My first week here on the Indonesian island of Bali has been packed with culture. From informative recounts of my teacher’s personal visits to Shamans during culture class to visits to multiple traditional temples, I have been exposed to much of Bali’s culture, history and language in these past few days.
The photography class I am taking has become just as, if even more, informative on Balinese culture, as it takes us on field trips to traditional events like village cock fights and gives us an avenue to boldly explore the traditional monuments and events we visit on our regular excursions.
In the same way that one is technically always in culture class here – venturing throughout the city, the market, into different restaurants – as a photography student, we too are always in class. This continued learning format makes one’s eyes and ears more attentive to things academically, philosophically and creatively.
I have quickly learned that Bali is historically and continues to be a peaceful example to the entire nation of Indonesia as the Balinese have tendered a deep sense of community. One of the strongest components of Balinese culture is the Banjar or the village community, which is managed and under the leadership of the Desa Pakraman, similar to a neighborhood association or committee that makes decisions on custom law, dress codes, behavioral codes and the use of village spaces.
All of these harmonious components are tied together by a strong emphasis on communication. For example, in the case of conflicts, Balinese do not believe in taking issues to the court, a tradition they have preserved in spite of Dutch colonization. It is absolutely impressive how traditional Bali remains, in spite of Dutch colonization and especially in spite of the influx of Western influence brought about by tourism. Post colonialism, Bali has preserved a traditional sense of what it is as a nation, as a unique set of peoples who proudly esteem their culture and heritage.
This essence of Bali, a strength and confidence exuded from staying true to an original identity, is an extremely positive message for all tourists who come to explore the paradise island. Bali illustrates that there is positive pride to be gained after an emergence from turmoil. In spite of oppression and an influx of various influences and culturally foreign pressures, Bali has thwarted one of the greatest issues that plague many people in different societies: a destructive lack of personal identity. With lack of personal definition comes being easily swayed by the nefarious pressure of one’s environment.
Bali’s sense of strong culture is a lesson to the tourists to whom it opens its doors: stay true to who you are, what you believe, your morals, your values, your views. And of course, yes, embrace change, because fulfillment often comes from discovery and improvement, but do so in a constructive way that maintains your values and morals as a human being. Bali has maintained strong historical roots, teaching visiting tourists and students alike a lesson on how to do the same as we live our lives, staying rooted in an acquired identity while embracing change for a cohesive and comprehensive life.