Intersections: <i>Anak mula keto</i> 'It was always thus': Women making progress, encountering limits in characterising the masks in Balinese masked dance-drama
Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 19, February 2009

Anak mula keto 'It was always thus':
Women Making Progress, Encountering Limits in Characterising the Masks in Balinese Masked Dance-Drama

Carmencita Palermo

  1. This article describes and analyses new roles for women opening up in the domain of Balinese performing arts. It begins with the perspectives of women involved in this process—female performers whom I encountered during my own journey exploring Balinese masked dance-drama, topeng, as a performance practice and subject of research. Topeng is a form of masked dance drama performed at temple ceremonies, family rituals and for official events. When I first began my journey, women were absent. Until few years ago my study of topeng was based on interaction with male performers only. I was learning, performing, and discussing issues regarding the life of the mask and the role of performance exclusively with men.
  2. From 1995 things began to change, and the new developments intensified after 2000. Some women, mainly performers of other Balinese dance genres, encouraged by all women gamelan groups and the presence of foreign performers, started to perform topeng wearing masks.[2] My learning process was enriched by the observation of skilled female performers engaging with new techniques. For the first time I could see groups rehearsing topeng and dealing with the same difficulties that I was facing. I started to learn some vocal techniques with them, which gave me the opportunity to understand their learning process at a closer distance. With time, more women started to learn topeng and perform on different occasions—ceremonies, overseas tours, the annual Bali Arts Festival.
  3. Even if some of these women's performance groups have not lasted for long, it cannot be denied that something is happening. Some groups use masks exclusively, others mix masked characters with figures with made up faces, and some include Western women as performers. In addition to this phenomenon of all women groups, there are single women who have been performing as dalang (puppeteers) and a few women performing the pengelembar (danced roles in topeng) with male performers. These same women have contributed to the foundation of the new groups.
  4. The increasing involvement of women in the performing arts is not a phenomenon limited to Bali. It occurs also in other Asian countries undergoing the transformative experiences of modernisation and globalisation. Comparable developments are reported for katakali in India, for example.[3] The Balinese case is part of wider changes taking place in Indonesia as a whole. National political structures and cultural policies set the context for the emergence of distinctive local features. Previous researchers have documented the absence of women from Indonesia's public life, or their struggle to be part of it, but they also describe the way state policies valorising 'modernity' have created a certain space for women.[4] While this process imposes a restrictive, sanitised ideological framework of on women's experience,[5] it also opens up a space relatively free from deep-seated traditional values, and thereby provides opportunity for crossing old boundaries. In the domain of performance a similar picture is revealed. Scholars analysing both traditional and contemporary theatre, particularly in Java, document the marginalisation of women, as well as their presence in spite of difficulties.[6] Felicia Hughes-Freeland[7] and Amrih Widodo,[8] describe, for example, the appropriation of tayuban dance by the state, increasing its frequency of performance, but curtailing the agency of women performers.
  5. Among the few specific works on traditional Balinese dance-drama and women in Bali, John Emigh and James Hunt's article, 'Gender Bending in Balinese Performance,'[9] has been very influential. Analysing the play of gender in different genres of Balinese performance, the authors attribute to performance the possibility of using satire and play to re-evaluate traditional gender roles. Natalie Kellar's thesis on arja dance drama draws upon this article to contextualise the role of female performers in Balinese society.[10] Through individual stories she documents the constraints of domestic responsibilities on women performers and their strategies to overcome these.
  6. Cokorda Sawitri challenges the notion of women's place in Balinese dance as tourist objects;[11] Rucina Ballinger briefly describes the activities of an all women music and dance-drama group;[12] Emiko S. Susilo documents the development of all women gamelan orchestras in relation to state policy.[13] Other works analyse women as dalang who show the limits of women performing.[14] I Nyoman Darma Putra[15] and Helen Creese[16] analyse the increased involvement of women in newspapers and other media in Bali, beginning in late colonial times, with intensified attention to their social roles since the fall of the New Order. Ni Made Wiratiniin her Ph.D. dissertation focuses on the role of women in Balinese performing arts in the city of Denpasar.[17]
  7. These scholarly works document in varying ways the influence of national and local cultural policies and gender ideologies on women's involvement in the performing arts in Bali. Their insights inform my later discussion of these key issues. First, however, I will focus on my major interest, performers' own voices and their performance practice. What do women say about what they are doing? What do others say? Where do these attitudes come from? What pictures emerge of the reasons for and future directions of the new prominence of women in Balinese performing arts? I will document the voices of women performing, of audience members, and of cultural commentators, together with written discourse, the contribution of previous scholarly works and my personal experience.

    Interviewing female performers
  8. When I decided to formally interview women I encountered clear differences from my interactions with men. Chatting with women about masks had never been a problem during rehearsals, performances and casual visits. But in 2003 and 2004, when I decided to make recorded interviews, I discovered how difficult it was to interview women. Most of them expressed a sense of inadequacy in relation to discussing the topic. Although I always made it clear that I was interested in their personal experiences, they felt they did not have enough knowledge to talk about topeng. A bigger problem was time: it was difficult for the women I wanted to interview to find time for me. In addition to spending most of the nights performing, many of them also work during the day and take care of the household. Things get worse during the season of big ceremonies when, on top of their usual activities they receive more requests to perform and have to prepare an enormous quantity of offerings. Eventually, however, some of them managed to dedicate some time to me, giving me the opportunity to document their voices and, on some occasions record their images with a video-camera. Yet even when they did talk, negative views predominated. Overwhelmingly what they spoke about were the impediments for women in performing topeng properly.

    'I cannot be as good as a man'
  9. A common issue raised by these women was that they could not characterise masked roles as well as men. Being as good as a man, as strong as a man, seemed to be the main challenge for women involved in mask performance. Cok Agung Istri, a famous performer of the genre arja from the village of Singapadu, seemed to be the most negative. After interrupting her work preparing offerings she explained: 'It's difficult…being exactly like a man is the difficulty…I am pessimistic about the possibility of performing topeng like a man.'[18]
  10. This pessimism is surprising, considering that she regularly performs with masks. Other women agree with her view. Ni Wayan Candri, an arja performer from Keramas, explained that: 'a woman's movements appear weak; even if she tries her best she cannot be like a man.'[19] Jro Ratna from Denpasar does not consider weakness of movement the only problem: 'By definition when a woman wears a topeng mask—no matter how strong she is—her femininity will still be visible.'[20]
  11. Ni Nyoman Candri and Cokorda Istri are members of the first group of all-women topeng.[21] In a sense they are continuing the tradition of their fathers, famous topeng dancers who used to perform together. But this link sometimes gives rise to negative attitudes. Candri compares herself to her father saying that she is not as good as he was. She never dared to learn topeng with her father because she was ashamed that her body was too small. Cok Istri has less trouble approximating a male topeng dancer physically but believes this is nearly impossible with regard to her voice. She would never accept money to perform topeng in Bali at this stage (overseas is a different story) because she does not believe herself to be good enough.[22]
  12. The well known dancer and choreographer Ni Made Wiratini,[23] raised an additional issue, citing the term etika. A woman is expected to behave following a certain etika, she has to be polite, gentle, refined in accordance with kodrat, the predefined behaviour proper to a woman, and those who do not follow these unspoken rules are considered not normal. In Wiratini's view such rules hinder women from freely characterising male characters. Her own case exemplifies how etika prevents women from performing topeng. Although she has the opportunity and skills to join a women's topeng group she does not join because she does not want to trouble anyone to escort her to rehearsals, her voice is not strong anymore, her husband (I Wayan Dibia) would not approve: even though she performed topeng with him overseas, performing in Bali would expose her weak skills because she is not ready yet.[24]

    Time pressure
  13. In addition to feelings of inadequacy and reluctance, another barrier to women performing topeng is practical: lack of time. Women are busier than men and as consequence have less time to practice.
  14. When I was performing with an all-women gamelan group at a ceremony, Ni Wayan Suriadi[25] was in the audience, and she approached me afterwards with enthusiasm and curiosity about a foreign woman performing topeng. I soon became interested in her views about women and topeng, informed by her education and experience as a dance teacher at a high school. Suriadi had learned topeng as part of her teacher training, and she spoke confidently about women's abilities to characterise refined male masks like the dalem (the king).[26] She also mentioned that a few of her female students were interested in learning topeng and one of them was very good. But when I asked if Suriadi herself ever thought about performing topeng, she stated emphatically that she did not have time to learn again, she was too busy.

