ABSTRACT

Introduction Over the last 30 years, the village of Tegallalang, on the island of Bali, has undergone major transformations in its economic and cultural landscape. Like many other communities in rural Bali, Tegallalang’s economy has historically revolved around agriculture. However, with the rapid integration of the Indonesian nation-state into the global economy, the village has diversified its activities in response to locals’ increased reliance on cash-based transactions and the tourism industry’s need for labourers, commodities, and services. While the neighbouring village of Ubud (located 8 km to the south) has become a major tourist destination complete with museums, spas, restaurants, souvenir kiosks, and hotel accommodations suitable for every type of budget, Tegallalang has evolved from a centre of small-scale production of tourist souvenirs to become a supplier of handicrafts for the international market. In this chapter, I will discuss how handicrafts – and specifically, the ethnic arts – have become an important source of revenue for rural Tegallalang residents, as well as a new avenue for these residents to signify and negotiate their newfound cosmopolitan identities. Since the mid-1990s, Tegallalang has specialized in the mass production and distribution of ‘ethnic’ art for export to markets in Japan, Australia, North America, and Europe. Ethnic art – which is also referred to as tribal, indigenous, or primitive art – refers to the genre of crafts whose aesthetics derive from or depict a specific ethnic/cultural minority group. This is both significant and ironic in the context of Bali: as an ethnic and religious minority situated amid the world’s largest Muslim nation-state, many Hindu-Balinese participating in this industry are often unaware that their business relies upon the discursive reinforcement of ideas regarding linear progress, modernity, and distinctions between ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’ societies (Errington 1998: 4-5). Over time, Tegallalang has profited from items such as Native American dream-catchers and totem poles, Australian Aboriginal boomerangs, African-style masks and musical instruments. While some of the crafts clearly borrow from a specific aesthetic tradition, other commodities produced here might be characterized as generically ethnic in nature; using motifs or

features loosely based on stereotypical images and aesthetics from one or more cultures, but not directly indexing a specific cultural group. Local handicrafts producers learn how to create or replicate various ethnic/cultural objects from foreign design and retail experts – middlemen/women who supply the producers with photographs, sketches, or prototypes of the crafts they are hiring Tegallalang artisans to replicate in mass quantities. I attempt to look at the ways in which Tegallalang residents’ rural, locally situated agricultural orientations have changed over time to become more diverse, global, and cosmopolitan.1 By drafting contracts with international corporations, establishing foreign business and social networks, as well as keeping abreast of styles and trends abroad, many of the handicrafts producers and suppliers whom I interviewed assert that this industry allows them to become more connected to a modern, global economy. I argue that the handicrafts producers and distributors of Tegallalang, through the commercial ethnic arts market, articulate a type of global identity that does not require large amounts of economic capital or international travel. Furthermore, involvement with the ethnic handicrafts market, in particular, allows locals to distance themselves from the romanticized narratives of a timeless, traditional Balinese culture – a narrative that the tourism sector relies upon heavily to this day.