Indonesia has a number of traditional cultural dances that tell various stories and are believed to have an added spiritual meaning.
In my time in Bali I was able to see the Barong dance in Ubud. The dance tells of a battle between the good versus the evil spirit. The good is represented through the character of the Barong, a lion-like creature. Whilst the bad is represented through the witch, Rangda.
The hour long dance starts off with the Barong shown as a playful character, dancing around. Rangda then makes her appearance and the Barong takes on the role of the protector. The two fight with their magical powers but they are equally as powerful. The men, Barong supporters, aid him by trying to stab Rangda. However, Rangda uses her powers to put the men in a trance and in turn they try to stab themselves. Barong casts a spell which protects the men from their blades and Rangda runs off, defeated.
(Photograph by Dodik 2017)
After the dance, I had a discussion with my Balinese driver where I learnt that the Barong dance has a much deeper meaning than just story telling for the people of Bali. The one hour dance I saw was just a shortened version. The sacred dance is performed on special occasions and in ceremonies, and can go up to many hours. It is also performed when there is misfortune or illness in the village, intending to drive away the evil spirits (Hobart 2003).
The masks of the Barong and Rangda are considered sacred items, before they are brought out they are to be to be sprinkled with holy water by a priest. Offerings are presented before the show and the priest must be present until the end of the show to sprinkle holy water on the Barong supporters to end their trance.
(Barong Mask 1900-1950)
The costumes of each character has many layers and sometimes involves more than one person to play it. The Barong costume is sometimes made with real gold reflecting the importance placed on this character. The price of the costume can range from $2000 to $10,000 AUD.
Less ornate versions of the Barong masks can be found in most woodcarving shops. The Barong symbolises the protective god and therefore the masks are sometimes hung near doorways to repel evil spirits and bring about positive energy to the home.
Annenberg Foundation, n.d., Barong Mask, viewed 16 February 2017, <https://www.learner.org/courses/globalart/work/4/index.html>
Bali and Indonesia on the Net n.d., The Barong Dance of Bali, Indonesia, viewed 16 February 2017, <http://www.indo.com/culture/barong.html>
Indo Bali Hotel n.d., Bali Dance, Indonesia, viewed 16 February 2017, <http://www.indobalihotel.com/bali_dance.html>
Hobart, A. 2003, Healing Performances of Bali: Between Darkness and Light, Berghahn Books, Oxford, New York.
Taken by Dodik 2017
Barong Mask, c. 1900-1950, Fowler Museum UCLA, viewed 16 February 2017, <http://collections.fowler.ucla.edu/mwebcgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=X76.1970A;type=101>