      Balinese are very busy; there is no way that I can learn to dance [topeng]. Because once you are married, not to say once you have a child or a grandchild, then you have all kinds of community duties to perform. I'm part of the village organisation, without considering the work with the family there is the work related to custom. For example when do we have the possibility to get ready? At least a month before I have to start sewing [offerings]. It takes a long time, and from that I learn that because of my age now custom rules me and I have to learn to make offerings, to make this and that. As a consequence let the younger ones dance, so that I'm free from that.[27]

    Then she mentioned that her husband still has time to play gamelan, and I asked again why she would not try to learn and perform topeng. She replied:

      Because (my energies) are focussed on my children and grandchildren. The environment is not supportive. Because women in Bali are busy with custom and culture in Bali. If men take on another activity there is tolerance, we support them. But if I dance, at my age, it's a shame, who is going to do the work to the banjar? If someone dies we have to be there. And that's in addition to this ceremony, that ceremony, the community and taking care of the grandchildren when the daughter in law works and leaves the grandchildren at home. There is no way![28]

    Tidak mungkin, no way, no possibility because she is so busy. Women in the villages are busy, they do not have time to do anything else than take care of their family and their banjar. Once they are married religious and customary duties engage their energy, all their energy. I have always heard all women complaining about it, especially when they arrive late to a rehearsal or worse when they cannot join at all.

    Approving views from civil servants
  15. All women complain in this way except those in official positions, working for government offices. The image of women too busy to learn new skills does not come from women in official positions. This was illustrated when I interviewed Luh Putu Haryani, responsible for the Arts Section of the Department of Culture (Dinas Kebudayaan Bali) in Denpasar in 2003.[29] Her support of topeng wanita was full of hope for the further development and spread of the participation of women in topeng and appreciation from the audience. This development has been possible because she affirmed, in Bali there has never been any differentiation between men and women in the arts. With the household too, in 'modern' contemporary times women and men share tasks and help each other, especially during the ceremonies. She admits that women carry the heavier workload in the preparation of ceremonies, but argues that men, too, work in the rice field from early morning and need to rest when the day becomes too hot. Her conclusion was that in any case Balinese women love working, cannot stop.
  16. Perhaps because of her official position and because she was interviewed in her office, Haryani had to give a positive and 'modern' description of the condition of women in Bali. Supporting women's equality as a signifier of being 'modern' is common to civil servants, both men and women. Others, often combining roles as performers, teachers and bureaucrats, express similar views. While some see problems in the current form of women's topeng, I Wayan Dibia argues that women should not force themselves to act like men but create their own style[30]—others suggest that 'mastery' of technique through intensive training will compensate for male strength. Frequency of performance is seen to be a crucial issue.
  17. I Nyoman Durpa, topeng performer and civil servant based in Singaraja, suggested that just as now there are female soccer players, one day it will be common to have female topeng performers. The problem lies in the opportunity to perform and show what they can do. Once women have truly acquired the same rights as men, in accordance with modern emancipation, women will demonstrate the same potentiality as men. And if women perform often, the audience will get used to it and it will become normal. Just as in the western countries people now consider women driving very normal, whereas in the past that was not the case.[31]

    Anak mula keto
  18. There are some women, too, who understand that it is not women's inferior nature which limits their skills in performing male roles, but it is a matter of practising. Made Pujawati, who lives in London, says women can characterise male dances: 'In my view it's not because women are not as strong as a man. (The mask) needs to be studied until the character is achieved, until the movements are mastered, and one understands how much strength is needed. Because women can also dance baris, can't they?'[32] Baris is a strong male dance generally defined as 'the warrior dance.' It is the first dance learned by young boys, but often nowadays young girls receive baris training.[33] If asked, women performers are able to discuss and demonstrate the difference between male and female characters, and some women specialise in male roles.
  19. Working with masks requires specific, additional training. The quality of movement in performing with and without masks is different and it takes time and practice to learn. Ida Dayu Made Diastini, a well known dancer and dance teacher, interviewed at her work place, the Arts Center in Denpasar demonstrated the technical difference between dance movements with and without masks, from the neck position to eyes and eyebrows movements. She explained: 'using the feeling (rasa)…it's harder, but if we practice it's possible…it takes a lot of practice…and in practice we have to use the mask; we can't not wear the mask.[34]
  20. By these accounts acquiring the ability to perform with masks is a matter of technique and time to practice. But many women, as we have seen, report that they are too busy with their children and ceremonies, or too old, to try. While government officials, and others active in the structures and discourse of 'modernity' in Bali, express support for women's participation in topeng performance, women themselves often seem unenthusiastic, even reluctant. They may be pushed into performing by opportunities such as festivals or the presence of foreigners. Some performers see this attitude among women in itself as a central obstacle to mask characterisation. Ni Wayan Sekariani, a multitalented performer from Batuan, explained that many women, because they are women, still think that their place is in the kitchen, being a housewife: 'It is as if before the war starts they already feel defeated.'[35] If we look for the source of such negativity, it is clear that it has deep roots, that it is grounded in a sense of the unchangeable roles dictated by tradition.
  21. Anak mula keto, it has been like that, it is now and always will be like that. This is the standard answer of adults to children when they ask the reasons behind certain rules. Women I interviewed in Bali explained that this was the answer they received when they wanted to know why they could not play outside, why they could not go to school, why they could not play gamelan, or why they could not dance in certain contexts. Other prohibitions consist of simple behavioural rules: how and where to sit or what to wear. Anak mula keto constitutes an age-old, unquestionable discourse keeping women in their place. Most are pulled along but some fight against it.
  22. Ni Wayan Mudiari, the drummer of the first female topeng group, Topeng Shakti, thinks that her mother did not know the answer, that is why she could not explain. Desak Nyoman Suarti, founder of the women's performance group Sanggar Seni Wanita Luh Luwih, of which Topeng Shakti was part, often asked her family why a girl had to be in the kitchen rather than at school.[36] The only answer she could receive was: mula keto. These two women refused to submit to such restrictions.
  23. When Suarti's family disapproved of her dancing, because to dance was not proper for a woman, and refused to support her painting or going to university, Suarti went overseas, married an American, established a successful business in the USA and eventually returned to Bali with a desire to change things. Owning a chain of silver shops operating between Indonesia and America give her the resources to support women's dance and music. When Mudiari was about five years old she was already able to play gamelan, but as females were excluded from the orchestra, she could play only when someone else was missing. By working in the rice-fields and as a builder's labourer she paid for her own schooling, studied at the arts academy, and became a well-recognised gamelan teacher. Finally divorcing her wayward, unsupportive husband, Mudiari now maintains her two daughters by teaching music and she trains women musicians in a number of female performance groups.
  24. These two women fought back knowingly against the restrictions of anak mulo keto discourse and in doing so have contributed significantly to women's progress in the arts. But there has also been a broader, smoother movement of change, allowing women to take on non-traditional roles in a more socially sanctioned way, without explicitly rejecting traditional gender ideology. Arguably amid the subtleties and ambiguities of this process, anak mulo keto discourse is maintained, modified but not eradicated. Let us look briefly at how this happened historically, first in social political terms then in the specific domain of the performing arts.

