One thing that Bali is not short of is colour – all around us, both natural and manmade. Across much of the island, green rice fields abound, dotted with colourful birds, amphibians and serpents, a kaleidoscope of stunning flowers grace lush tropical gardens and blue coastal waters are fringed with yellow and sparkling black sand. Balinese have always celebrated the beauty of their island in colours, decking temples in yellows, whites and reds gilded with gold and silver; and weaving bright textiles to adorned themselves lavishly for ceremonies. It’s easy to see why visitors to Bali are astonished by the sheer number of brightly painted statues, vibrant processions, multi-coloured outriggers, gold-gilded gamelan orchestras – the list of colourful things is seemingly endless.
Many of the coloured things we observe are just plain bizarre or are even taboo for us: green or purple cakes, baby chicks spray-painted in luminous fluorescence. Other things most people see as just plain kitch: cassette covers sporting brightly coloured backgrounds that offset even more colourful words printed in cartoon-style fonts; kids’ blue, red and white sports uniforms; modern dance costumes with all their feathers and glitter.
So why do Balinese love to use so much colour? The obsession with vibrant colour probably has its roots in India and Hinduism where devotion is supported by colourful offerings and rituals. Decoration and ornamentation demonstrates a heightened level of devotion, and it so happens that vibrant colours occur naturally on Bali. Also, Balinese people, with their tanned skin, look great in colour and it is highlighted beautifully by gold. Paler, Western skin types never seem to look right in these colours even though many Balinese believe that lighter skin suits any colour. As development on the island continues at breakneck speed, there’s no doubt that some of the colour is being superseded by the greys of concrete. On the other hand, as the tourist dollar pours in and more people get their piece of the pie, Balinese are busily decorating their temples and houses with even more gold carvings. One thing is for sure, Bali would never be Bali without colour.
The Balinese Naming System.
In Bali, Indonesia, such a 4-names-only system is entirely real and intact. Here’s how it works: Every Balinese child is simply named by his or her order of birth. The first born, boy or girl, is Wayan. The second born is Made (pronounced ma day). The third born is Nyoman. And the 4th born is Ketut. Women are given the honorific ‘Ni’ before their name, as in Ni Wayan. It’s much like ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’. Men use ‘I’, as in I Wayan, much like ‘Mr.’ If the family has five or more children then the naming system starts over again. I finally asked several Balinese friends and acquaintances the meaning behind their name system. Nobody seems to know! They only know it’s time-worn tradition. Furthermore, they all assure me that each child has equal value, equal expectations within the family. No child has specific family duties, roles, or obligations. None are believed to have certain personalities or characters. The only tradition concerning children is that only sons inherit the family’s assets, which are usually spread equally between all the sons. they refer to each other by family name or nickname rather than given name. Nicknames are acquired the same way we westerners acquire nicknames- by our interests, quirks, talents, personalities, or unique qualities. While Balinese refer to each other by their nicknames or family names, they generally introduce themselves to tourists by their given name.