Protecting Our Culture

TODAY many things are so easily accessible – facilitated by a worldwide have-now culture underpinned by the internet – that boundaries are often crossed and cultures meshed. At times, it can morph into a complex, almost incompre-hensible, confection where it is not at all clear who owns what, who said what; or where the truth, and reality, actually lie.

Thus we witness the filching of an icon of Balinese culture by a Singapore production house for the promotion on the pan-Asian Discovery channel of a programme about the treasures of our sometimes fractious neighbour Malaysia.

This act was not only extremely culturally insensitive but wholly ignorant of national symbols.

It is clear to everyone by now that the Pendet dance is entirely Balinese: in no way of Malaysian origin and thus quarantined even from Kuala Lumpur’s inventive assumptions about what constitutes Malay culture. Discovery has removed the promotional item, and the Malaysian government is seeking an explanation from the Singaporean production firm as to how this blunder happened.

This comes after protects by Balinese artists and the public here over what they perceived as Malaysia staking its claim on our sacred dance. The government in Jakarta lodged protestations with the Malaysian government; and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono dived into the fray.

Discovery executive in Singapore Charmaine Huet provided a statement to The Bali Times that said: “Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific regrets that the image of a Balinese dancer, sourced from an independent third party, was used in the promotion of the series Enigmatic Malaysia.

“The promotional clip has been removed from all feeds. The Balinese dancer was not featured in any way in the programme. Discovery has the deepest respect for the traditions, cultures, and practices of all races and nations, and it is not our intention to cause any misunderstanding or distress to any party.”

In this so-called global village, it is crucial that countries retain and protect their national emblems and culture. Media-related agencies must respect this. They must ensure that their staff – especially any who are unversed foreigners – are more finely attuned to the cultures they are required to promote.

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