    The history of Balinese women's 'emancipation'
  25. The so-called emancipation of Balinese women has been investigated by Darma Putra who, identifies its roots in the search for 'modernity' starting in Bali in the early 1920s. Discourses on modernity and progress for women were focused on issues such as the rights of women to education, and the equality between man and woman in case of divorce. During the colonial period elite women were able to become 'progressive' (maju) and 'modern' (moderen) through receiving education in Dutch schools. They spread the word about the necessity of education by opening schools to educate other women and by publishing articles whose main message was that women had to be able to read and write in order to have a role in the society and within the family. A woman without education is not able to educate her children who are the future of the society. A modern woman has to correctly look after the future generation, has to be aware of domestic science,[37] and also has to take care of her own body by doing physical exercise. As Adrian Vickers[38] points out, while modernity implies changes, such changes have to be controlled.[39] Modernity in Bali (and Indonesia generally) is a modernity that cohabits with tradition. Women had to be emancipated and at the same time maintain their true feminine nature, their domestic and nurturing roles.
  26. During the 1950s this special nature of women was recognised in cultural policy as a strength and wisdom that balances and 'corrects' corrupt behaviour and attitudes, and because of that women were encouraged to undertake political careers. As a consequence, they were able to become actively involved in political life. Darma Putra[40] notices that in 1953 there were three women in the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah (DPRD), the provincial parliament, in Bali. In 2003, however, there was only one. He points out that the new laws for the 2003 elections mandated 30 per cent of legislative seats for female candidates, but expressed his scepticism about the realisation of such a number.
  27. Darma Putra's scepticism is based on the fact that women's autonomous participation in political life has declined significantly in recent decades. While during the 1950s and 1960s women were organised in associations and actively worked for the progress of the women, all this almost completely disappeared with the beginning of the New Order. The only women's organisations strongly present in Bali from the 1970s onwards were Dharma Wanita, an organisation for civil servants' wives and PKK (Pembinaan Kesejahteraan Keluarga), a family welfare movement. Both were founded and run by the government. Dharma Wanita, in particular, has been often described as an instrument of control of the government that constructed women as wives, depending on their husbands, and being helpful and decorative.[41] Women's progress and emancipation, as an expression of modernity in the global era, became carefully programmed by the state within its agenda of control.

    After the Reformasi
  28. The post Suharto era or Reformasi created expectations of increased democracy and freedom. But the reality is more complex. As Creese notes, the process of decentralisation creating otonomi daerah (regional autonomy) is causing a reinforcement of conservative values. Creese[42] quotes Melani Budianta[43] who observes the danger of a double threat for women: a culture of violence (militarism, intergroup conflict) with the violence of culture (conservatism, religious fanaticism). In Bali a defensive, conservative cultural discourse, ajeg Bali, has emerged strongly as a reaction to the experience of the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings.[44] Even if it is not the only discourse it is the one that prevails in the media.
  29. Newspapers, magazines and local TV boast of the Balinese woman, who, with her hard work, has in her hands the destiny of Balinese culture. The most widely read newspapers and magazines promote the idea of women as already equal to males on the basis of Hindu principles, but performing different tasks in the subdivision of work. The main task of a woman is being a mother, the mother of the future generation. Representative of this view is one of the most prominent commentators on culture and women, the psychiatrist Luh Ketut Suryani.[45] Her book of collected articles Perempuan Bali Kini (Contemporary Balinese Women) begins with a gloomy description of the disastrous state of contemporary Bali, with a young generation dedicated to alcohol, drugs, smoking, free sex and worship of Western culture. Suryani then instructs Balinese women on how to save Bali. They must help raise a great new generation of Hindu Balinese who will save Balinese culture from all outside destructive influences. A woman is certainly allowed to have a career, but this has to be in harmony with family life.
  30. The promotion of women in the modern world has always been a balancing act with tradition. Women were and are encouraged to be educated and professionally active in fulfilling the discourse on modernity as long as their actions remain within the frame of Balinese culture. In the current period, where the ajeg discourse is strong, there seems to be a strengthened valorisation of the traditional role of women. Women seem to have the responsibility of maintaining the tradition linked to Balinese identity, but this seals them back into the anak mulo keto culture. Nevertheless the public space for women is there, and individuals can use it in unforeseen ways. Having explored how this dynamic occurs in general terms, I shall look now at what has happened in the specific domain of performance.

    Celebrating the decorative feminine
  31. Already in colonial times interaction with the outside world—with Dutch government institutions and the practice of tourism— provided new space for women as performers. While originally female performance seems to have been limited to temple dances by prepubescent girls and old women, during the Dutch colonial period women's dance flourished. The image of the beautiful woman dancer was promoted and feted. This process was facilitated not only by the presence of the first tourists, but also by the new musical and dancing style, kebyar created in 1915 in north Bali (Buleleng Regency) and spread all over the island by 1930s. The creation of kebyar music and dance was an important contribution to the employment of women in dance. Kebyar style was a real expression of modernity. Created outside the temple or the courts, its dances were the result of a combination of female and male movements free from the link with a narrated story. The vibrant new style provided a new space for women whose beauty attracted foreign audiences both in Bali and overseas.
  32. Cokorda Sawitri, speaks critically of a process of 'womanisation' of the performing arts which has produced a superficial beauty without real aesthetic value, and a situation where women are totally manipulated by the tourist industry.[46] According to Sawitri this image overshadows and obscures the actuality of women's roles in the performing arts and their use of performance as a tool to resist men's patriarchal power. She reports that the first performances of the popular genre arja were staged by men to warn women not to follow the example of a princess who was so disloyal to her deceased husband that she refused to follow him into the cremation fire.[47] Women then created their own groups to tell different stories. Sawitri also suggests that the success of women performing outside the temple disproved the thesis that taksu, supernaturally-charged performing talent, was the sole preserve of men.
  33. Aside from Sawitri's version of the first steps of Balinese women in performing, there is little data on women's performing activities before the 1960s. Between the 1960s and the 1970s, however, there are clear signs of the acceptance of women in the domain of performance. It happened thanks to the establishment of dance training institutes, the tourism boom and the division of dance into sacred/profane categories: these all increased space for women in performance.

