Text and Photo: Stefano Romano
Maybe not all people know what is happening in Bali, especially in Benoa bay. We talk about this with Made Bayak, an artist, painter, musician and activist for environment’s right.
Presenting yourself, what do you do, especially about your interest in the environment and how long you have carried forward these activities
My name is Made Bayak, born 1980 in Tampaksiring, Gianyar. I showed artistic and musical talent from an early age, and went on to study at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Denpasar, 1999-2006. It was here that I met my future wife, Komang Kartika Dewi who also is a graduate from ISI and teaches art at Sukawati Junior High School. We have one son, Damar Langit Timur, another gifted artist who began creating figurative representations on his own as early as two years of age.
I got my talent from my mother’s family blood. My grandfather and my great grandfather are a lontar (Balinese ancient manuscript) reader and writer, and they also made lot of Rajah (mystical drawing in Balinese culture). In my young age, I always like watching him doing that kind of drawing and now I know that they have influenced me much on my artistic practice today.
I use art and music as means and media to convey messages related to specific contextual issues. My solo exhibition at the Griya Santrian Gallery, Sanur on January 2010, which gained significant public recognition, serves as an example: through the medium of nuanced parody, I criticized the exploitation of nature by capitalism and neo-liberalism, in the name of tourism development in Bali. On the basis of the increasing awareness of Balinese about the need for plastic waste management, I have created a series of art projects themed “Plasticology”, a concept that fuses the words “plastic” and “ecology”. I premiered this series, which is based on mixed media pieces composed of plastic waste. My future plan is to display other works within the “Plasticology” series, in other exhibit settings.
With plasticology art project I consistently promoted this technique and creative process through art exhibitions, workshops in schools, and various collectives concerned about the environment. For example, during the BaliSpirit Festival in 2013, I provided daily workshops and live painting activities, demonstrating how to turn plastic waste into works of art.
Tell us what is happening in Benoa Bay?
Benoa Gulf is a strategic region in the southern part of Bali, an area close to the international airport in Bali, where in the morning we could see the sunrise and at dusk to see the sunset beautifully.
Prior to the issuance of Presidential Regulation 51 of 2014 Benoa Bay is a conservation area and the regulation ordered by greedy inventors want to change Benoa Bay into a region to use for reclamation of 800 hectares wide. On the reclaimed land they plan to build a variety of world-class tourist facilities, casinos, private dock, the F1 circuit, Disneyland, hotel, villa and others, as a one-stop-spot of tourist destinations.
What you are doing to face this situation?
All elements of Balinese people, artist, activist, freelance workers, people and other funds, held protests to refuse this reclamation plan, through collective For Bali with people from different back ground. Despite that the government had received bribes from greedy investors, we will continue to fight until victory. And as an artist I do and participate in various activities to support this resistance movement, like organizing paintings auction for fund raising, creating exhibits to point out problems of reclamation, happening art in public space to rise people’s awareness about the danger if reclamation occurs.
How this issue is followed by public opinion in Indonesia?
In Indonesia reclamation is not just a issue, a lot of reclamation has occurred, such as on the island of Sulawesi, which ultimately lead to ecological disaster. The most recent is reclamation of Jakarta Bay which involved a lot of corruption and bribery cases. Many entrepreneurs, developers and government officials have been detained. For Bali, since this is still a new plan, I hope as many people as possible either from Bali and from other region of Indonesia continue to fight so that the project of the greedy will not happen. So far the refusal of Benoa Bay reclamation plan has received overwhelming response from people of Bali in particular and solidarity also arise from many other places in Indonesia, the support of people from Jakarta, Central Java, East Java, Bandung West Java, Sulawesi and Kalimantan keep coming up… But so far government officials were silent and did not respond to voice rejection from various societies.
What are, in your opinion, similar environmental problems currently happened in Indonesia?
All cases of vandalism of the environment in Indonesia are closely associated with land tenure by entrepreneurs and large companies. They obtained approval of this tenure from government, through the rule of law that tends to be exploitative and completely ignored the environmental impact and displacement of indigenous people. The greed of a handful of people caused so much harm and disaster for many communities. Land use is one of the biggest problems in Indonesia. Tropical forests in Sumatra and Borneo are destroyed to open palm oil fields, rice paddies in Bali into hotels and villas without any control, cut into the mountain to mine gold, silver, iron and others, without thinking of long term effect and the damage that will occur. Everything is only for the sake of wealth of some employers.
Plastic waste is also a big problem everywhere for our environment; culture of waste management is still very lacking in Indonesia. Education about the dangers and waste management are hardly taught in any school.
Can modernity and economic development interact in a non-violent and respectful of the environment and the natural life of the villages and its inhabitants in Indonesia?
I wish modernity and economic development to flourish without violence, respect indigenous peoples and environment everywhere in Indonesia. The issue now is that the capitalist economic system adopted after the fall of Sukarno have sucked almost all of natural resources and it has been so damaging to the many. But it is a relic of Suharto’s New Order government that has imprinted for almost three generations in Indonesia. Treacherous way in politics has become common place in Indonesia, corruption in almost all aspect of life, religion sold for the benefit of groups and individuals.
Education, health and medical issues were co-opted into a new business that is used to extract maximum profit. Human values did not have a place, especially environmental issues. They did not care for the sustainability of future generations. Indigenous peoples who live in Indonesian forests have always been victimized by palm oil companies that burn forest and open new lands. We need a revolution to change political, economic, law enforcement. Cultural premises should be a major force of changes, while at the same time Indonesia is having a crisis of leadership, we need a leader who has good willing to work to build a new Indonesia.