Step by Step
Learn Balinese arts and crafts at Ganesha Cultural Centre...
Located within the area of Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, the Ganesha Cultural Centre takes guests closer to Balinese arts and crafts. Workshops conducted by Balinese artists – who still produce artworks in their hometown – are available every day based on a schedule.
Ganesha Cultural Centre used to be Ganesha Gallery. The function changed in July 2016 with the hope of preserving Balinese traditions. “We want to explore the real side of Bali and remind people of what made Bali famously known in the old days,” said Luhgde Suryatini (Surya), the curator of the resort’s cultural program. “We sell their artworks here, but that’s not our main purpose. We want to show the daily lives of Balinese people, what they used to do before the tourism industry grew on the island.”
To reach this purpose, Ganesha Cultural Centre scouted talented Balinese local artists and invited them to hold a workshop once a week at the center. “We have artists from Bangli to teach Sokasi-weaving, women from Karangasem for the songket-making, and craftsmen from Ketut Puja Gallery in Gianyar for the wood-carving workshop,” Surya continued. “We also invite artists from Gianyar for the ceramic painting class and some Jimbaran people to teach rindik (a Balinese traditional musical instrument), Balinese dance and canang (offering) making.”
Follow the Woods
I approached the four sculpture artists that were sitting on a bale in front of the cultural center for the wood-carving workshop. With friendly smiles, the artists welcomed me as I sat on the bale and talked to them.
The three craftsmen and one craftswoman first began learning wood-carving when they were children. That day, each one of them had a sculpture they were working on – the men were carving a piece of wood, while the lady was polishing a statue using sandpaper. “There are six steps to make a wooden sculpture,” said one of the men with a statue of Rama and Shinta, the Balinese legendary love icon, in his hands. “I’m currently on the second phase where I need to smoothen the statue using one of these tools.”
He showed me a number of tools and explained the process of wood-carving. “It all depends on the type and the size of the wood,” he said. “The design follows the wood.” The first process is to draw a design on a big chunk of wood. Using an axe, they then carve the wood following the design. And then, the process continues with carving the details, polishing the wood, and making ornaments, before the sculpture is finally ready to display and sell.
He gave me one of the sharp tools to smoothen a small part of his Rama-Shinta wooden sculpture. This process was like peeling a fruit, but the sculpture was quite big. I can’t imagine how much time they invest to make one statue. No wonder a sculpture can take days, weeks or even months to finish. “The most difficult process is making the ornaments for details,” the artist continued while showing me the headpieces that Rama and Shinta were wearing that were full of small contortions. “Every detail counts.”
Follow the Threads
After the wood-carving workshop was done, I could hear the sound of “tok... tok...” like a knock on wood from one corner of the cultural centre. The sound came from wooden tools used to create a songket. Songket is one of Indonesian traditional handmade fabrics. Every region in the archipelago has its own songket style, including in Bali where they are made of pure silk. “This is Ibu Nyoman Murni from Karangasem, our songket artist,” Surya introduced me to the lady who was busy weaving a piece of fabric.
“I started learning to weave a songket when I was 12 years old,” said Murni. She was sitting with two pieces of wood tied on her body, one on her stomach and the other on her back. Those wood pieces were tied to a bigger wooden tool where threads stretched neatly like strings to a harp. That day, Murni was making a black songket with golden motifs. The sound of “tok... tok...” that I heard earlier was from another wooden tool that she used to press the threads.
Murni then told me to take her place. I was curious but nervous, afraid that I would make a mistake that could ruin her creation. If somehow a mistake is done, the artist has to redo everything all over again. I couldn’t do that to her. With two pieces of wood were tied to my body, I continued where she left off – Murni has done a part of the fabric beautifully. While listening to Murni’s instructions, I studied the threads attached to the tool – there were so many of them, I couldn’t help but wondering how a songket artist knows which thread to go which way every time they weave. It is quite complicated.
But then again, they have been weaving since they were children, and are still producing songket for a living – Murni said she could spend two to five hours a day at her home to weave a songket. Slowly but surely I began to understand the pattern although I believe it takes years to actually master this art.
These workshops made me see firsthand how complicated it is to make a songket and a wooden sculpture. And I truly admired the passion, patience and persistence that these traditional artists have. I had a newfound respect and appreciation for these artists at the end of the day.
To celebrate this year’s Silent Day that falls on March 28, Ganesha Cultural Centre is hosting a Monster Doll-Making workshop where guests can craft their own Ogoh-Ogoh (Monster Dolls) from March 20 to 24. Ogoh-Ogoh is a Balinese giant effigy which is believed to represent bad evil. On the eve of Silent Day, an Ogoh-Ogoh parade is held across the island, and the giant dolls are burnt at the end of the night to banish the negative spirits. The Monster Doll-Making class is available at Rp. 200,000/person for non-staying guests and is a complimentary for the staying guests. Guests can also make a mini Ogoh-Ogoh and take it home as a souvenir (with additional charge) or bring their creation to the Ogoh-Ogoh Parade at the resort on March 27.
Ganesha Cultural Centre
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Jimbaran
By Risty Nurraisa
Magazine issue > Lifestyle&Leisure