    Tourism and education: state policies of female 'emancipation' through arts activities
  34. If early tourism opened the possibility for women to perform, tourism activities during the New Order created an extended domain for women. During the New Order, Balinese dance was promoted to the outside world as one of the peaks of Indonesian culture and identity. There was a systematic effort to create the image of a modern-traditional woman having a clear role in the process of building a national identity.
  35. Schools of performing arts such as KOKAR, Conservatory of Music (now SMKI High School of Performing Arts) and ASTI, Academy of Indonesian Dance (now ISI Institute of Indonesian Arts) contributed significantly to this process of creation of space for women. They taught new styles of dance and dance drama with prominent female roles and provided learning opportunities for women in the field of music and puppet theatre. The schools also spearheaded a widespread new trend, the establishment of all-women gamelan groups. Susilo's[48] study of the development of women's orchestras in late twentieth century demonstrates that the Indonesian government's national agenda played a fundamental role in this process. In the late 1960s there were already women learning gamelan in Java and in Bali similar developments occurred. This was one way to show that Bali, as part of the Republic of Indonesia, was modern and democratic, and thus creating space for women.
  36. Gamelan instruction for women was introduced into the curriculum of the KOKAR when a women's gamelan group started regular training there under I Wayan Suweca. Stimulated by his experience of teaching gamelan to female students in the USA, Suweca wanted to give the same opportunity to Balinese girls. Women's gamelan classes later commenced at the tertiary institute ASTI/ISI. In 1980 Suweca's sister, Ni Ketut Suryatini, founded the first all-women gamelan group.[49] In 1985 the first women's Gong Kebyar Contest took place.[50] Bakan emphasises that female performances of 'typical' male genres were considered a sign of women's emansipasi 'emancipation.'[51]
  37. Women who studied music at the performing arts schools brought their experience back to the community. Thanks to the support of the annual Bali Arts Festival, which held all-women gamelan competitions from 1985 to 2001 women's participation in performances spread all over the island.[52] The strong spirit of competition encouraged the spontaneous formation of all-women groups supported both by individuals and by village organisations.
  38. It is in the context of women's gamelan groups, shaped by state encouragement of women's arts, that the first women's topeng activities began to take place. Slowly and hesitantly at first, motivated not by fiery rebellion against age-old constructs of female nature but by opportunities offered by modification of the old rules, women started to take up mask dance, while women musicians accompanied them. Although relations between groups of musicians and performers are very complex, I will attempt to outline the dynamics of formation of all-women topeng groups, highlighting the role of some key individuals.

    All-women topeng groups: dynamics of formation
  39. The first all-women's topeng group grew out of an all-women gamelan group, founded in Pengosekan (Ubud) in 1993 by Desak Nyoman Suarti, whose story was mentioned earlier, and Ni Gusti Putu Astiti. Around 1995 Desak Suarti with some members of this all-women's gamelan group, founded a new group, Sanggar Luh Luwih (Womanly Women) group, with the intention of extending the musical repertoire and including all women dance-dramas. Desak Suarti bought the instruments and paid the teachers who led the rehearsals, which soon moved to Ketewel (her residence). The first dance-drama they engaged with was topeng. They started to practice with two arja performers from the village of Singapadu, Ni Nyoman Candri and Cok Agung Isteri, as well as the Italian gambuh and topeng performer, Cristina Wistari Formaggia, and for a brief period, the North American Ballinger. The group constituted themselves as Topeng Shakti.[53] They performed topeng at the Arts Festival in the year 2000 with some other performers.
  40. In 2003 they went on tour in Europe (Denmark and France) organised by Cristina Formaggia Wistari. Because they were considered an official cultural mission their performance received endorsement by the Department of Culture and Listibya with a generous coverage by the Bali Post and other newspapers and magazines. After the European tour, Desak Suarti left this group. Topeng Shakti remained in Singapadu, while Suarti took some of the musicians who originally played for Topeng Shakti and recruited more musicians and dancers through radio advertisements to increase the size of the Luh Luwih Group.
  41. At the beginning Topeng Shakti, as the first group, had to open the way and deal with resistance, but with time and work and thanks to the presence of Formaggia who created a certain prestige for the group because of the overseas tours, things improved. Its activities on the island include performances both for ceremonies and for foreigners. The Topeng Luh Luwih seems more active at ceremonies and tends to travel more within Bali and to broadcast performances. Luh Luwih recently performed kecak in Singapore on the occasion of the 2006 Magdalena Festival.
  42. The drummer Mudiari, whom we already know from the earlier account of her life, performs in and trains both groups, but her role goes beyond the activities of these groups. Because she is very active in teaching music to women, especially in Denpasar, she transmits the passion for topeng to a great number of her students. Thus, the new all-women gamelan groups are stimulated to form a relation with the dancers. Once a group learns topeng pieces it needs a dancer to really practice them. If the group is invited to perform for an odalan, temple festival, it is very possible that topeng music is included in the pieces chosen, and of course the members want to work with a female performer.
  43. To summarise, I have considered the group Topeng Shakti, coordinated by the Italian performer Formaggia whose work has exposed the group to a foreign audience within and outside the island. I have also reviewed the activities of the group Luh Luwih, coordinated and sponsored by the business woman and artist Desak Suarti. Ballinger is also active in this group performing in all its productions. Again, very significant is Mudiari whose teaching and drum-playing role in both groups and in several villages facilitate women performing topeng. The activities of the main groups inspired the birth of others. In the village of Kramas, a man, I Wayan Suarta, called Rawit, coordinated a group on the occasion of the 2003 Bali Arts Festival, and a strong woman dancer and dalang, Wayan Latri, led a second group. The birth of the group coordinated by Rawit is particularly interesting because it is linked to the Bali Arts Festival, the pinnacle of the yearly arts calendar. I was personally involved in these events, which are described below in some detail.

    Topeng Wanita and competition within the Bali Arts Festival
  44. In 2003 an all-women topeng competition was planned as part of the Bali Arts Festival, but it turned out to be a single performance by an all-women topeng group from the village of Keramas, Topeng Wanita Mumbul Sari. Reasons for this are complex and contested, but a key factor seems to be that the coordinator of the Keramas group, Rawit (I Wayan Suarta), is not only a performer but also a civil servant of the Department of Culture of Gianyar district, where decisions about the festival program are made. Rawit's role in the organisation of performances and training of dancers, plus other aspects of the preparation of the festival program, illustrate key issues in women's topeng practice.
  45. The Keramas topeng group could never have come to life without Rawit's determination: he is the one who organised and trained this group of already well-known female performers. Rawit had always demonstrated and articulated the enthusiastic attitude of a man working hard for 'female emancipation.' As a civil servant in the field of culture and art in Gianyar, he espouses the New Order-derived ideology of the progressive and modern nation that at the regional level, now autonomous from Jakarta-centred control, promotes traditional culture. From one perspective his attitude might be considered paternal and controlling, aiming to 'assist' women in doing something for which they do not have, and will never have, the skills. But in another way it is part of local performance practice. It involves the community and invokes the traditional conceptualisation of the learning process: the concept of 'assisted mistakes' that the learners have to make before a critical audience in order to improve.
  46. Ngayah, offering his/her own work, is a way to participate to one's life community, but also a way for a beginner to practice. Because 'learning by doing' is the key word of the learning experience, the teacher exposes her/his pupil to 'a friendly audience' (preferably the pupil's or master's own community) in order to receive useful feedback. The Keramas women topeng performers were put through the same process in spite of the fact they were already well-known performers. Before the actual performance at the Bali Arts Festival the group performed at three temple festivals in the village of Keramas. On the first two of these occasions the performances were concluded by a male performer who wore the mask of Sidhakarya, a sacred figure who completes the ceremony by presenting the proper offerings. The third performance was held outside the temple, to entertain the human audience and provide a general rehearsal for the performance at the Bali Arts Festival scheduled for the following day.
  47. The mixed audience at the Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar watched the performance with curiosity. There were some people there from ISI. Over the following days I asked them what they thought about the performance. In general the reaction was positive. After pointing out a few technical aspects that could have been corrected, they generally said that as a first performance it was good and they hoped for future activities. This was an encouraging reaction for a group of performers at their first experience. The performers themselves, during their stage dialogues, stressed how brave they were and how important it was to perform as women in men's roles. The fact that they were women came out several times, for example, as one reminded the other that they had to address each other with male names, or as they complained about the difficulty of the male standing dance position. But at the same time they improvised jokes with sexual references as if they were men. It seems that even though the women performers had the opportunity to speak about themselves through the impersonation of the male roles, they mostly tried to be as much like men as possible, while continually reminding the audience that they were women impersonating men.
  48. The fact that Balinese women do not express their voices through performance was one of the main concerns of Formaggia, but she did not want to impose her point of view on her colleagues. Ballinger is more positive about all-women topeng as a space where women can express their voices: 'In Luh Luwih's performances, women talk about women's issues. This is not to say it is a feminist message, but at least it is beginning to embrace the concerns of women's lives.'[54] At this early stage the main factor, the revolutionary aspect, is to survive and to perform at ceremonies, rather than to communicate a specific message. The existence of women performing topeng is in itself a message that is spreading, even if slowly and with uncertain results. In general women performers do not aim to voice women's issues; rather it seems that they perform to show that they can do it. Analysing all-women performances in the city of Denpasar, Wiratini[55] suggests that women perform not to take over men's roles, nor to compete with men. Rather women join men in efforts to maintain and develop traditional Balinese art. At the same time Wiratini observes an increased acceptance of women within the community because of their role as artists. But there remains one barrier to their achievement, one final boundary to cross.

