It’s Driving Us Batik, But In a Very Good Cause

By Hector

We’ve heard a lot in recent times about the benefits of batik and its place in Indonesia’s panoply of cultures. This has been bolstered by United Nations recognition of batik as a symbol of Indonesia and by the enthusiasm for wearing it that has sprung into new life as a result.

Of course, there is batik; and then there is batik. But one firm lesson of history is that tradition actually changes with time. This may surprise those who seem to believe things are set in stone, or at least fixed in amber; or indeed that they can be. The human story, for any with the wit to comprehend it, is one of redefinition and mediation.

It was therefore very interesting to read the other day, in the excellent Inside Indonesia online magazine produced in Australia, a lengthy article on how the surge in batik’s popularity is fuelling modernisation of the art and the process of production. It’s by Amalinda Savirani who is completing her PhD as part of the Middle Indonesia Research Group at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Savirani examines not only the new direction of batik as a pop culture item, but also the far-reaching economic effects of the new market for the product. It’s not just about vibrant designs and colours. It’s about economics and politics, too. Inside Indonesia is at

String Us Along

It’s good to see classical music making its reappearance in those parts of Bali’s expatriate commune from which it has long been banished by the boom-box age, a dreadful sanction reinforced by resulting deafness. True, we’ve missed both the recent occasions of which we were belatedly aware – Memo Diary: keep a diary – but this should most certainly not be taken by the organisers as in any way indicating lack of interest.

Far from it: we’re polishing our Stradivarius even as we speak. No, we jest. The Diary played a little piano once upon a time, and the clarinet – both of them with a degree of inexpertness that frustrated the series of unfortunates who were the music teachers of our youth: they’re probably dead now, poor things, but that would be by passage of time, not a fatal quaver from long ago. Not wishing to be the cause of a collection being taken up to pay for tuition in Vienna … or anywhere, as the old joke puts it, a redirection into the acquired skill of listening (to music, and to others) proved a timely move.

So cheers to Tom Hufnagel at JP’s Warung in Legian and Ryoshi at Seminyak, where even The Diary can play Chopsticks, for dusting off some real music.

DISCLAIMER: The Diary really likes rock, too.
It’s a Miracle

Louis de Bernières apparently describes this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, held earlier this month, as a logistical miracle. We’re sure he drew on his deep research into the logistical and other skills of the Italian wartime army in reaching this conclusion. That was the outfit Captain Corelli and his mandolin served with, wasn’t it?

For this intelligence we are indebted to Sarah Tooth, co-director of the festival, who recently offered – in one of Bali’s many advertising publications – a “festival wrap” which reduced the literary riches of the world assembled in Ubud to an 884-word post-party report.

From it we also learn that De Bernières’ visit was valuable in another way: he became reacquainted with the first woman who ever slapped him and went shopping with her. She now lives in Ubud, apparently. We do hope she didn’t feel the need to repeat the cathartic benefits of her original performance.

Thomas Kenneally, the Australian author of Schindler’s Ark (later Schindler’s List for movie purposes), turned up to the final big bash in full Balinese rig; so much for cultural sensitivity, then. And engagingly comic Etgar Keret evidently forgot all about having to waste his time in Bangkok for five days while festival organisers found someone they could persuade to stamp his Israeli passport, and the lizards, lounge and others, upon which he lately wrote for an international audience (The Diary, last week). He thought the festival was the best in the world. And British TV live news dramatist Kate Adie wasn’t worried that it might rain.

Ubud blogger Rio Helmi did better. He apparently has lately discovered that everything is not quite right in paradise, or in the rest of Indonesia. He takes photographs (good ones) and was doing so at the scribblers’ fest. But we think it’s more likely that Helmi – like a growing number of people – has been reading The Bali Times and has found the real Bali revealed.

Next year’s Scribblers and Gabblers will take place, fragrant rice harvests and acts of demigods permitting, from October 5-9. Make a note of that in the back of your cookbook.
Post-It Note

On the subjects of notes, we hear that Janet de Neefe posted an odd little one on her Facebook page the other day. It said: “Something is rotting in the state of a certain newspaper … ewww.” This is distressing news, and not only because (predictably) the comment seems to owe its inspiration to Wigglestick, the unsuccessful English playwright of several centuries ago who could never quite get his quotations on the mark. Shakespeare, who could, wrote: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

An officer of the palace guard says this after the ghost of the dead king appears, walking over the palace walls. That was in Hamlet, which is not, at least as far as we know, a pressed meat and lettuce concoction on the menu at one of other De Neefe’s Ubud eateries. There may be ghosts at Indus, one supposes. There might be a role for some ghost-writers.

But we do wonder which newspaper it is that she meant. It can’t be The Bali Times, because on all the evidence she doesn’t know that Bali has an English-language newspaper. There is only one, of course. It’s just so hard to keep count, isn’t it?

Pick a Box

Smiling girl-about-town Lian Monley, who makes people wince for a living (she runs a fitness gym, the sort of establishment that Diarists advise themselves to avoid) has branched out with something called Detox in a Box. It even has its own website. This healthful helpfulness can even be delivered to your door, it seems, if your deepest desire is to have someone else provide you with a nutritious, satisfying and, Monley says, delicious 10-day eating plan.

Monley says her detox regime is not a fad but a specifically designed programme to help kick-start a healthier and a fresher diet and lifestyle. She offers a variety of Detoxes in Boxes, to suit your particular needs and circumstances. It all sounds like a great idea and will probably sell like hotcakes (perish the thought!) in the KLS quarter, where such things are probably viewed as de rigueur. And good luck to Monley, who is a lively soul.

Down here in Diary Land, we just tend to raid the fruit and veg tray in the fridge. 

Old School Thai

Thailand’s education minister has a singular grasp of his job – and of the importance of tourism to his country. Chinnaworn Boonyakiat is reported to have vetoed a cabinet move to declare English the second official language of Thailand, on the grounds that this might lead people to believe Thailand had once been a colony, like other English-speaking countries in the region.

Well, there’s no escaping the ignorance of people, foreign tourists or not (as we know only too well in Bali). But dumbos don’t care anyway. They’re just out for a good time. Cultural matters and history are of zero interest.

However, tourism-destination countries seek to attract tourists to pour money into their economies. Given the global prevalence of English it might be thought, though not if you’re the Thai education minister it seems, that providing a wide understanding of the language would be an advantage.

A Good Mate

There was a big turnout for the multi-faith funerary rites in Lombok of dive pioneer Gerd Bunte last week. The mourners included his competitors in the now booming Lombok dive industry, a sure mark of a good friend, a fair businessman and a bloke you’d always want to have a beer with.

Bunte and his wife Astrid Huber founded Dream Divers on Gili Air, one of Lombok’s lovely threesome of north-western islands, in 1996. The company now operates widely throughout Lombok and has a bright future we’re sure, even without Bunte’s resident guiding hand.

We weren’t at the funeral, which was followed by a cremation in Mataram and a scattering of his ashes in places he loved, though we should have been. We did have a chance to see Huber and their son Simon in Bali afterwards, as they made their way back to Germany, where Simon is at school. It was lovely to see them (they are friends, too) despite the sad circumstances; and to play a small, if slightly removed, part in the celebration of Bunte’s life, which ended far too early.

Auf Weidersehen, alter Freund.
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