Author:Kari Telle (Christian Michelsen Institute)
Paper short abstract:
On Lombok, minority Balinese make and use demon puppets at New Year in order to control public space and bring dangerous demonic forces under control. Aesthetic creativity is central to the efficacy of this ritural endeavour and its ability to assert a Balinese public identity.
Paper long abstract:
Over the past two decades, processions with puppets depicting demonic forces (ogoh ogoh) have become an integral yet somewhat controversial aspect of the Hindu Balinese New Year celebrations in urban Lombok. While inspired by similar practices on Bali, the exuberant display of demons and their wild power holds different signifance on Lombok, an island where Balinese are a religious and ethnic minority. Drawing on anthropological perspectives on aesthetics, the paper reflects on why the making and display of demonic figures has captivated the imagination of Lombok Balinese youth. The paper shows how the making of these puppets is a collective and ritual endeavour designed to turn them into temporary bodies of demonic forces. As such, the handling of hese puppets is fraught with a sense of risk. Whereas Geertz (1972) famously described the Balinese cockfight as 'a story they tell themselves about themselves,' I explore ogoh-ogoh processions on Lombok as a constitutive aesthetic practice of community-making. Set in a context marked by tension between minorities and the Sasak Muslim majority, these processions are rare moments when Balinese assert control over public space, manifesting their creativity and ability to bring demonic forces under control. Oscillating between order and the chaotic wrestling with demons, I suggest that the heavily guarded ogoh-ogoh processions intimate that Balinese are not to be messed with.
Aesthetics and the making of religious collectivities