    Uncrossable boundaries
  49. Women are performing topeng with overall community acceptance, albeit with some pockets of resistance. But there is one masked character whom women performers do not depict—the sacred figure of Sidhakarya who appears at the end of temple ceremonies, bringing closure and blessing to the event. As seen in the temple festival performances of women's topeng described above, when it comes to the sacred role of Sidhakarya, men take over. This seems the limit that women should not pass. Women themselves report an enormous impediment. Ni Wayan Latri explained the problem this way:

      Latri: Don't even think of performing with it (the Sidhakarya mask), we're not even allowed to touch it during the menstruation!

      C: Why is it like that?

      Latri: Because we are still leteh—impure—Balinese consider women during their period leteh and they are not allowed to do anything sacred, especially regarding the ceremonies…do not ask…it is like that. That, because it is already decided…during menstruation we are not allowed to worship.

      C: Is there any explanation from philosophical point of view?

      Latri: Physically we are still dirty, because [of] it (menstruation) we are considered impure, it is clear that it influences us. We already have that feeling, we think to be too dirty, to join worship. If we pray, we have to bathe first, don't we? The feeling is unsettled if we pray. Don't pray if you are not calm…Even more if you dance this one (the Sidhakarya mask)…This (the mask) doesn't actively affect us, it is our feeling more than anything else. Feeling, it's a matter of feeling…[56]

    Latri explains that the main impediment is women's menstruation, but she does not explain why the menstruation is a source of impurity. It is more a tradition, it is a mula keto prohibition and more what a woman feels than what actually happens in reality. It is a forbidden boundary.
  50. These boundaries do not apply to topeng only. They include all kinds of performances classified as essential to complete the ceremony (wali) where the performer, having about the same role as the priest, contributes to the success of the ceremony. Wayang kulit is another example. There are a few active women puppeteers, but as reported by Suratni,[57] the status of sebel during menstruation, along with the pressures of their household tasks, constitutes a great impediment for their activities.
  51. Such impediments arise also in other fields of activity. Kellar,[58] referring to Linda Connor[59] and Abby Ruddick[60] describes the marginal status of women in the healing domain, due mainly to lack of access to sacred medical texts, in turn related to their polluted status because of menstruation. Women are also believed to have the power to turn healing abilities into black magic. Lynette Parker speaks in terms of danger coming from women having access to high culture such as wayang kulit.[61]
  52. One might ask whether older women, no longer experiencing menstruation, should be subject to this exclusion. Comparison with the priesthood system suggests a further contradiction. Women have the capacity to become high priestesses-pedanda and from some perspectives are regarded as spiritually superior to men. According to Balinese philosophy, an unmarried man cannot become pedanda because males are not complete by themselves: they do not have male and female elements necessary for an individual to be balanced. By contrast, an unmarried woman can become a pedanda because she has within herself, as woman, both male and female elements.[62] According to the tantric tradition, the female energy, shakti, is inseparable from the male, spirit. Because shakti is the life force of the male element, the life force of Siva, the male cannot exist without shakti. From the philosophical point of view the woman is a spiritually superior creature, the energy through which life is possible. The Sidakarya figure in Topeng Sidhakarya may be more closely related to Balinese Buddhist traditions than Sivaite ones.[63] But the pervasive influence of tantric concepts in both traditions would seem to create a link, making the concept of female shakti generally accepted. Why then are women excluded from Sidhakarya, the performance that completes the ceremony?
  53. In an effort to find the answer to this question we listen once again to different voices and different points of view. The topic of women performing Sidhakarya brings out direct expressions of opposition, but not universally. Some people are very much in favour for the same reasons that others are opposed. I have already mentioned Haryani from the Department of Culture in Denpasar. She doubts that women would really wish to perform Sidhakarya. Given the fact that all the tasks for conducting a ceremony are divided up, Haryani argues, would women, who have to take care of arranging the offerings for Sidhakarya, also want to perform it?[64] For the same reason, however, I Ketut Rina[65] supports the idea of women performing Sidhakarya. He suggests that actually women are more appropriate for performing Sidhakarya because of their extensive knowledge about offerings. Of course, he warns, the performer has to be skilled enough to characterise such a strong mask.
  54. Recognition of women's greater involvement in the preparation of ceremonies compared to men came also from I Dewa Wicaksana.[66] Women carry out the most complicated tasks and they are the ones aware of all the functions of the offerings.[67] On the issue of women performing Sidhakarya, Wicaksana referred to a dialogue which had occurred between the female pedalangan/puppeter student and comic performer, Ni Wayan Suratni, and the pemangku (priest) of the Pura Sidhakarya temple. Suratni asked the pemangku if she, as woman, would be allowed to use Topeng Sidhakarya. The pemangku responded that there is no written text indicating that Sidhakarya's mask wearer has to be a man, but he hoped that a woman would not use the mask in order to respect 'the purity/sacredness' of Sidhakarya himself, an answer Wicaksana defined as 'very diplomatic'.[68] When I went to interview the pemangku I found he had already died, and his son and successor had a very different attitude. His son, Mangku Ketut Yadnya, did not oppose the possibility of a woman performing Sidhakarya.[69] Did he have a different response because he was from the younger generation, or because he was talking to me, a foreigner who, he believed, would never cross those boundaries?
  55. On the connection of menstruation and pollution there is common agreement, along with some varying opinions and practices. Mudiari confirms the view that women are regarded as weak and unclean. Indeed, she suggests that this idea has been made more binding because it has become a written prohibition. For example, at temple gates signs for tourists have appeared saying 'do not enter if menstruating.' In spite of the fact that these signs are for tourists, they have also in a certain way changed the perception of 'menstruating' for Hindu Balinese people. As a result, they have come to perceive a customary practice as a 'prohibition by law.' This prohibition does not have any explanation: it comes from parents as a mula keto rule but it is fixed through signs for tourists.[70] Wicaksana in an article on female puppeteers in Bali, points out that most of the woman interviewed respect the restriction and avoid performances at ceremonies when they have their period: otherwise they would feel bad.[71] Surely there are women who carefully observe this prescription, but I know female performers who have frankly admitted that because of their fundamental role in the performances they cannot avoid performing even during their period. These women do not feel leteh or sebel.
  56. This sort of attitude does not surprise I Nyoman Durpa. Open to the possibility of having women perform Sidhakarya (just as there are female pedanda, pemangku and president), he considers the sebel status an inner status, a sort of sad mood. If a woman does not experience this mood during her period there is no problem for her to perform.[72] Madra Aryasa had a similar interpretation: he stressed the fact that menstruating and thus being in leteh condition creates the feeling of making dirty a temple or the masks used in the topeng. But there are no written rules prohibiting access to sacred places and items during menstruation and people do not speak about it. Because the leteh status depends on personal feelings, it is individual. He also believes that in the past it was more controlled than now. For example now it is not possible to be sure that none of the thousands of women going to the mother temple Besakih every day during festive seasons is not in leteh condition.[73]
  57. In spite of the fact that some support women performing Topeng Sidhakarya, and some knowledgeable people view women as more spiritually complete than men, there is a general feeling that the high holiness of the mask constitutes a precise boundary for women. There is something in women's bodies that makes them impure, dirty (polluted), and unable to control danger. Women's pollution seems to come from their sexual organs which, when they bleed, give birth, or meet male organs, become leteh.
  58. Crossing into 'pure' domains by a contaminated being—a woman and especially a woman during the menstruation—would cause imbalance and destroy the universe's harmony. Pure domains are not only buildings such as temples, but also include performance tools that contribute to the success of a ceremony. These can be musical instruments, puppets, costumes and masks. Women's impurity and danger to general well-being is cosmologically justified and framed within the discourse of traditional Balinese culture in a national and global context. As Laura Bellows explains,

