Mayor of Denpasar, Indonesia (April 2014)

Mr. Ida Bagus Rai Mantra Dharmawijaya

Mr. Ida Bagus Rai Mantra Dharmawijaya

1. The Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy was registered on the World Heritage City List in 2012. What has been the impact of this nomination for your city?

Amongst all globalization process in Bali – and especially in Denpasar, local cultural components are being challenged and receiving many presures from global culture elements. The public response to Denpasar community against the entrance of global culture tends to affect the cultural adaptation and acculturation. This response marginalizes Denpasar’s existing traditional culture, which is considered not to be applicable to global cultural system.

The Subak system as the manifestation of Tri Hita Karana philosophy (three cause of well-being in Balinese cultural concept), associated with the principles of UNESCO that comprehensive policy must be developed to solve social, environment, economic and sustainable development issues, can be interpretated that an uncertain future doesn’t only depend on economic nor natural resources capital. However, it might depend on collective competencies to understand and anticipate various changes (local genius).

In that sense, to rebuild and/or maintain the local genius is a paradigm; to get new approaches from all over the world is part of a sustainable development agenda. The nomination of the Subak system on UNESCO’s list has given a meaningful impact for the rebuilding of our local genius to our benefit and for the community welfare.

Many sideeffects came from the rebuilding of our local genius, such as the appearance of heritage consciousness, heritage tourism and some other impacts like heritage festivals (culinary and endek festival – endek is traditional Balinese woven).

Beside those impacts, the UNESCO nominee also causes continuous effect such as the strengthen of heritage awareness, the existance of cultural sustainable cadre, the formation of Sabha Upadesa (community participation board in the development) and strengthening of public control in heritage.

2. In your opinion, what is the vital role of a mayor when a city has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List?

From the beginning of the local globalization era of Bali, which was inspired by social spiritual value, every mayor had to interact with and all at once compete with global cultural aspect, which is mostly inspired by commercial and material value.

The friction between local and global values brings both positive and negative impacts into local traditional life. In that sense, the main role of the Mayor would be to encourage the cultural sustainability even if the development can give some massive benefits to the society’s welfare.

A mayor supports its World Heritage by doing:

  • Evaluation/reinforcement of current World Heritage, mapping, inventory and identification of superb World Heritage characteristic elements;
  • Analyzes of various economic opportunities; ecology; technologies; many challenges such as vandalism;
  • Activating many expressive and progressive actions;
  • Institution reinforcement such as Local regulation for the celebration of Denpasar’s anniversary;
  • Initiate some networking at different levels such as:
    • Local level (Bali Heritage Trust)
    • National level (Jaringan Kota Pusaka Indonesia (JKPI) – Indonesian Heritage Cities Network) (Badan Pelestarian Pusaka Indonesia (BPPI) – Indonesian Heritage Preservation Agency)
    • International level (OWHC, UNESCO).

3. Concretely, what have been your actions toward the protection and enhancement of your heritage?

Regarding the protection and enrichment of our World Heritage, we do some concrete actions: we improve the knowledge, attention and awareness on heritage, through education and trainings; we are continually providing an effort to build and manage our community around our World Heritage site. We also establish a cadre of environmental conservation. Moreover, some of Denpasar’s knowledge is communicated via the Art Institute of Denpasar (ISI Denpasar). We organize contests of dance, subak, traditional music, painting and photography.

In addition, the potential of cultural heritage in the city of Denpasar is huge and reviewed all the time. We’re looking forward to have other sites listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. We have published a book on Denpasar’s heritage and a pamflet on Exploring Heritage of Denpasar City. Research and inventory are continued to be done for that purpose. I can even tell you that we’re currently interested into a new site in the area Penatih, which is still in the process of further research.

Some religious events are also linked to the preservation of heritage. For example, the Tumpek Landep ceremony is an expression of gratitude to the Lord Ida Bhatara Sang Hyang Pasupati who has given intelligence and sharpness to the human mind; who has given us creativity, sense, and human initiative for creating an output that can simplify our lives to achieve contentment. Since ‘’landep’’ means sharp or pointed, here, some sharp objects such as kris are being sacred. The ‘’kris’’ has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage in 2005 as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage. We also celebrate the Tumpek Wayang ceremony, a showcase of our gratitude to Lord Sanghyang Iswara; all objects of art are being sacred including wayang (shadow puppets). Wayang has been listed on UNESCO’s List in 2003 as world heritage as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

We constantly improve our efforts to save our heritage. We created links between our city and various organizations related to cultural heritage : the Indonesian Heritage Preservation Agency (BPPI) and Indonesia Heritage City Network (JKPI); the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC); the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Furthermore, we also developed tourism as we offer package tours to explore our heritage in Denpasar. For example, you can visit castles and temples that sometimes include megalithic sculpture. As another example, we also have developed the cultural village of Kertalangu where travelers and people can learn aspects of our culture such as dance and gamelan (a music instrument).

