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.

Girls in Green: Irish Dance

Agility, energy, litheliness and youth. What a joy to watch these young girls perform.

I’ve only ever seeing this type of dance on TV. For some reason when I was in UK I didn’t get a chance to see any Irish dancing. I perhaps was not adventurous enough but that’s for another trip I suppose.

Calls for agility of limbs! Ouch, my aching bones...

I was so happy to run into these group of young Irish dancers on Queen Street Mall, Brisbane, Australia on 17th March which also happens to be my birthday.

I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the dancing girls in green, purely by accident.

I wasn’t sure whether they were dancing to raise funds for a cause or something.

There was a sort of bucket where the girls were dancing  but I didn’t have time to read what it said.

It seems that more and more  young people these days are taking their art – either visual or performing to the streets. This augurs well for the perpertuation of the arts in any culture. 

I am sure that we have groups here in PNG such as Paluai Suksuk and the Bougainville Bamboo Band and accompanying dancers who perform at various functions around the city. 

I wish I were 10 years old again!

The dancing is energetic and footwork seems to be the epitome of good Irish dancing or probably more correctly, Irish Dance. I wondered how much practice they need to perfect their steps and at what age they started dancing.

One of the features of this group of dancers that struck me was their age. Young people keeping their traditions.

Looks easy but I bet it took ages to perfect this step. Well that's from someone with two left feet!

Some cultural dancing groups in PNG have begun to ensure that their young people get to showcase their cultural dances such as the recent Palaui Suksuk Dancers from Manus at the National Cultural Commission-sponsored corporate dinner at the Dynasty Restaurant at Vision City.

This is one of those ocassions I relish when in another country. You don’t know what you will find but but if you get out and about you may come across something like this. Mostly it would be something artistic or creative and this was one of those ocassions. I enjoyed the dancing and considered myself rather fortunate to have witnessed it.

They make it look so easy.

A very pleasant interlude to a whirlwind shopping spree at Queen Street Mall, (Brisbane, Australia).

Wokabaut Long Brisbane

The City in the background. Crossed the bridge from South Bank. It was a relaxing walk and one I really enjoyed taking in the sights over the River.

When in Brisbane, one of Australia’s  beautiful cities, it is a  must to try the City Cat, many of these boats or catamarans ply the River and are a very convenient and inexpensive way to travel (no traffic!) or drop by one of its glitzy shopping streets in the heart of the city.

The City Cat - a very convenient, fast and inexpensive way to travel up and down River. Each of the Cats has an indigenous Australia name which is interesting and they have the explanations of names on board.

Walking along Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall, or  the shopping hub of the city and  for people like me – temporary visitors with a yearning to acquire something new for the wardrobe, kitchen or just taking in the sights and sounds of the City centre – can be a very pleasant after-work wokabaut.

One of the many eateries along the Queen Street Mall.

Friday afternoon after work is a good time to hang around the Mall area albeit for a short time, unless one wants to stay on for the evening and the many other attractions, especially restaurants in the vicinity which come alive in the night.

The fresh fruit juice stand. An an oasis alright.

I visited the fresh fruit juice stall. This is a real oasis for the thirsty. Walking around, window shopping or just taking in the sights on a Friday afternoon can leave you very thirsty especially on a hot and muggy afternoon.

Rock 'n Roll dancing - takes me back to the 60s - the music and all. The flaired skirts, shoes and stockings.

I watched some rock ‘n roll dancing (took me back to the 60s). The dancing was to promote a new shop that opened along the Mall. There was a long line of people enquiring about jobs etc that I decided I’d watch the dancing instead. Much more interesting I reckon.

Some views on the wokabaut before I made for my hotel in Toowong, upriver from the City.

Watching an artist at work at the start of the Queen Street Mall.
The many pieces of artwork displayed around the City.
Crossing over the bridge back to South Bank. So peaceful.
Looking back towards the City - in the foreground is the The Treasury building - and no, it is not a government building but you may run into a few public servants!
View from the walkway leading down to the jetty to catch the City Cat to Toowong.

