Balinese Rituals & Language: Facing Globalisation (Part 1)

Bali is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Indonesia. It is a small island in Indonesia with several unique characteristics that attract tourists to explore the island. Visitors can find beaches, resorts, diving and surfing spots, tasty traditional food, and fascinating sceneries. However, cultural tourism is something that Bali has provided triggering many tourists to visit this island. More than 50% of foreign visitors surveyed were interested in Balinese people and their culture (Wiranatha, 2001, in Barker et al., 2006). Bali has several unique cultures such as sacred religious rituals, sacred dances, and songs, a local language, indigenous villages, and enchant arts that give tourists reason to visit and experience the Island of God (Wonderful Indonesia; Lonely Planet). Bali became a tourism destination since 1924, when the Royal Navigation Company has ascertained the first steamship journey from Bali to Jakarta, Singapore, Makassar, Surabaya, and Semarang. In that year, there were only 213 visitors. Years afterwards, along with the increase of ferries and the establishment of an airport in Tuban, the number of tourists that came to Bali boosted and continuously grows (“Evidence of Important,” 2017).

According to data from Statistics Indonesia (2016), the number of international visitors to Bali in 2015 was over 4 Million people. The attendance of tourists in Bali gives positive impacts for the local citizens in Bali. Residents become more wealthy, and their living standard increases (Philip, 2012). Conversely, mass tourism also contributes to the damage of Bali’s cultures, which is one of the unique attraction of Bali (Philip, 2012). Currently, the dances are frequently used in tourism promotion board. Local people commodified cultural elements to create a unique attraction that can fascinate more tourist to come and experience their culture. For example, residents in Batubulan, Bali regularly held Barong dance performances for tourists on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday since 1970. Initially, this dance was a sacred rite to cleanse the village from illness or disaster, and only under a particular circumstance, it was held (McKean, 1982). Although the sacredness of religious rituals in Bali eroded and became more commercial to attract the tourists, these circumstances are believed bring more income to the locals as well as job opportunities.

The impacts of the tourism industry also made Balinese people speak more in Indonesian rather than in the Balinese language (Philip, 2012). According to a local news website, Bali Post, the number of Balinese native speakers is gradually decreasing (2015). In the same time, globalisation also brings some changes in the utilisation of this indigenous language, hence “more modern” Balinese language creates.

In this article, we focus on the relationship between tourism and culture. We discuss what cultural changes tourism brings and the role of globalisation in term of influencing the growth of mass tourism. In doing so, we draw attention to the effect of commodification related to Balinese rituals – what the results relate to cultural beliefs and material objects and will use Appadurai’s five scapes as the lenses to examine the questions of what makes cultures change related to Balinese Language and draw attention to the effect of commodification. The explanation of how tourism could harm the indigenous culture but also could preserve the culture through the tourists’ activities will be discussed. Two aspects of indigenous cultures which are language and rituals, will be the main discussion in this paper.







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Hana Ulinnuha & Luftia NS