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Tenganan Pegringsingan: Between Mirror and Make Up

Colloquium Muziekwetenschap 
Citra Aryandari 

November 13, 15:30-17:00
Universiteitstheater, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Tenganan Pegringsingan is a desa adat (village of custom) located in the east of the Indonesian island Bali. Myth has it that the land of Tenganan Pegringsingan was bestowed by Dewa Indra (deities) to Wong Paneges (people) for their loyalty and intelligence. Records dating back to the 11th century note that these ancestors of the Tenganan people tended the village, its lands and natural resources with great care, securing continuity of life not only for themselves, but also for their descendants. Indeed, today, Tenganan’s situation is not significantly different from the one described in the legend.

However, since the tourist industry hit Bali in the 1960s, the Tenganan people have earned their living not only from the inherited natural resources, but also from the tourists from outside Tenganan. This paper, based on extensive fieldwork in Tenganan Pegrinsingan, explores the impact of this on the way in which the Tenganan people carry out their rituals, notably Usaba Sambah, the biggest ritual that lasts for a month, and Mekare-kare, or pandan war. Tenganan people are not particularly interested in the ideology or history behind their ceremonies. For them, the most important thing is that the ceremony is done. Still, for the tourists and other entertainment purposes, they ‘traditionalize’ themselves and beautify their rituals through excessive jewellery, thick make-up and theatricality, with the intention to impress the tourists and make them believe that Tenganan is a village of rich people passionate to preserve their tradition. By focusing on the present-day practice of rituals, the paper aims to provide insight into changes of Tenganan society at large.