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The Marginalization of Paradise

Art and Culture Activist, Nyoman Gunarsa, Sees Current Trends in Architecture as Signaling the Decline of Baliís Culture

(8/28/2011) Nyoman Gunarsa, one of Bali’s most renowned artists and museum curators, feels that Bali’s culture is under siege and deteriorating with the passage of time.

Cultural degradation is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the development of the island’s architecture. “This fact is seen in the appearance of minimalist buildings divorced from Balinese architecture.
As quoted by the National News Agency Antara, Gunarsa warns that the disappearance of “Bali style” in local architecture is spreading. “Many temples (pura) are being rehabilitated and renovated, but the with the elimination of original elements that have historical roots hundreds of years old, such as red bricks and stonework,” said Gunarsa.

Moreover, he bemoaned the even more destructive tendency in rehabilitating temples of throwing away old building materials to be replaced with new elements, losing in the process the meaning and value of the spiritual sacrifice and hard world of the earlier generation whose work is being renovated. Gunarsa added, “imagine how a 'kori agung pura' that is hundreds of years old is renovated with black stones and carved ornaments of uncertain origin.”

Gunarsa called for a more conservative approach to renovating puras, rehabilitating rather than merely replacing damaged elements.

“If this can be done, only then do we have what can be called the preservation of the sanctity of temples. Completely knocking down and replacing temples with new building materials is not conservation,” explained Gunarsa.

The outspoken defender of Balinese art and culture also criticized the ornamentation of buildings, which is becoming increasing removed from Balinese norms. Adding: “Just look at these modern building which have the smallest amount of Balinese architecture. This will eventually sink our local culture. There is are no longer any devotees left to preserve (these elements).”

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