A.A. Bagus Sudarma is an art teacher in Junior High School 2 in Mengwi, Tabanan, a ngaben wadah (coffin) maker and a dancer, and lives in Mengwi, Badung Regency. The 48-year-old father of one son and a daughter shared his day with The Bali Times
“My father and grandfather were also wadah makers and the skill was passed down to me. I hope my son will be a wadah maker, too.”
I wake up every day at 5am and turn on the TV to watch the news on Bali TV for a couple of minutes. Then I do some gentle exercises in the yard. It makes me feel fresh in the morning and for the rest of the day.
After that, I feed my pets, which takes a while because we have a lot of birds, dogs and fish. Listening to my birds singing in the morning makes me feel like a kid again, when we had a lot of birds singing around my childhood home. I water the plants, cut the dead leaves off and give them some fertilizer. I like doing these things by myself because it makes me feel relaxed. After all that, I take a bath, prepare my self to go to school and pray. Then I go to SMPN 2 Mengwi with my wife. I teach art and my wife teaches dance.
After classes, at 12pm, I go home and have lunch. I rest for about half an hour, and start to work on my side job, as a wadah maker for ngaben (cremation ceremonies). My father and grandfather were also wadah makers and the skill was passed down to me. I hope my son will be a wadah maker, too, though now he is quite busy with his own things.
Not everyone can be a wadah maker. The making of it requires certain skills, different with the production of, for example, sanggah, a place to put offerings. In Badung Regency there are only about five wadah makers like me.
My workshop located near my house, and I have 30 to 40 employees working there. The production of wadah has two main parts, the decorative outside and the container for the body. The outside is in the form of various animals, often a cow, lion, fish or dragon. We put the body in there to burn, but to transport the body to the place of Ngaben, we put it in another container. The container can be various heights depending on the order.
When the order to make wadah arrives, we hold a simple prayer before starting the production process. We then collect the wood, bamboo, iron, and velvet we need for the specific order and when we have everything we need we begin to construct it. We do our best to make the wadah beautiful and detailed. For example, instead of using paint for the finish, which makes the wadah look dull, I use paper and cotton, embedded in the wadah, to make it more shiny and colorful.
When we are finished, we hold simple prayer again, thanking God that we were able to finish the order. The whole process for one simple wadah takes one or two days, and up to two weeks for the more complicated ones, with more ornaments and height. On average, we have about five orders per week. Prices range from Rp1.5 million (US$160) up to Rp15 million.
Most days I come home after work in the workshop around 5pm, when I take a bath and get together with my family. Around 7pm, I often go to the village meetings, to talk about our village development. If there is no meeting, I dance in small hall in our house.
Dancing is one of my favorite hobbies, so besides an art teacher and a wadah maker, I am also a dancer. Iâ€™ve been dancing professionally since I was 15, and have been to Japan and the US to dance at many cultural events.
On my days off, I carry on making wadah or other handicrafts. My family and I donâ€™t generally go out to do touristy things; we just gather in the house, watching TV, talking, playing with our pets or making handicrafts.
For me, working can be a holiday, as I deliver wadah orders all around Bali, so I get to see new places all the time. Dancing and teaching art arenâ€™t like work either. They make me feel very happy because they are enjoyable and rewarding. I think this is the essence of a holiday – making your body, mind and soul feel fresh.