend of the sea turtle called ‘Kauila‘. I am sure there are a few legends and myths about of sea turtles that go beyond the Pacific Islands. That means that the sea turtle is a migratory species and can be found also in Asia and the Caribbean.

In some parts of PNG turtle meat and turtle eggs are a delicacy. In Daru, Western Province the popular turtle meat dish is called isi dou. I tried making isi dou wrapped in foil – not the real thing to use but the taste was exquisite! So I was told by my relatives who enjoyed the dish immensely.

I will end this post by sharing a great article on sea turtles which I am sure we can identify with – the protection and preservation of these animals and also a Fact Sheet titled “Sea Turtles of the South Pacific” published by the South Pacific Environmental Programme (SPREP) which gives an overview of the variety of sea turtles, life cyle and other very important information about these marine animals.

May the turtle live on and continue to be an icon of the Pacific Islands.

My First Ever Medieval Banquet

Medieval banquet - my first one on a wet rainy evening

 

I remember New Year’s Eve evenings when I was growing up as balmy evenings when we kids couldn’t wait for midnight to light up the ‘osiri’ (mature coconut palm fronds) which we would have prepared during the day of 31 December. We’d go to bed early in the evening, so that we could be up at midnight on 31 December to run to the beach and light up the ‘osiri’ and add to the cacophony of noise from people beating 44 gallon drums, saucepans,  which could be heard on the neighbouring island of Logea. 

Ordinarily, ‘osiri’ is used as kindling for cooking fires, barbeques and so on. 

Fast forward to London, 31 December, 2006. On the evening of NewYear’s Eve 2006, it was raining cats and dogs outside. I didn’t really want to hang around my flat although it was comfortable, warm and dry and of course I could have found some interesting New Year’s Eve programme on the telly or watch a video. Anyway, whilst wondering what to do on that rainy evening, a friend of mine called and asked if I’d heard of a medieval banquet at St Katherine’s Docks that evening and whether I’d be interested to go with her to one. Well, it did not take me long to decide that going along to a medieval banquet would be an exciting thing to do that evening and naturally, the prospect of learning something new, prevailed. The rain was of no consequence then as I prepared for my first ever medieval banquet in England – the land of medieval banquets. 

The weather seemed to have changed for the worst, was so heavy and torrential-like that evening! We waded through running water on the streets and our umbrellas were absolutely inadequate in the heavy slanting downpour. We braved it and found the nearest tube station. The dry carriage – away from the wet, cold and heavy rain outside was most comforting. 

Getting to the venue of the medieval banquet was rather long and in the wet I felt uncomfortable. Nonetheless we soldiered along. I was quite excited and wondered what a medival banquet was all about and whether we were going to see anything significantly interesting. We finally found the place after a very long walk…phew! However, after getting there we were told to hang around for another 20 minutes or so. Apparently, we arrived too early for the event.  After waiting around and admiring the boats in the mariner I think, it was time to head towards the banquet. We filed into a larger hall with lots of tables, balloons etc. 

o
The gowns were beautiful...

 

We hung up our coats and proceeded towards our tables. We were served soft drinks, wine and I think champagne. The place was a buzz. I took a look around as the tables filled up with people – one by one.  Some people came in elegant evening gowns, others dressed to kill and others like myself were, let’s just say, decent enough for another night out on the town. 

The king looked majestic...

 

After what seemed like ages, the food arrived. I enjoyed the food when it arrived…the dishes were like 30 minutes, or perhaps more,  in between as we ate our way towards midnight. The food was fine but was so long coming that I slowly felt less of being in a banquet and more like being in a high school mess hall! 

When the entertainment began I felt a flicker of excitement then that gradually died. The show was good but they must have been doing it for lots and lots of tourists  over and over again. I could tell from the results of the performance and the set up that perhaps this was a case of too much too often. Somehow I didn’t find the ‘wenches’ very convincing either. 

But I was glad to have done something exciting on New Year’s Eve and was so grateful to my friend. All in all, the meal took forever to be served and a rather mediocre performance didn’t really do it for me that evening. I think there were too many people – too crowded! 

The best thing I took away from the evening was a healthy appetite to find another medieval banquet that even if half authentic would be loads of fun. I’d prefer a smaller group of people with the dinner served on time. I reckon that is always 99%  of the enjoyment – speaking from experience! 

