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Paddy Bali
An environmental arts project with children

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Rice cultivation in Bali is famed for its high yields and efficient use of irrigation water. The Subaks of Bali are ancient water management systems that date back over a millennium. Subaks are socio-religious, irrigation co-operatives that work to balance the needs of the community and support sustainable, organic rice production. The terraced rice paddy’s are irrigated by gravity through a system of collectively owned and managed irrigation channels which are fed by a dam which is often owned by several Subaks.

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Cosmology, the ritual order of Water Temples and Hindu festivals are tied to the timing and size of planting, water allocation, crop rotation and harvesting.

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This environmental visual art project aims to honour the importance of the Subak system that has sustained the growing of rice over the centuries.
Today the Subak system is threatened by political and social events in Bali.

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The disposal of plastics in waterways and increasing tourism in Bali is putting the Subak system under great stress.

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The rapidly growing tourist industry increases the demand for rice. It also pays more than farming, thus luring the farmers away from the fields.
New, faster growing species that require herbicides, pesticides and mechanization have been introduced while rice paddy’s become sites for tourist villas.
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Such an ancient and successful system needs a few champions.
This project aims to raise the awareness of the Subak through an art education project that involves children, youth, their communities and artists in Bali.
The arts are an easily accessible and powerful vehicle for engaging with the ideas, processes, practices and rituals that surround rice growing.

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Part one – 210 young Balinese children make an art installation
Young children enjoy drawing and making things. When children become engaged in an art project that has traditional values and processes like the Subak as its focus, they are more likely to appreciate and value such traditions.

Background and significance of the components of their art project:
The coconut is integral to the traditions of Subak. It has been used to measure time for Subak meetings, to measure quantities of rice and to eat and drink out of. It is a sustainable and biodegradable material.
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The collaborative making of a coconut bowl by a child with an adult will provide a context for passing on ideas, traditions and history as well as helping children appreciate the value of natural and sustainable resources.

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The rice cycle and the Balinese calendar are closely interwoven. There are 210 days in the Balinese calendar. We have 210 children making coconut bowls with elders in their communities.

Balinese calendar


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The 210 bowls brought to the museum (by 210 children) will be artistically displayed to represent the calendar. The bowls symbolize the intergenerational exchanges that took place during their making.
When the children deliver their bowls to the museum they will be given a tour of the museum and invited to draw aspects of Subak that interest them.

Lontar has a long history and an important function in the Subak. It is used to preserve the rules and systems of the Subak. Lontar records provide valuable information about the workings of the Subak.
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The format of the Lontar will guide how children’s observational drawings of the artifacts of the Subak museum are created and displayed.
The children’s bowls and drawings will form the core of an art installation at the Subak museum.
Opening the exhibition with music of the Subak
The exhibition will be opened by a musical performance where the 210 children will call the people of Bali to their exhibition with the rhythmic tapping of 210 small individual bamboo kukuls.

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The Mandila Mathika Subak Museum will host the exhibition and performance. The governor of Tabanan, I Putu Eka Wiryastuti, has met with us and will open the exhibition.