Bali in America

From Friday, the best of Bali is on show in the city of San Francisco, one of the United Sates’ most diverse and culturally versatile places. A dozen Balinese artists and performers are there for a fortnight, to delight those attending their show at the Asian Art Museum, part of an eight-month presentation called Bali: Art, Ritual Performance.

Americans are enraptured by the colourful culture of Bali. It is as exotic to them as theirs is workaday mundane. It is right that San Francisco was chosen as the location of the exhibit because in some respects it, and perhaps areas of California, has more in common with our small but vibrant island than many other major cities US. That is because while the US and other industrialised countries for the most part focus their development on commerce and trade – hard cash – a semblance of spiritually and a life that is not beholden to the dollar is evident elsewhere.

Just as it is in Bali, where pursuits of the divine are perceived as being eminently more vital to one’s survival – in this life and any subsequent ones that karma and the Gods may deem to bestow upon us – there are Americans who seek sustenance in realms beyond our immediate understanding. In Bali this way of life can be maddening to some who frequent our shores, or to those who have travelled from faraway lands to set up shop and home. For others, it is fascinating, and worthy of exploration. Many émigrés become mired in a vortex of despair when not able to operate as they did in a place more centred on affairs of the purse. Their dealings with the Balinese leave them wrecked and flailing in despondency. Some do not survive, and limp back home, spent.

But the true nature and appeal of the island of Bali is the intrinsic good nature of its people – itself under pressure as economic boom times create materialistic frictions – and their everlasting culture, and the sentient among us know this. Bali, as a place of residence, is not for everyone.

And so we wish our troupe well in America, and hope that as more people learn about our captivating heritage and culture they will for themselves find out firsthand how it is inexorably meshed with modern-day values and outlooks that all meld to form an intoxicating mix.

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