My Friday afternoon wokabaut was too short but long enough to celebrate TGIF. 

I’ve been to Brisbane City many times in the past but on this particular trip I did a combination of things which added to my knowledge about the city and its attractions. 

Travelling up and down the river was something new. Just as walking across one of the many bridges over the Brisbane River with a camera, window-shopping around Queen Street  Mall, getting fresh fruit juice, the rock n’ roll dancing and so on. I was not in a tearing hurry to go anywhere except back to my hotel in Toowong.  

I guess armed with a DSLR digital camera puts Brisbane City in a different light for me. How many more did I miss out on this walk? Perhaps next time a night time wokabaut may be the new thing to do.

The City skyline at sunset. Breathtaking! Looking across from South Bank 2 jetty whilst waiting for the City Cat.

Birthday Breakfast At Milano’s

A full cooked breakfast on my birthday. 2 poached eggs, sausages, hashbrowns, grilled mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, bacon and a sprig of fresh parsley to complete the delicious ensemble. One word from me - yumsko!

No, I did not eat everything on the plate incase you are wondering. I really didn’t plan to have a full cooked breakfast but the idea was there. It was a lovely sunny day, not hot or muggy so a cooked breakfast at Milano’s on Queen Street, Brisbane City seemed like a natural choice that morning. 

As you can see, I was going to have a King’s breakfast. I did wait a little while for the breakfast to arrive at my table but realised that there were more people here than perhaps on a weekday. When the plate was infront of me, it was, let’s say, a breakfast worth waiting for.

The 'silver ware' and the nice fresh clean surroundings...waiting for my green tea to arrive.

 The only bit of excitement or rather the interruption of my thoughts, was when a couple sitting next to me, obviously, very much fascinated with eachother, asked me to take their photo. I quickly obliged. I tried to capture their moment so I made sure I framed the photo properly and did not disappoint them.

After a few minutes of trying to figure out the best angle, voila! click went the camera, photo taken and handed back their camera. They were quite pleased with the result and complimented me for my photographic skills obviously they may have noticed my Nikon D90 parked next to me.  Well, that is neither here nor there. The important thing for me was that their special moment was well-captured and I got a compliment for a photo well-taken. It was not bad for someone who could not remember their own birthday even if it were staring them in the face.

Green tea finally arrived to a very warm welcome from my stomach...

I tried to think of all the birthdays I’ve celebrated, well, the ones that I can remember but not chronologically, are you kidding?

I couldn’t even remember how I celebrated my birthday last year. In fact come to think of it, I celebrated it in Alotau – a quiet affair but then a few days later I was singing with my ex-Salima members – it was a great bung as we sang some of our memorable numbers for the relatives and friends who gathered to celebrate another birthday in Alotau on 19th March, 2010.

After my King’s breakfast, I took my time walking around the Mall and shopping arcades and taking  in the sights and sounds of the city and thinking about the afternoon at JKL’s place at Bellbowrie.

The Party After – Beyond Pacific Art Gallery Opening

Mumu-ed pumpkin. It was delicious, tasty and went down very well with lovely red red and white Aussie wines and of course the sparkling ones too...

After the formal opening of the Beyond Pacific Art Gallery we were treated to entertainment and a mumu feast.

A mumu is a method of cooking food underground not necessarily in an oven but in a hole in the ground on hot stones. This method of cooking is found throughout the Pacific. 

In PNG, mumu (Tok Pisin) food is usually found at big feasts and singsings. It is convenient to cater for large groups of people this way without having to use hundreds of saucepans!

The two aluminium garbage bins, brand new, used to cook the mumu in. The rain did not discourage JKL and family from producing great mumu dishes for the celebration of the Gallery opening. Reminded me of cooking mumu food in my gas oven in London 3 years ago. As Papua New Guineans, if we wanted mumu food we'll make mumu food wherever we are.

