Balinese Ogoh-Ogoh Celebration in Hobart, Australia

Bali came to the Apple Isle when thousands of people celebrated the winter solstice with a Balinese demon-purging “Ogoh-Ogoh” procession and burning ritual in Hobart.

The Ogoh-Ogoh procession and burning was part of MONA’s Dark Mofo festival program, with the support of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism (Wonderful Indonesia), Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia for Victoria and Tasmania, and the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Traditionally, the main purpose of making ogoh-ogoh is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings (especially humans). In Bali, each village usually builds one ogoh-ogoh, and sometimes smaller ogoh-ogoh are also built by school kids. After being paraded on a convoy around the town, finally it is burnt to ashes in a cemetery as a symbol of self-purification. The following day is Nyepi, a Hindu celebration and the Balinese “Day of Silence” marked by silence, fasting, and meditation.

The ogoh-ogoh, paper-mache monsters, were made in the weeks leading up to the purging by Balinese artists working alongside staff and students from the University of Tasmania. During the first week of Dark Mofo, festival goers are invited to write down their fears and pin them to the weedy-sea dragon-inspired effigy. Pots and pans at the ready, everyone is then invited to join a procession from Parliament Lawns to Dark Park, culminating in the burning of this year’s ogoh-ogoh—and with it, everyone’s fears.

“Dark Mofo is about the Tasmanian community coming together to embrace our longest and darkest night of the year. The Balinese ceremony of ogoh-ogoh is a great way for us to symbolically cleanse our fears and look forward to the days becoming longer,” Dark Mofo Creative Director Leigh Carmichael said.

“Dark Mofo is a Winter Solstice festival, so we like to explore darker themes. Facing our fears is an important part of this, and we love how the community has come together for this final event of the festival.

“Our cross-cultural exchange is so important for Dark Mofo. We hope that the ogoh-ogoh continues for many years and we build stronger relationships with Indonesia, with the people and culture. We plan to visit Indonesia soon to explore opportunities around commissioning new work from Indonesian artists, and hope to include more Indonesian food and art in coming years.”

Wonderful Indonesia hopes that with continued engagement in events such as Dark Mofo, the number of Australians visiting Indonesia, which has recently surpassed the number of Aussies visiting New Zealand, will continue to rise.

According to Mr Nadjib RIPHAT KESOEMA, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Australia, their involvement in Dark Mofo is significant.

“It shows the people of Tasmania the cultural richness of Indonesia.  Tasmanians were introduced to ogoh-ogoh from Bali, as well as bamboo gila from Maluku, and Central-Javanese gamelan. It’s our hope that Australians will choose to visit various places throughout Indonesia, beyond Bali. I’m looking forward to continued involvement with Dark Mofo, hopefully introducing Australians to much more of our culture, art and cuisine.”

Lilis Fauziah, Assistant Deputy Director, Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Indonesia, said the event was a huge opportunity to showcase Indonesian culture to a large audience in Australia and hopefully encourage more Australians to visit the country to experience more.

According to the Indonesian Ambassador, Mr Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, “We are excited to be a part of this extremely popular cultural festival. It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase just one small aspect of Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage, and we hope it generates a greater interest among Australians to visit and find out more.”

Dark Mofo which ran from the 10th to 21st of June is an annual pilgrimage celebrating the dark through large-scale public art, food, film, music, light and noise. Major events including the City of Hobart Dark Mofo Winter Feast and the industrial-scale public art precinct Dark Park, attracting up to 10,000 people each per night.

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