Upon launching the first Bali Arts Festival in 1979, Bali’s then-Governor Ida Bagus Mantra proclaimed the new event’s importance as “the basic forum for the growth of our love of the arts.”
In the present day, Governor Mantra’s declaration remains as relevant as ever, with a robust selection of Balinese and Indonesian arts finding a spotlight in the month-long festival. Beginning on the second Saturday of June every year, the Werdi Budaya Art Center in Denpasar stages a series of cultural events, ranging from gamelan recitals; barong dances; and Balinese documentary screenings.
Each regency in Bali sends representatives to show off their unique cultural heritage, from West Bali’s jegog bamboo gamelan orchestras to Sidemen’s intricate woven fabrics. The Festival is an excellent opportunity to see these lesser known Balinese arts.
In the evenings, the Ardha Candra open-air stage presents sendratari (traditional Balinese ballet) that depict legendary stories like the Ramayana and the Kakawin Sutasoma. Smaller exhibitions of traditional dress, offering-making, and cuisine take place at the smaller indoor Ksiranawa Theater.
Attendance is free, but come early to save a seat for the most anticipated performances.
Barong dancer, Bali. Image courtesy of Indonesia Ministry of Tourism.
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For similar festivals that train a spotlight on the local culture, visit Myanmar’s Tazaungdaing Light Festival; Malaysia’s Unesco World Heritage City Celebrations; the Philippines’ Bamboo Festival; Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival; and Vietnam’s Hoi An Festival. For other festivals in the month of June, visit Singapore and Brunei for their respective Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations.