Culture Conservation
Project Proposal
Glorifying the Bali Culture
Bali Galang Foundation

"Participative Conservation"

The word "Conservation" has been very frequently heard occasionally, especially if it relate to Balinese culture, which believed to be an extraordinary valuable asset for Indonesia. At present, the government has carried out the so-called conservation. The project consists of establishing the long list database of Bali culture, together with their current status of existence. Various institutions tend to work in this model of conservation, where one-way participation came down to the community and not the other way around. The community often kept silence.

It is undeniable that these data are useful; unfortunately it is not enough to be called conservation. Bali Galang Foundation is going to take part of it from the other point of view. The "Participative conservation" is referred to the most difficult part of the culture called the community. Due to the fact that the community is often dynamic and mobile, they are beyond the reach of catalogues and data banks. The status changed all the time. In Bali, community is the most important part of culture. They are continuously changed, because the culture itself is alive.

How it works:
The participative conservations involves the entire Balinese community, to work on behalf of their nature of growth, by giving directions to their free movement, towards their own cultural survivals. Here comes the difference, while usual conservation deal with anything conservative, in the opposite, here there are no attempts to introduce any limitation to the living the culture. The act of giving directions will involve providing training and stimulating the growth of any found weak points, without banning the strong points. The foundation of the participative conservation is to grow awareness and consciousness inside the community. It was decided that the program obsession is not to produce highly skilled participants in the first place, but mostly to awaken the consciousness of the community against the importance of preserving their culture the way Bali Galang did. Bali Galang Foundation's program is mainly to conduct pilot projects, and setting new standards as the template and guidelines for the next further steps, no matter which party will be in charge. It was a process to start a snowball effect, which in turn, community is taking efforts to do the finishing touch in an enormous power.

Again, conservation is not a one-time activity to conduct; continuous efforts will be required. The most important thing to do now is to make a good platform to start, and crystal-clear guidelines to follow. Please be reminded to the wise words: "A good beginning is a half done".

Below are three packages selected from among many fields of conservations. The reason why these three packages chosen is based on the risk and their penetration degree to the community. The higher the risk to extinction, or the higher their degree of penetration toward the community, the higher the priority to get it preserved.

The Lontar conservation:
Lontar, or traditional Balinese literature inscribed in Lontar books; made from leaves of the Lontar palm. Lontar palm leaves are cut in strips and preserved between pieces of wood. Lontar contain mythology, historical chronicles, religious treatises, medical prescriptions, calendar, etc. Some works are relatively new, but others are more then two centuries old. Actually, they are masterpieces in the art of illustration. But more than that, they are precious information from the past.

Some of the ancient Lontar kept by the community inherited by their ancestors. Thousands of them are in their critical condition of moldiness or being sold to outsider. Not to mention about those already collected since the Dutch government in the Gedong Kirtya in Singaraja, the weathering of Lontar outside the institution control are quite intense. On the other side, as an antique of course, the selling value of an old Lontar book is getting higher and higher all the time.

The foundation approach to this matter divided into two major activities, the training for the Lontar owner and the digital image scanning to be recorded on CD-ROM.
The training will teach the community about how important it is to preserve the book of Lontar. To remind people that Lontar does not belong to them, but a delivery package from the ancestor for the next generation. The practical lessons on how to keep, fix, clean, and maintain Lontar properly will also be given.

After the training, some Lontar selected based on their value of information and their critical condition, will be offered for free image documentation to the CD-ROM. With the owner permission too, the CD will be duplicated for the purpose of education and Digital Lontar Library. The benefit of copying the Lontar image to CD is to prevent the original Lontar from further access, and to enable spreading the information unlimitedly. Normally, all concerning parties will be given a copy of the Lontar CD. But in case additional copies required, they will be available for the cost of the blank CD and the burning fee.

Majejahitan Conservation:
Majejahitan is an activity of creating "Rerasmen", various forms of decorative offering, usually collectively done by women and young girls at home, temple, or other community gathering. The materials are mostly fresh, like leave of the coconut tree, banana leave, various fruits and flowers, combined and arranged with each symbolized different meanings in to various kind of offerings for Gods. Even though offerings are part of the daily live of every Balinese family, Majejahitan activity slowly invaded by the other routine of modern activities. Most of the community are now customized to be more practical in this, by purchasing the ready made offering from the market, or by ordering from vendor on daily basis. On the other side, the vendors enjoyed the situation and pushing all efforts to maximize their income by ordering parts to other vendors, or even try to substitute the material with the more economical and of course lower quality of product. At present we can purchase Rerasmen of some kind, made of printed piece of cloth, while the original usually carefully woven from coconut leave or palm leave combined with banana leaf with almost similar color.

The Rerasmen, esthetically, is a masterpiece of art that can compete the beauty of Japanese Ikebana, or Origami. The luxury editions of literature for Ikebana and Origami were found worldwide but not Majejahitan or Rerasmen. Morally, Majejahitan activity is full of high spiritual values; the deep concentration and the diligence are believed to be an integrated part of the worship to God. The mental bound between the young girls and their mother during the Majejahitan is considered moral fences against bad influences from the outside.

Once the community reminded to this high value of Majejahitan, there will be no question on the conservation.

Mageguritan conservation:
Mageguritan is an activity of singing Geguritan in the Balinese culture. The Geguritan is a collection of traditional lyrics of wisdom, usually classic, some have been written centuries ago on the ancient Lontar books in Kawi or old Javanese language. Singing the Geguritan is not easy. There are many kind of Geguritan based on the way it have to be sang, the intonation, the contents, etc. Ideally, one session of Mageguritan conducted by two persons, one will do the singing, while the other read or tells the meaning in Balinese language shortly afterwards. Pair by pair takes turn through cycles usually until late in the night. Conservation of the Geguritan is not hard, just copy the Lontar book or retypes the literature in to computers and save it into CD, but that is not the case. Conservation of the Mageguritan activity is not that easy. Balinese as one among other ethnic community in Indonesia is facing the hard decision to let the younger generation to speak the national language as it is used in formal schools. On the other side, parents realize, there are nothing could replace the way Geguritan brings heavenly breeze of inspiration. The gathering of several individual who had the same feeling of heart, each willing to find some peace of mind from spiritual enlightenment, was now seldom seen nor heard.

The conservation is aimed to fill the gap in between these generations. Training will be given; competition will be conducted, all with heavy inside-out arrangement from the Geguritan experts, spiritual leaders, and education experts.

Those three programs are selected by Bali Galang Foundation to be implemented as soon as possible. Within the helping hand of parties understood the importance of saving the heritage of precious value, also with the participation of the whole community, nothing is impossible to achieve. None of them would be able to generate money instantly, but the strength of potential raised from these activities will be more then anything money can buy.

Denpasar 8 April 2001,
The Bali Galang Foundation,

Donny Harimurti