When Bali’s Witches & Goblins – The Dreaded Ogoh-Ogoh – Come Out to Play

March 10, 2013
Category : Local Customs

And now we get to the fun part of the New Year….. Tomorrow night, the night before Nyepi Day, is the time when effigies called “Ogoh-ogoh” are carried through the streets in parades held around the island.  Hundreds of people will be in the parades – either carrying the ogoh-ogoh or playing gongs – but there will be many more who’ll line the streets to watch them. ogoh-ogoh-fun The ogoh-ogoh are really “sculptures” (of mostly bamboo and papier mache) which have been weeks in the making in the back streets of most of Bali’s towns and villages.

Some of the local village groups are “equal opportunity” ogoh-ogoh makers – the pros do their work, the teenagers have something they make and even the youngest boys around 8 or 9 years old are given a little money and free reign for their own creativity.  So, depending upon the investment a village can afford and the expertise available, we get to see a range of monsters from down-right dazzling to the more simple but “done with feeling”.

We went out and about to take a look, like so many others, at what’s been created for this year’s New Year and hope you enjoy looking at our selection.

Please click on each album title to open all the images.  But, you absolutely MUST click again on the images themselves to see them in the detail they deserve.  You will be amazed at what you see.     

Ogoh Ogoh - Done With Feeling

The Ogoh-Ogoh of a Local Village in Denpasar - A Demon Decapitating An Unsuspecting Victim. You can see the bamboo ribbing for the frame in this piece and, by comparison to some others, it's also easy to note that their budget was somewhat limited.

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Ogoh Ogoh - From Kesiman's Royal Palace

This Ogoh Ogoh has been sponsored by the Kesiman Royal Palace. It shows a demon trying to kill another demon who has abducted a baby. It's interesting to note that on one of the baby's wrists he is wearing a white cord. All Balinese children wear this as protection since they are considered to be very vulnerable until they reach several months in age. The baby then is in terrible jeopardy with 2 demons fighting over it - enough to cause nightmares in children for months to come!

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Ogoh-ogoh can follow traditional themes of gods as ghouls and demons OR, in some areas that are more integrated with their foreign “visitors”, they can be telling commentaries on what the Balinese truly think of the non-natives.  (It can be cruel, by the way….. Imagine figures of big, fat white people with beer bottles in hand and you can get the idea.)  By midnight, the parades are over and the floats move to the closest nearby cemetery to be burned to celebrate evil being defeated yet again.

Over the past few years, however, outsiders have appreciated the work that has gone into making the ogoh-ogoh and would rather see them preserved than destroyed so it’s now become quite a sideline industry to not incinerate the best ones.  Instead, they are displayed for a while and then sold to the highest bidder. 

Ogoh Ogoh - Down-Right Dazzling!

We're told that this beautiful piece of a Demon losing the battle to a good prince will NOT be burned, but saved for display. (And then, it was mentioned, possibly sold - OF COURSE!) It cost 18 million (US$2000) and 3 weeks to make and we were fortunate to meet the men behind its creation who told us that 20 men will carry it in the parade. The other, smaller piece we've included in the gallery is something they produced that WILL end up in flames this coming Monday evening. What can we say except that, whenever given the means to create, the Balinese always seem to excel themselves with their talents and imagination?

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Ogoh Ogoh - Outside the Box

And just when we thought we'd seen enough, we saw this - in Sanur! No demons here but what could be scarier than a 6 metre long wild boar? The length of the bamboo poles that will carry it were amazing in themselves. (BTW, we didn't take pics of the back end of the ogoh-ogoh, but we can assure you that it WAS anatomically correct!)

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Another feature of the evening is to have explosions going off for hours.  The traditional Balinese version of fireworks is explosive powder poured into large bamboo funnels which are then set alight.  The noise is deafening – nothing like the sweet whoosh of a Roman candle – and the evening is definitely one of terror, if not for the evil gods, then certainly for all the animals on the island.

All this revelry MUST stop by sunrise the next day when the whole island shuts down for a day of contemplation.  We’ll see you on the other side of the 12th, we hope.  There’s so much more to tell you about Bali in the year ahead.

There’s something for everyone in Bali’s New Year celebrations – a time for lots of fun and then prayers in silence for a good year ahead.   So, for the very last time in 2013, we wish you a very Happy New Year, Bali-Style! 

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