Just before New Year, the Art Centre in Denpasar held an exhibition and workshop featuring the works of Bali’s 5 most influential cartoonists, among them Jango Pramartha, the editor-in-chief of Bog-Bog, the nation’s longest-running cartoon magazine, GM Sudarta, the senior cartoonist for the national newspaper, Kompas and Gus Martin, the cartoonist for Bali’s own Bali Post daily newspaper.
The pieces exhibited showed that both artistic talent and humour is alive and well in Bali – and how could it not be with such a rich mine of things to consider? Common themes were the “clash of civilizations” between the Balinese and their tourist guests, the rampant investment that is now degrading much of Balinese traditional life and the lack of meaningful leadership by those in power. And then, there were some pieces that were just charming commentaries on the Balinese themselves.
In a culture where speaking about what you really think can be threatening to one’s social position, it’s natural that cartoons are a powerful weapon when it comes to giving an opinion and the cartoonists themselves are respected and revered.
The workshop audience was mostly young art students and included a street artist who aspires to be Bali’s equivalent of the world-renowned street artist, Banksy, a graphic designer who publishes his own magazine and the amazing Virgo, a 6 year-old boy with artistic and Photoshop skills (as well as a sense of humour) that would put most of us to shame. Not to mention the fact that it was the first time for him to use a tablet for his drawing.
In all, it was great exhibition of a contemporary art form. The Governor of Bali, who was the subject of some rather intense (but funny, of course) pieces, took the time to officially open it. One thing you do have to admit, whether his administration is liked or not, at least he had the courage to be there.