      throughout Asia…[the] control of women's sexualities and fertilities is crucial to the formation of nation and the continuity of culture…women and tradition are wedded categories within preservationist discourses because only through control of women's sexualities can a gender and caste hierarchy be maintained and with it the religious/political power structure, expressed as a natural order.[74]

    This order was uncontested when only pre-menstrual girls or old women performed in temples. From a sacred space women began performing in a profane space when they started to perform arja. As Sawitri shows, they proved to have access to taksu, which is linked to the highest philosophical/religious concepts that link the human body to the universe.[75] Women themselves could not freely develop this revelation. Rather new performative domains were created for women, safe domains, far from spirituality and cosmology. But as they move within the allowed domains, women are able to expand them. Eventually perhaps they will cross the boundaries.
  59. In fact there are women so keen to cross the boundaries that once a woman did perform Sidhakarya, but in silence. It was Nyoman Candri, in September 2004 during the temple festival of her clan. I was not in Bali at the time, but when I visited her some weeks later, she told me right at the end of our conversation, almost omitting to mention it, that she finally did it, she performed Sidhakarya. Like any performer she was initiated in the safe context of her own clan. I was so surprised! I asked the rest of the family about the event. They said that her performance was good for a first attempt, but it seemed that I was the only one considering the fact so special. As a female foreign researcher I was giving importance to something that may have been considered just one of the everyday events that happen in Bali.

      Ni Wayan Sekariani: Why are women considered dirty? Because of what is down below…I often wonder why women are considered dirty, maybe as women we have to find the answer together.[76]

  60. With video-interviews I collected the voices of women involved in the first all-women topeng groups, I followed their rehearsals and their performances, witnessing the first steps of something that could constitute a great change in Balinese performance. In the above account I have attempted to combine women's own voices with material from other sources to analyse the complex factors shaping this process. In Bali as in other parts of Indonesia, state institutions and modernising national discourse have been centrally important, in both promoting and containing women's 'advancement.' Age-old, conservative gender ideology survives within new contexts, constraining the many but fiercely? resisted by an inspirational few who have played key leadership roles in women's arts activities. The presence of foreign women has been influential also. An important issue which I have not been able to explore here is the relation between women's performance and the current discourse on Balinese culture valorising the concept of ajeg Bali, wanting Bali to stand erect on its traditional values. To what extent is this discourse influencing performance practice? Is it contributing to the lack of self confidence expressed by women performing with masks? Or, on the contrary, is it stimulating the wish to contribute in their own terms to the preservation of a performance which represents Balinese culture? An important force in current Indonesian national politics, it has been agued, is an ideology of democratic participation which allows women more opportunity to speak with their own voices and control representation of their own bodies.[77] At the same time, local, regional cultural discourses intensify their prescriptions as to what a woman should do and be.
  61. With the exception of some efforts by Suarti's group, women seem not to use topeng performances to voice specifically female concerns. Rather, they are still trying to find their own way to characterise masks that have been previously been worn exclusively by men. Story telling, dialogues and jokes imitate what men usually do. Without necessarily expecting the development of a western feminist perspective, it will be very interesting to trace shifts in the structure and content of performances and the choice of masks, once these women have fully 'mastered' the technique and reached the freedom to be originally creative.
  62. A final aspect that needs to be monitored is, as we have seen, the ultimate boundary that women encounter in performing topeng, performing with the mask of Sidhakarya. Between uncertainty, support and lack of self-confidence one woman has indeed already performed the Sidhakarya at a ceremony, but it did not provoke a great reaction. Will this eventually become a common, daily practice, or will everybody simply forget about it? We can continue to observe and explore the changes, aware that 'our' questioning in itself may contribute to 'their' decision making.


    [1] This article is based on a chapter of my PhD thesis, Carmencita Palermo, 'Towards the embodiment of the mask. Balinese Topeng in contemporary practice,' University of Tasmania 2007. The thesis is supported by a video documentary in which most of the women's voices expressed in the article can be heard. If you are interested in accessing the video, please contact the author. Part of this material has been published also in Carmencita Palermo, 'Crossing male boundaries. Confidence crisis for Bali's women mask dancers,' in Inside Indonesia, vol. 83 (July-September 2005):9. My findings are the result of extensive research with the great women of Bali to whom I'm very grateful. A special thanks to Prof Barbara Hatley, my thesis supervisor, who stimulated my interest in women in a world of performance where men prevail. Thank you also to Barbara for invaluable editorial assistance in transforming the chapter into this article

    [2] I will discuss in more detail the dynamics of all women-topeng groups later in this article.

    [3] The phenomenon of all-women katakali groups can be traced to 1975 as described in Dian Daugherthy and Marlene Pitkow, 'Who wears the skirts in Kathakali?' in TDR, vol. 35, no. 2 (Summer 1991):138–156.

    [4] See Julia I. Suryakusuma, 'The state and sexuality in New Order Indonesia,' in Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia, ed. Laurie J. Sears, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1996, pp. 92–119; Sylvia Tiwon, 'Models and maniacs. Articulating the female in Indonesia,' in Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia, ed. Laurie J. Sears, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1996, pp. 47—70; Saraswati Sunindyo, 'Sexualising politics and violence,' in Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia, ed. Laurie J. Sears, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1996, pp. 120—39; Kathryn Robinson, 'Indonesian women-from Orde Baru to Reformasi,' in Women in Asia. Tradition, modernity and globalisation, Asian Studies Association of Australia, ed. Louise Edwards and Mina Roces. Women in Asia Publication Series, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2000, pp. 139–169; Susan Blackburn, Women and the State in Modern Indonesia, Cambrige: Cambridge University Press, 2004; Krishna Sen and Maila Stivens (eds), Gender and Power in Affluent Asia, London, New York: Routledge, 1988; Suzanne Brenner, 'On the public intimacy of the New Order: Images of women in the popular Indonesian print media,' in Indonesia, vol. 67 (1999):14–37.

    [5] Suryakusuma, 'The state and sexuality in New Order Indonesia.'

    [6] See Helen Pausacker, 'Woman and Wayang Kulit in Central Java,' in Restant, vol. ix, (1981):75–80; Barbara Hatley, 'More voices. Women and marginalised groups seize new opportunities in the arts,' in Inside Indonesia, no. 83 (July-September 2005):4–6; Lauren H. Bain, 'Performances of the Post-New Order,' PhD dissertation. Launceston: University of Tasmania, 2005.

