Gianyar Regent’s Statuesque Plan Draws Fire


A plan by Gianyar regent Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati to erect a Rp300 million (US$33,880) statue of a mythical giant baby at a road junction in the regency capital has run into controversy, with critics slamming the cost of the project and claiming that it will contravene Hindu customs.

The proposed statue of Kebo Iwa, a heroic giant changeling who according legend defended Bali against attacks from the Majapahit Empire in the 15th Century, will be 10 metres tall and will tower over a road junction on Jalan Dharmagiri in the Buruan area of Gianyar.

The cost of the project has been criticised by members of the Gianyar regional assembly.

“Building this statue is going to drain Rp300 million from the regency budget,” said Nyoman Nuadi, head of the Gianyar Public Works Department, adding that the total cost of the project would exceed this figure, but that additional funds were being provided from other as yet unidentified sources.

Elsewhere the project has been criticised by local artists and cultural leaders on the grounds that the statue is inappropriate for its proposed location on cultural grounds.

Sculptor Made Cangker from Medahan, Blahbatuh, said that the regent ought to be more aware of cultural precedents, pointing out that the location for the statue is a three-way junction, and that in Balinese Hinduism strict rules and taboos decide what kind of religious structures are built at such places. Cangker said that religious statues were often erected in public spaces without sufficient consultation of customary rules.

“As far as I’m concerned, that’s not a good policy,” Cangker said, adding that spending Rp300 million alone was not enough to ensure the spiritual validity of a project.

Speaking to the media last week, regent Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati said the planning process for the Kebo Iwa statue had been lengthy, adding that the statue – intended to be constructed as part of Gianyar’s city anniversary in April – was supposed to a symbol of various aspects of human philosophy. However, he stressed his desire to avoid controversy and offence.

“If the plan to build a statue of Kebo Iwa is causing controversy, then we will look into the matter in more detail,” he said.

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