Bali, Indonesia – Sixty years in the past, I Ketut Soki was the delighted recipient of his first portray equipment – and since that day, he has not often put his brushes down.
“I nonetheless have the spirit to color. I nonetheless have a variety of concepts,” he advised Al Jazeera.
“I paint to take care of the Balinese tradition. I wish to present individuals overseas about Bali. I paint the island … harvesting, paddy fields, cultivating.”
The 72-year-old was one of many pioneers of the portray model often known as Younger Artist, recognized for its energetic and vibrant depictions of Balinese life.
However the artwork scene on the island is completely different now and plenty of artists within the once-thriving cultural centre are struggling. Bali’s borders are closed to international vacationers – and of their absence, the prospects for gross sales are restricted.
“Artists really feel the affect,” Soki mentioned. “Many individuals have stopped portray as a result of it’s so exhausting to promote now.”
Every portray can take greater than 150 hours to finish however Soki says he has had no alternative however to drop his costs.
He nonetheless considers himself one of many fortunate ones as a result of, with the assistance of his granddaughter, Dewa Ayu Candra Dewi, he is ready to promote some items.
“We began to advertise his work on Instagram in the beginning of COVID as a result of many galleries closed,” she mentioned.
“The opposite day we despatched a portray to the US by the put up workplace.”
‘All I can do’
Others are battling the brand new actuality.
For a lot of who name this fabled island dwelling, life modified when the borders closed.
Within the village of Batuan, craftsman Wayan Madru carves and paints conventional masks. He studied this craft when he was nonetheless in main faculty.
Earlier than the pandemic, he offered his masks to international vacationers as souvenirs.
“There are 304 households on this village and 95 % are masks craftsmen. Due to COVID, all gross sales have been cancelled,” he mentioned.
“Artists rely on tourism, now that’s gone. We are able to’t discover work and life is so tough.”
He mentioned his earnings has been lowered to about $30 a month.
Some artists within the village have turned to different jobs in the course of the pandemic however the 61-year-old says that isn’t an possibility for him.
“I’m aged. I can’t work on a development website, I don’t have the power,” he mentioned.
For months, there was hypothesis about journey corridors however formidable plans for Bali’s reopening have up to now come to nothing.
Nonetheless, in anticipation of that day, vaccinations for tourism staff are beneath method.
“We’re very optimistic, hopefully inside a brief time period, we might be capable of reopen the borders for the revival of tourism and the financial system,” Sandiaga Uno, the minister for Tourism and Artistic Financial system, mentioned.
Bali’s arts and tourism sectors are closely entwined. In normal circumstances, tour guides take travellers to galleries to see and buy the works on display but now, most guides have had to find other work and some have returned to their villages and the land.
Komang Suarmika, a guide for more than 17 years, is working on a construction site.
“We try to survive with what little we have, we sold our jewellery and other belongings,” he said. “My wife cannot work because our children are young.
“We can’t count too much on tourism for now. What I can do now is hard labour in construction. I’ll do anything for my family.”
While working as a guide, Suarmika taught himself to speak Korean – a useful skill in his previous work and one he hopes he will be able to use once again.
“Economic-wise, this is bad and painful,” he said.
“But this is a lesson for me, to be stronger mentally. And a lesson for our economy, in the future we should not only rely on one thing.”
Indonesian environmental teams have lengthy criticised Bali’s mass tourism strategy and they’re stepping up requires a extra sustainable mannequin centred on arts, tradition and nature.
“Mass tourism has created a variety of issues. The seashores are contaminated, there are uncontrolled developments … and a water disaster,” mentioned I Made Juli Untung Pratama from the Indonesian Discussion board for the Atmosphere (WALHI).
“We must always not depend on the amount of vacationers … mass tourism strays away from Balinese tradition and way of life.”
Gallery proprietor Gede Susilo Dharma, who is predicated within the island’s cultural centre of Ubud, hopes that it’s going to not be lengthy earlier than the vacationers return.
“It’s the worst state of affairs. The darkest second for the tourism world. There have been some incidents just like the Bali bombings and volcanic eruptions. However it’s worse now,” he mentioned.
The 45-year-old is the proprietor Mammoth Gallery, which sells handmade statues of wooden bought from artists across the island.
Whereas many artists have been pressured to hunt different types of employment, Dharma says he’s making an attempt to maintain the standard craft alive.
He continues to fee new sculptures to assist the artists – regardless that his income has fallen by virtually one hundred pc.
“Wood carving is a traditional art of Bali. You need talent – you cannot learn it through formal education,” he said. “If the artists stop, such a great tradition can disappear.”
International media often refer to Bali as a resort island or tropical paradise.
But for Dharma, the island is more than that. It is home – and seeing many Balinese persevere through the economic devastation the pandemic has wrought is deeply personal for him.
While many galleries and businesses have shut down or closed their doors temporarily, the Mammoth Gallery has stayed open.
“Our gallery has to stay alive, we will never shut it down,” he said.
“I want the world to know that we are still fighting.”