    [7] Felicia Hughes-Freeland, 'Performance and gender in Javanese palace tradition,' in ''Male' and 'Female' in Developing Southeast Asia, ed. Wazir-Jahan and Begum Karim, Oxford: Berg, 1995, pp. 181–206.

    [8] Amrih Widodo, 'The stages of the state: arts of the people and rites of hegemonization,' in Review of Indonesia and Malaysian Affairs, vol. 29, nos 1–2 (1995):1–35.

    [9] John Emigh and James Hunt, 'Gender bending in Balinese performance,' in Gender in Performance: The Presentation of Difference in the Performing Arts, ed. Laurence Senelick, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1992, pp. 195–222.

    [10] Natalie Kellar, 'The politics of performance: gender and identity in arja and other contemporary Balinese theatre forms', PhD dissertation, Melbourne: Monash University, 2000.

    [11] Cokorda Sawitri, 'Versus men. A strife in the field of the performing arts,' in Bali. Living in Two Worlds, ed. Urs Ramsayer and IGR Panji Tisna, Basel: Museum der Kulturen Basel and Verlag: Schwabe & Co. AG Basel, 2001, pp. 129–138.

    [12] Rucina Ballinger, 'Woman power,' in Inside Indonesia, vol. 83, (July-September 2005):7–8.

    [13] Emiko S. Susilo, 'Gamelan wanita: a study of women's gamelan in Bali,' MA dissertation, Hawai'i: Hawai'i University, 2003.

    [14] See I Dewa Wicaksana, 'Eksistensi Dalang Wanita di Bali: Kendala dan Prospeknya' in Mudra, vol. 9, no. vii (September 2000): ; Ni Wayan Suratni, 'Kendala Eksistensi Dalang Wanita di Bali,' Denpasar: ISI, 2003.

    [15] I Nyoman Darma Putra, Wanita Bali Tempo Doeloe: Perspektif Masa Kini, Denpasar: Yayasan Bali Jani, 2003.

    [16] Helen Creese, 'Reading the Bali Post: Women and Representation in Post-Suharto Bali,' in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, issue 10, August 2004, URL:, accessed 17 October 2008.

    [17] Ni Made Wiratini, 'Peranan Wanita Dalam Seni Pertunjukan Bali Kota Denpasar,' PhD Dissertation, Denpasar: Program Kajian Budaya, Udayana University, 2007.

    [18] '[S]usah…persis seperti laki-laki itu yang susahnya, itu kalau untuk tenar di Bali, untuk menyamakan Topeng laki kayaknya saya pesimis.' Interview with Cokorda Agung Isteri, 11 August 2004, Singapadu, Bali.

    [19] '[K]alau perempuan itu geraknya sukar, lemas, biar semangatnya berapi-api tidak bisa untuk menyamai lelaki itu.' Interview with Ni Wayan Candri, 6 August 2004, Keramas, Bali.

    [20] 'Istilahnya di sini kalau sudah cewek memerankan tapel Topeng itu memang biar bagaimanapun kuatnya masih kelihatan ceweknya.' Interview with Jro Ratna, 19 July 2004, Denpasar, Bali.

    [21] This first group split in two after its first tour in Europe in 2003. Both groups maintained the same name, Topeng Shakti, although they have different styles. More details later in this chapter.

    [22] These remarks are based on informal conversations with Ni Nyoman Candri and Cok Agung Isteri between 2001 and 2003.

    [23] Interview with Ni Made Wiratini, 7 March 2003, Denpasar, Bali.

    [24] Interview with Ni Made Wiratini, 7 March 2003, Denpasas, Bali.

    [25] Interview with Ni Wayan Suriadi, 8 August 2003, Mengwi area, Bali.

    [26] This is an aspect relevant for any sort of dance. In fact not all women are suitable for all female dances; neither are all men suitable for all male characters. Their body features determine the sort of character they can be good at.

    [27] 'Kesibukan banyak kalau orang Bali, saya belajar nari saja tidak mungkin sebab kalau sudah namanya berkeluarga, apalagi punya cucu, punya anak, itu pekerjaan, tugas di Banjar itu sudah bermacam-macam. Saya ini termasuk di Desa, belum saya dengan family ada bekerja adat begini misalnya, mana kita dapat persiapan, paling tidak satu bulan sebelumnya sudah mulai 'mejejahitan' ini, itu. Mengisi kesibukan banyak, di sana saya belajar, sebab umur seperti saya sekarang, adatnya memegang, seperti belajar mebanten, belajar membuat ini, membuat itu. Jadi yang menari itu biarlah yang muda, artinya lepas sudah saya.' Interview with Ni Wayan Suriadi, 8 August 2003, Mengwi area, Bali.

    [28] 'Karena tercurah pada anak dan cucu. Lingkungan tidak mendukung, sebab orang wanita kalau di Bali itu sibuk dengan adat-istiadat dan budaya di Bali. Kalau yang laki itu mengambil pekerjaan itu masih ada toleransi, dari kita yang mendukung. Tapi kalau saya sampai menari sudah umur setua begini, kasihan juga, siapa yang 'ngayah' banjar, ada orang mati kita harus ke sana, belum lagi upacara ini, belum lagi upacara itu, social masyarakat, belum lagi ada cucu, sebab ini menantu kerja lagi, tertinggal cucu di rumah. Tidak mungkin.' Interview with Ni Wayan Suriadi, 8 August 2003, Mengwi area, Bali.

    [29] Interview with Luh Putu Haryani, 8 August 2003, Denpasar, Bali.

    [30] Interview with Wayan Dibia, 27 February 2003, Denpasar, Bali. Dibia is particularly concerned about women's characterisation of the penasar, the narrator figure. While wearing that mask a woman has to force herself to move, walk like a man and wear trousers; this is considered by Dibia as not following the 'etika', it is not proper. (Dibia's use of the term etika recalls the comments of his wife cited earlier. The issue of etika also arises in other performance settings, such as gamelan competitions in relation to the positioning of the drum on a women's crossed legs.) Dibia emphasised that women have only just started and they need time to develop their own form of topeng. Dibia also spoke of the danger of looking at this phenomenon from western-based feminist theory. I thank him for his support in my choice in focusing on women's voices, and for the idea of creating a mask performance with female masks only.

    [31] Interview with I Nyoman Durpa, 23 August 2003, Singaraja, Bali.

    [32] 'Kalau menurut saya, itu bukan karena perempuan tidak sekuat pria, itu perlu dipelajari sampai mendapatkan karakternya, sampai mendapatkan geraknya, kerasnya seberapa karena perempuanpun juga bisa menarikan baris kan?' Interview with Ni Made Pujawati, 12 July 2004, Sanur, Bali.

    [33] Ketut Kantor often proudly tells how his father, I Nyoman Kakul, trained girls for baris dance in the 1950s. Nowadays a good female baris dancer still causes surprise but it is not considered strange or improper.

    [34] '[P]akai rasa, jadi lebih berat rasanya bergerak tapi dengan latihan tidak perlu khawatir, harus banyak latihan dan dalam latihan itu harus pakai topeng…tidak boleh tidak pakai topeng'. Interview with Ida Dayu Made Diastini, 4 August 2004, Denpasar, Bali.

    [35] 'Jadi dia seperti istilahnya belum berperang sudah merasa kalah.' Interview with Ni Wayan Sekariani, 3 August 2004, Batuan, Bali.