The mumu was cooked in a make-shift ovens comprising of two aluminium garbage bins. Talk about PNG or Pacific Island ingenuity! Joycelin said they searched high and low for something to cook the mumu in because of the rain as they were not sure if the grounds were going to be dry enough for the cooking process which usually takes several hours . 

These bins provided the waterproof oven for the mumu. This was truly innovative, the food absolutely delicious. I believe that wherever we are in this world we would be able to obtain ‘PNG or Pacific Island food’ that is sweet potato, pumpkin and bak choi plus other delicious additions.

A wonderful solo performance of three bird dances from Kiribati. I'm always fascinated by the dances of the Pacific Islands which tend to mimic animal and bird movements even flora and nature.

 In any PNG or Pacific Island gathering there is always food (lots of food), dancing and singing. We were treated to Kiribati dancing which I think is gaining popularity around the world like other Pacific Island dances, albeit slowly. Usually these Kiribati bird dances are performed by a group but our young friend gave us a beautiful and graceful solo performance. Some of the most fascinating dances are those that imitate birds and other animals. 

SP beer to go with our yummy mumu...

 This meal was wonderfully,  accompanied by PNG’s famous beer – SP (from PNG’s only South Pacific Brewery in Port Moresby) and some good Aussie wines.

Oh yes a little dancing but most just sitting, standing around, drinking, eating….

Although it was raining that evening we chatted, sang, joked and just had a wonderful time. I reckon it was one of the best birthdays I’ve celebrated anywhere. 

We had to leave at a reasonable time to be able to wake up the next day and head out to the airport at 7.00am to catch the PX flight back to Port Moresby.

Party afterwards...in the cool of the evening. Just right!

A great time was had by all. And yes, all good things come to an end but in a nice way and we look forward to visiting the Gallery again sometime soon.

All’s well that ends well.

An Artistic Marathon To Help Others

Journey Through The Stains - a live performance with iconic visual artists Jeffry Feeger, Ratoos Gary, former Tambaran Band member Pius Wasi, Paul Yabo, former member of the Sanguma Band and fellow musicians and a young PNG poet, Marie-Rose Sau.

I was really privileged to be at the Royal Papua Yacht Club on the evening of Wednesday, 22nd February, 2012 to witness a live performance of the group called ‘Journey Through The Stains’.

The live performance featured  the inimitable Ratoos Gary and Jeffry Feeger visual artists, Pius Wasi and musicians in the tradition of the awesome Sanguma, and of course Marie-Rose, a young PNG a poet whom I wrote about in my blog yesterday.

Pius, Paul and the musicians who were part of the live performance of 'Journey Through The Stains' at the Royal Papua Yacht Club.

Apart from ‘official’ guests, and the usual RPYC suspects, also gathered there were family and friends in support of the artists and the cause. I was there with two of my colleagues. One of them was there as the ‘official photographer’ for the event.

Ratoos in his element. As the picture evolved there was an awed silence as the artist went to work. I thought at first that there were going to be two paintings but as before both Jeffry and Ratoos worked on one with Ratoos laying the foundation and background as seen here.

This event was a fundraiser featuring a number of different things. The live performanc was an event within an event.  One feature was the sponsorship by Bemobile, one of the mobile phone companies in PNG, and another was the combination or brilliant fusion of visual art, music and poetry. We also had raffle draws so it was all a mixture of fun things but also deeply meaningful.

Upon entering the RPYC I almost did not get in because the man at the door was doing his job which means if your name is not on the guest list you’re not welcome. Fortunately, a number of positive factors came into play and I found myself warmly received by a kind young lady who works for Bemobile.

So what and who are ‘Journey Through The Stains’? I’ve taken the following description from their page on Facebook:

 “’Journey Through the Stains’. We are a troupe of performing Papua New Guinean Contemporary artists experimenting with a fusion of traditional and contemporary music, art and culture. Through our heightened artistic sensitivity, coupled with a deep appreciation and understanding of traditional spiritual cultural knowledge we use the creation process to become journeymen through a mystical communion with nature and the spirits. We believe that our collaboration through ceremony provides a way for others to share in our religious experience.”

