Authors:Laurel Kendall (American Museum of Natural History)
Wayan Ariati (World Learning)
Paper short abstract:
Stories told about a tourist mask that returned to Bali to become a local protector, Ida Rati Gede Gombrang, exist at an intersection between the aesthetic/sacred realization of a Balinese mask—how it is crafted, tended and performed—and contemporary life in the tourist mecca of Ubud.
Paper long abstract:
Cue the scary music. The beginning is evocative of generic horror movies: A suspicious object enables occult forces to invade and derange a placid middle class American home as with the voodoo-empowered evil doll Chucky in the eponymous horror series. As a traveler's tale of a known genre, a fanged and wild-haired witch's mask from Bali rattles on the wall of a New York apartment and cases much mischief. Turn down the scary music, turn up the festival gamelon, make audible a conversation enriched by Balinese talk about the sightings and activities of the mask Ida Ratu Gede Gombrang, now housed in the Palace (Puri) of Ubud. A mask that goes bump in the night can still be scary--power is a dangerous thing--but when its potency is recognized and its intentions articulated through the aesthetic act of ritual performance, its active presence protects the community from terrorism, black magic, and an occasional illegally parked car. Balinists describe a connection between community well-being and the periodic performance of masks and entranced dancers who temporarily right the precarious balance between divine and demonic forces. The community that acknowledges Ratu Gede Gombrang is no village, but a hub of global tourist activity. We examine how the stories told about Ratu Gede Gombrang make sense at an intersection between the aesthetic/sacred realization of a Balinese mask—how it is crafted, tended and performed—and contemporary life in Ubud. Ida Ratu Gede Gombrang is a distinctively 21st century Balinese phenomenon.
Aesthetics and the making of religious collectivities