The Yak goes one on one with…
…Jan, the initiator of the recent ALL BALI POLENG movement and events …
So where are we in terms of the All Bali Poleng?
The opening ceremony, with the kings from Java and Bali, the Bali high priests, and local officials, was held on January 1st, at the same temple where Charlie Chaplin danced in the 1932. I was lucky to spend a lot of time with him when I was a kid, so I felt this to be a good sign.
Then the first ever “Poleng day” was on January 2nd; with many Bali villages and temples participating, as well as few hotels and restaurants.
There are 42 local pre events planned this year, a steady build up to the next big All Bali Poleng, on January 21st, 2023.
The Bali Poleng movement is led by two Balinese, Pak Dewa, founder of the “108 Bajra” reunion of 108 priests from all religions, and Mangku Wahyu, founder of the “Dewata” magazine about Bali high priests.
All Bali Poleng? Like, we are all dressed up in the black and white, checked fabric?
Yes. Like in Pamplona, Spain, where every one, from the oldest to the youngest, dresses in white with a red scarf and red belt. They call it San Fermin. In Bali many people wear Poleng sarongs. The 22.000 Pecalangs (security guards) all wear it as their uniforms, and also the Kecak dancers.
Let’s back track a bit. What is the meaning, or symbolism, of the Poleng fabric? The black and white checked cloth.
It is used on all places with strong energy, like big trees, big rocks, two rivers joining. This is to help the balance and avoid overflow one way or the other. It is the symbol of equilibrium.
What inspired you to come up with this event? What “called” you to its creation?
More of a vision I had many years ago, seeing 1000 kecaks, wearing only a poleng sarong, trance dancing around a giant fire. I had a calling then, after the 2002 Bali bomb “Hell in Paradise”, to do something to calm down the imbalance and tensions in Bali.
I decided to group one thousand Kecak dancers on a hill at full moon, and let them spread their vibrations to the world, like a stone thrown in a pond.
Though all the priests said it was too powerful and therefore should be avoided, we did it and things went well. My partners were Ida Bagus Surya Buana, from the well-known Ubud Peliatan dancers family, and Bpk. Gusti known as Mr Bali.
What is its long-term goal?
The idea is to reconnect with our animist roots, but also to bring back spirit and activities to Bali. The Balinese want more Bali traditions to be alive, and All Bali Poleng will be a reason for people to travel specifically to Bali. Pamplona restaurants make more money in that one week of San Fermin, when they all dress in white and red, than during the rest of the year!
How on board are the Balinese people and religious leaders? – I’ve heard some negative comments from some bulehs…
Most of all the Balinese authorities, all the religions representative groups, all the villages associations have been visited and informed, and they all approved the idea. I have not heard any negative comments, on the contrary, many people are grateful. Of course, with the present situation that we are living through now, the first event was done mostly by villagers, and at temples, and people within their own places.
Next year, if the public can gather more freely, we plan the Kecaks to be dancing with all of us on the roads of Bali.
Can you briefly tell me where are we up to in terms of the annual “All Bali Poleng” schedule?
There are 42 events this year. The first one was in the oldest Buddhist temple near Amlapura, the second event – on a magic stone – was at the hill-top temple behind Manggis in East Bali, the third one was in Petang, fourth in Singaraja, the fifth will be in Tabanan, just after Nyepi. There is a list of the upcoming ones.
Who can participate?
Everyone is welcome. But as these events are in temples you must wear a sarong and a belt to come in.
Why would they want to?
Because it is a way to discover the authentic Bali, and join a movement growing organicaly, towards a common goal. Balance is what the world needs.
That Bali stands up and shows the way is pretty much time. We are all fed up of pollutions and viruses, which all come from unbalanced behaviours.
Does the event have a tag line?
“Chakatakachakachak!” the Kecak energy guts power song.
Though I feel like spreading the message of the Poleng grey.
When you push black and white extreem colors you get grey in the middle. We are all grey!
How long have you been a resident in Bali? And what are the recent changes you may not be enjoying?
I arrived in Indonesia in 1974; so long time ago. But I am still born in the world, and live in the world, like everyone else.
And I love all the changes, including myself.
How challenging are you finding educating ‘recent arrivals’ about Bali’s inspiring and unique culture?
Bali soil is very powerful. It is the ground of Mount Agung, one of the most powerful volcanoe in the world. Therefor people arriving feel, or captivated, or feel like going away.
Once you are in Bali, no efforts to do, let it be, go with the flow. Bali is magic and you are magic too, but we need to accept it to access it.
How may we, as guests on the island, participate in the “All Bali Poleng” events?
It is for all people. The poleng is already used by Balinese as a respect for energy. The guests should feel more at home and embrace this. After the Bomb, the Balinese realised that the expats living here also had children at school and family members dead. Since then the community living in Bali from all horrizons is much closer, but each one has to bend towards the other one to make bridges. The Poleng is a way for that.
What is your Balinese or Indonesian name please?
My name is Jan, which is Swedish; and this is short in Bali for “Wayan” the most common name in Bali, and given to all firstborn children, girl or boy.
But I am a third child, so truly a “Nyoman”. Therefore they call me “Nyoman Yan”, which makes them laugh a lot. Some also call me “Bali Jan”, because Balian is the name they give to a healer or a shaman, and they like this ‘joke’ on my name.
2022 saw the first such event, with a relatively small, but ardent following. How do you intend to gather momentum?
The 42 events already organised around Bali will boost next year’s big event. Now we need the hotels and restaurants to also prepare for next year by planning it as part of their annual events calendar.
And lastly 2023, what do you expect to see at the first anniversary event?
I hope the health situation will be much better; but as the first event was a success, we are already starting to see more balance in our health.
So we can better share in the open.
Jan, thank you for your time and let us know how we can further support and help spread the word…
Prepare for the January 21st 2023 “ALL BALI POLENG”:
On that day everyone living or staying in Bali will connect through a giant common vibration. Fir that day, we will all dress and decorate our cars and houses, and house temples with the “Poleng” cloth (black, white, grey), symbol of Balance and Unity in Diversity. And all around Bali, at sunset, we will sound the “Kulkuls” loudly, a bamboo instrument that is the Bali traditional community communication system. It will spread the good vibration to all. This event is the linked to that of the “1001 Kecaks” (2004) and the “108 Bajra priests” (2014), sending a message to the World, from Bali, though vibrations. Small acts when multiplied by many people transform the world.
Matur Suksema Bali Jan…