Empowering Young Artists of Bali Through Ogoh-Ogoh
A day before the sacred day of silence, Nyepi, hand-made giant statues resembling scary beings fill up the streets of Bali. Accompanied with Balinese traditional music and dances, these ogoh-ogoh serve a purpose to help men occupy their minds with positive thoughts, and rid their surroundings of evil and negative energy. These giant statues are then burned at the end of the night, to fully rid of the evil it represents.
Within Hinduism, the ogoh-ogoh represents the Bhuta Kala, Bhu meaning the force of the universe, and Kala meaning unmeasurable and undeniable time. This meaning comes in the giant and frightening appearance of the statues, symbolizing bad energy or power, and impurity which can affect humans. Through creating the form of these “monsters”, a hope to keep men in line with pure and positive thoughts is created to keep them away from negative energy.
The intricate details of the ogoh-ogoh statues and the festivity of the parade requires great effort and energy which nowadays come from the younger generation. Creating the statues itself takes months of preparation, with expert craftsmanship and creativity. Most times, the craftsmen would build the frame of the statue with bamboo or steel, then filling in its shape with woven bamboo. The completed skeleton is then covered with paper mache, which is then painted and decorated to take the final form of the “monsters”. Some creations even involve the use of mechanics, to give movements to the ogoh-ogoh.
Other than the building of the statue itself, the parade also showcases traditional music and dances. Youths who are deeply passionate about their culture spend months practicing the art behind the dances and music, to fully capture the grand performance of the ogoh-ogoh.
Many young artisans and craftsmen look forward to this occasion, as they have full creative freedom to express their artistic skills. Taken from Balipost in 2020, a young artisan stated, “In the preparation of ogoh-ogoh, there is a lot of artistic creativity that can be worked on to collaborate. Because not only the creation of the ogoh-ogoh itself, but the dance and gamelan music are also needed to support the performance of the ogoh-ogoh during the parade. This involves all the youths, even children.”
Preserving a part of our culture is a very difficult task to complete, though this seems to be an exception for the youth of Bali. Despite surrounded by unwarranted misconceptions, ogoh-ogoh is an essential part of the Bali's artistic and cultural heritage. Before the Balinese Hindu holiday, Nyepi, many artisans devote countless hours to the creation of enormous, incredibly complex ogoh-ogohs, which are then paraded in ceremonious processions.