Last but not least, thank you e hoa for introducing me to my first ever medieval banquet in England.

Finally, St George’s Day

Balloons outside a pub reminded me that it was St George's Day

With all that happens in a day, yesterday was no exception. The usual meetings, the phone calls, paper work, lunch break and responding to emails. Now that was a day at the office.

In the evening, I had volunteered to work behind the bar at the staff social club which was the venue of a cultural night to raise funds for a good cause. I served drinks for about 3 hours – now that’s a lot of hours mixing and pouring and running around making sure that the empty cans, bottles and dirty drinking glasses and plastic cups are removed from the tables and disposed off in recycled bins etc. I also made sure that the liquor bottles were safely stored after mixing drinks so the bottles are not in danger of being knocked over and broken – that will be a health and safety issue. Also important is to make sure there is enough change in the till. I made the ice in the ice bucket is replenished everynow and then and the shot glasses are clean for the next customer.

A single rum, a double whiskey etc

Throughout the time I was manning the bar, the drinks flowed and people were happy with the service – I’d like to think. Key indicator – no yelling for attention! I too was happy because I wasn’t rushed off my feet. The fund-raising event kicked off and all went on swimmingly which is always a plus when lots of people come to enjoy an evening with a difference and not just the usual crowd on a Friday evening at the club.

After a great evening I handed over the baton to another bar volunteer and headed off for the tube station. I was walking up when I noticed a cluster of red and white balloons outside a pub. OMG! It dawned on me that it was St George’s Day! It came and went with my day and I did not even notice – what a shame! At least, this small reminder in a corner of London reminded me of St Georges Day. Pity I didn’t get to do anything special or have a celebration drink.

Through the windows of a pub...so it was St George's Day...completely missed it. Pity really.

23 April is St George’s Day but it is not a public holiday. However, the day is celebrated with English flags which is a white rectangle with a red cross in the middle are displayed inside and outside pubs, hair salons, offices etc. St George’s Day has an interesting history and a a kind of fantasy story behind it featuring a dragon. Took me back to Brownie days on Kwato Island in PNG.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day One Way Or Another

Valentine Hearts

 

 I’ve heard of Valentine’s Day but never so utterly overwhelming than when here. It happens every year on 14th February. There is a whole culture and tradition surrounding this special day for sweethearts, married couples, and all those in love or with someone special. I see red balloons in shops, and offices, hair salons etc. Some people expect to receive cards and some expect to buy cards for their special someone. Some plan elaborate or simple meals to celebrate the Day.  I still haven’t figured out what kind of celebration this is – religious, secular, spiritual?    

It’s also a celebration for sales I’m sure. Those making and selling Valentine Day cards, balloons, knick knack, toys, mugs, cakes etc. I wonder how much money stores, restaurants, bakeries etc make from this celebration.    

'Roses are red...' - symbols of romance

 

 I went to buy a card in a very popular card shop along the Strand in London yesterday afternoon and my, oh my, I was spoilt for choice! There were so many Valentine’s Day cards on display under ‘his’ and ‘her’ categories. It took me a long time to find the right one. Not only was I spoilt for choice but some of the messages were just so corny. I wished there were Valentine’s Day cards without messages so I can pen my own. On the other hand I could have opted to make one myself  – hmmm…food for thought. Anyway, after 30 mins I finally found the card I considered quite appropriate, paid for it and then wondered around the shop. I took some photos of some of their decorations – quite creative and there was excitement in the air!    

I decided to find out more about this fascinating celebration so I surfed the web. There isn’t a single story about how, why, where and when Valentine’s Day began. I found this website which has distilled the information on this supposedly most romantic day of the year – http://blog.cleveland.com I am sure there are other websites on the net which you can check out for the history of this celebration of romance.    

I read a couple of blog posts written by a few people who do not like Valentine’s Day for their own reasons. Fair enough. But I am convinced that it is a good thing. I’d like to view the celebration as a time of reflection about people we care about. It is a time to remind ourselves that the people we so often hurt most are the ones who are the closest so I find that Valentine’s Day is a good time to tell the special  someone in our lives what value and richness they bring  to our lives. One way or another, I think it is a celebration of romance underpinned by gratefulness, appreciation, commitment, faithfulness and love.    

Happy Valentine’s Day!    

The all-important message...