The objective of the evening’s event, a brainchild of ‘Journey Through The Stains’ was to raise funds for the relatives of those who perished in the recent MV Rabaul Queen tragedy. This was a very noble cause, supported by RPYC and Bemobile – the RPYC as the host and Bemobile came with the goodies for the fundraiser.  

I went along because of the splash on their Facebook page and also because I enjoyed the live performance of the two visual artists at last year’s fundraiser at the Moresby Arts Theatre with Jerry Hensen.

Actually, this kind of live performance is quite unique and you’ll see why when you follow these photos. It’s an evolving kind of spiritual engagement between mind, body and soul.

Ratoos at work laying the foundations with his unmistakable style. His artwork is currently on display at the Australian High Commission with an Australian artist John Gould, to celebrate Australia Week.

On their Facebook page on 22nd February, 2012 was the following entry:

“We are performing   tonight Wed 22nd Feb at the Royal Papua Yacht Club, in what will be a defining moment for us! An opportunity to raise funds for the families of our lost brothers and sisters on the Rabaul Queen ship tragedy. The air will be thick with the creative exchanges of art, music and poetry.”

As soon as it got dark the event began. Quietly and without fanfare, Ratoos started painting. He used his hands and the paint brush. As the music played, the canvas came alive and Ratoos began with his brush strokes and finger ‘etchings’. As his painting took shape I was sure that people must have been wondering where this was leading to. Even the Club patrons who stopped to watch as the painting progressed.

I kind of guessed it was going to be the background first by Ratoos and then Jeffry layering it with his own artistic expression. A similar live performance to the one with Jerry Hensen last July/August.

This was indeed an artistic marathon. Not only did Ratoos and Jeffry initiate and complete the event, the musicians also as the musical tunes accompanied the painting from start to finish – from Ratoos to Jeffry.

An incredible journey through stains and music. It was a kind of magical evening and when the picture began to take shape it reminded us what the live performance was for. The artists took us with them especially as we neared the grand finale.

The painting was completed in a rather dramatic fashion, but appropriate nothetheless, when Jeffry threw down the paintbrush!

The finished painting! Absolutely amazing. You can actually see the paintbrush near the painting. The painting itself was incredible.

That was the end of what was the most unique form of entertainment: a live performance of determined and passionate visual artists at work who by the way looked like they too were enjoying the music, and the positive energy from those who came to witness the live performance.

I call it an ‘artistic marathon’ because the painters and musicians were true to their craft until the end when the painting was completed. Usually an artist will revisit his/her work to tweak bits here and there to get it to perfection in their view. But this was a start to finish in one session. Indeed an artistic marathon.

It was a wonderful evening and I really enjoyed the evolution of artistic prowess in one sitting. This is absolutely amazing. 

The ‘Journey Through The Stains’ troupe brought the arts to the people and the people responded. This unique live performance is the first in PNG and am not sure if this is done anywhere else in the Pacific Region.

A similar artistic marathon happened last year I think about July/August at the Moresby Arts Theatre, as previously mentioned, when Jeffry Feeger, Ratoos Gary, Laben Sakale and Jerry Hensen took to the canvas to raise funds to help Jerry Hensen trek the Kokoda Trail to raise awareness for the blind. The paintings were auctioned as they were finished! It was an amazing event and truly innovative, and out-of-the-box kind of stuff .

The ‘marathon’ live performance concept itself is mind-blowing.

It was truly a memorable evening and live performance. I came away thinking – these guys are not only giants in their art but also great humanitarians. Extraordinary Papua New Guineans sharing their talents for the benefit of other extraordinary Papua New Guineans. They may not think of themselves as ‘extraordinary’ but in my eyes and heart – they truly are, because by their actions, they are in service for mankind. Shouldn’t we all be too?