    [36] The following account on Desak Nyoman Suarti is based on several personal communications over time and above all on an interview on 9 February 2003, Ketewel, Bali.

    [37] Darma Putra, Wanita Bali Tempo Doeloe: Perspektif Masa Kini, pp. 41–44.

    [38] Adrian Vickers (ed.), Being Modern in Bali: Image and Change, Monograph 43, New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, 1996.

    [39] Vickers, 'Introduction,' in Being Modern in Bali: Image and Change, Monograph 43, New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, ed. Adrian Vickers, 1996, pp. 1–36, p. 1.

    [40] Darma Putra, Wanita Bali Tempo Doeloe: Perspektif Masa Kini, pp. 103–106.

    [41] Suryakusuma, 'The state and sexuality in New Order Indonesia,' pp. 92–119;

    [42] Creese, 'Reading the Bali Post: women and representation in Post-Suharto Bali, paragraph 28.

    [43] Melani Budianta, 'Plural identities: Indonesian women's redefinition of democracy in the post reformasi era,' in RIMA, vol. 36, no. 1 (2002):35–50.

    [44] See Pamela Allen and Carmencita Palermo, 'Ajeg Bali: multiple meanings, diverse agendas,' in Indonesia and the Malay World, vol. 33, no. 97, (November 2005):239–255.

    [45] Luh Ketut Suryani, Perempuan Bali Kini, Denpasar: Bali Post, 2003.

    [46] Sawitri, 'Versus men. A strife in the field of the performing arts,' pp. 129–38.

    [47] Sawitri explains her point of view telling the story of the first arja performance representing the story of Kasayang Limbur that was about 'a disloyal wife' in reference to Gusti Ayu Karangasem who refused to do sati at the cremation of her husband, the prince of Gelgel (Klungkung) Dewa Gde Kusamba. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Sawitri argues that the stories performed were about the marginalisation of women. Those who were against the pre-constituted social order were exposed and criticised through arja, which was thus an instrument of social control. This is a theory of the origin of arja with which not everybody would agree. Kellar in her PhD thesis, 'The politics of performance: gender and identity in arja and other contemporary Balinese theatre forms,' provides a panorama of the several interpretations of the origin of arja. All seem to agree though that women were excluded from dance drama such gambuh and legong. When women started to perform is not clear.

    [48] Susilo, 'Gamelan wanita: a study of women's gamelan in Bali.'

    [49] I Wayan Dibia and Rucina Ballinger, Balinese Dance, Drama and Music, Singapore: Periplus Editions, 2004. See pages on first all-woman gamelan group, pp. 36–37.

    [50] Michael B. Bakan, Music of Death and New Creation: Experiences in the World of Balinese Beleganjur, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999, p. 255.

    [51]The symbolic value of this mechanism can be seen in the beleganjur performed by women on the occasion of the opening parade of the 1995 Bali Arts Festival. Belaganjur, a street parade with musical performances where walking musicians create extremely energetic rhythms is truly considered a man-only type of gamelan. See Bakan Music of Death and New Creation, p. 243).

    [52] Other forms of competition took place such as mixed (male and female) gamelan groups.

    [53] Dibia and Ballinger, Balinese Dance, Drama and Music, pp. 36—37.

    [54] Ballinger, 'Woman power,' p. 8.

    [55] Wiratini, 'Peranan Wanita Dalam Seni Pertunjukan Bali Kota Denpasar.'

    [56] Latri: Jangankan menari, pegang saja kalau datang bulan jangan.

      C: Kenapa seperti itu?

      Latri: Ya, …kita masih 'leteh', kalau orang Bali kalau datang bulan itu kita dianggap 'leteh' tidak boleh mengambil sesuatu yang suci apalagi untuk melakukan prosesi yadnya, ya jangan bertanya mengapa begitu, karena memang sudah ditentukan di sana kalau datang bulan tidak boleh sembahyang.

      C: Ibu punya penjelasan secara filsafat.?

      Latri: Secara lahiriah kita masih kotor, dianggap leteh, jelas saja ini berpengaruh, orang sudah dari perasaan, pikiran kita merasakan diri kotor buat apa sembahyang, sedangkan kalau sembahyang harus mandi dulu kan, kita masih kotor, 3 hari kita masih kotor, perasaan jadi tidak menentu kalau sembahyang jangan sembahyang kalau kita tidak tenang. Kalau menarikan ini kita leteh, ini memang tidak mengapa-apakan kita tapi kita duluan sudah punya perasaan yang tidak enak, jadi perasaan. Interview with Ni Wayan Latri, 6 August 2004, Keramas.

    [57] Suratni, 'Kendala Eksistensi Dalang Wanita di Bali.'

    [58] Kellar, 'The politics of performance,' pp. 23–24; Abby Ruddick, 'Parallel worlds: healers and witches in a Balinese village,' in Contributions to Southeast Asian Ethnography, 1989, pp. 25–42.

    [59] Linda Connor, Patsy Asch and Timothy Asch, Jero Tapakan, Balinese Healer: An Ethnographic Film Monograph, Los Angeles, Ca.: Ethnographics Press, 1996.

    [60] Ruddick, 'Parallel worlds,' pp. 25–42.

    [61] Lyn Parker, 'Flowers and witches in Bali: representations and everyday life of Balinese women,' paper presented at the Conference on The State, Sexuality and Reproduction, at the ANU, July, 1993.

    [62] Personal communication by IBM D Palguna (August 2000) also confirmed by Laura Bellows (October 2003).

    [63] This has been emphasised on several occasions during informal conversations with IBM Dharma Palguna in 2004 and 2005.

    [64] Interview with Luh Putu Haryani, 8 August 2003, Denpasar, Bali.

    [65] Interview with I Ketut Rina, 5 August 2004, Batuan, Bali.

    [66] Interview with I Dewa Wicaksana, 19 August 2003, Denpasar.

    [67] Lately in order to avoid wasting time asking information about what the offering is for, often the tukang banten, the woman taking care of the preparation of the offerings, writes on the offerings their purpose/use.

    [68] Ni Wayan Suratni confirmed the dialogue reported by Wicaksana during conversation with me in October 2004.

    [69] Interview with Mangku Ketut Yadnya, 5 November 2004, Sidhakarya, Bali. I am grateful to Ulf Gadd who introduced me to Mangku Ketut Yadnya.

    [70] 'Kaitannya kenapa tidak perempuan yang menarikan Sidhakarya, mungkin karena dari segi kesuciannya, apalagi perempuan itu sudah mens, istilahnya akil balig.' Interview with Ni Wayan Mudiari, 6 August 2003, Denpasar, Bali.

    [71] Wicaksana, 'Eksistensi Dalang Wanita di Bali: Kendala dan Prospeknya.'

    [72] Interview with I Nyoman Durpa, 23 August 2003, Singaraja, Bali.

    [73] Interview with I Wayan Madra Aryasa, 7 August 2003, Denpasar, Bali.

    [74] Laura J. Bellows, 'Traditional sex/modern meaning: desire and foreign influence in Bali,’ PhD dissertation, Charlottesville, VA University of Virginia, 2003, p. 43.

    [75] Sawitri, 'Versus men. A strife in the field of the performing arts.'

    [76] 'Kenapa dianggap kotor, apa karena orang melihat dari segi bawahnya itu, saya sering berpikir kenapa wanita itu dianggap kotor, mungkin kita sebagai wanita harus cari jawabannya itu sama-sama.' Interview with Ni Wayan Sekariani, 3 August 2004, Batuan, Bali.

    [77] Hatley, 'More voices,' p. 6.


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