To summerize my point, we have synergized and put all our efforts to manage and preserve our cultural heritage of high value. The heritage already known in Denpasar should be and is protected. However, we keep on searching, discovering and learning on our heritage. To protect our cultural heritage in Denpasar, we apply various legal regulations and also work on law enforcement.

4. Do you hold special events to enhance your city?

There are so many event organized by the City of Denpasar such as the Denpasar Expo held on every 27th of February, the date of the anniversary of the City of Denpasar. In this event, a working program by the city of Denpasar related to heritage is being published, arts exhibition are being held, culinary and local handicraft are being shown, many plants are being displayed and sold.

From mid June to July, we hold the International Kite Festival at Padang Galak Beach. The kite is closely related to Denpasar’s community and has become part of our culture. The festival is always flooded with local and international participants.

Every mid-September, we present the Sanur Village Festival (SVF) where you can enjoy a variety of events such as culinary experiences, dances, traditional to modern music, as well as body painting.

On October 28 to 30, it’s the Maha Bandana in order to foster morale and the spirit of heroism. This event features a variety of Balinese arts, especially dance and music.

By the end of the year, from December 28 to 31, we always hold the Denpasar Festival in Jalan Gajah Mada. It starts from Puri Pemecutan and ends in Jalan Veteran Puri Satria. In this event, you can enjoy a variety of culinary experiences, as well as the products of the craftsmen of Denpasar. And we also organize workshops and seminars on the exploration of the heritage in Denpasar.

Furthermore, there’s a variety of religious ceremonies which also influence the atmosphere of Denpasar, such as Tumpek Landep and Tumpek Wayang as I described earlier.

Currently we are in the process of assessment on “UNESCO creative cities network” launched by UNESCO in October 2004 to promote creativity, social potential and economy from cultural industry practiced by local actors to support the objectives of UNESCO in term of preservation of cultural diversity. Considering the number of events held in the city of Denpasar, we cooperate with local media to publish information and this is why, recently, the ministry of tourism and creative economy of Indonesia proposed to submit Denpasar to UNESCO as a Creative City.

5. “The cultural landscape of Bali consists of five rice terraces and their water temples that cover 19,500 ha. The temples are the focus of a cooperative water management system of canals and weirs […]” It is understood that your World Heritage site is outside of Denpasar. Can you explain more precisely what the cultural landscape of Bali is and how it helped and affected the development of Depensar up until today?

We need to explain that Subak principles cover all rice fields in Bali and that this system has been known since thousand of years ago with a tradition of irrigation based on Bali culture. Thus, the implementation of Subak is not only in Jatiluwih but also in Denpasar and other area in Bali. It is important to be noted that the specificity of the Subak is its ritual activity and that it is what makes it different from other irrigation systems in Indonesia, even in the world. Subak, with his irrigation system, isn’t only about how to properly irrigate in the domains of either agriculture or fisheries. Subak is special because it works based on the principle of fairness; it maintains the quantity and quality of water, the use of water as a natural resource; it assures a good water management in order to make sure it doesn’t only pass by from the mountain to the sea. Subak is a reflection of Tri Hita Karana (three things that cause well-being), the guidelines of Balinese life. This culture basically teaches humans to live in harmony between man and God (parahyangan), between man and man (pawongan) and between man and environment (palemahan).

In other words, Subak is a system managed by a farmers association. Its members are responsibles from the land preparation to the harvest in the rice fields. The association is autonomous, manages irrigation areas with water from a particular source and is responsible for one Subak temple. Subak in Denpasar is still used for agricultural and educational development activities such as the eradication of pests, agricultural innovation, intensifications in the production of rice, the development of cooperatives and of course religious ceremonies.

With millions of visitors who come to Bali every year – and especially in Denpasar, the typical Balinese rice field irrigation system is threatened because of extreme admiration. People want to get as close as possible to the rice fields. Landscapes and cultural traditions of Subak are very popular. Lately, the farmers were willing to sell their fields to developers but it turned out the production started to decrease from year to year. Subak is an integrated system in which a land depends on another land. So when the majority of the lands is converted by developers, the connection with the surrounding lands can be interrupted. This threatens the sustainability of the entire system.

With Subak registrated as World Heritage, we find support for preserving its existence. I hope, not only as a government who’s proud, but also for all of the citizens of Denpasar (6,526 people per km2 in 2013) that the subak system will always remain. The sustainability of the Subak system not only enhances the beautifulness of Denpasar City, but it also improves the welfare of farmers. Of course, I don’t want the farmers to become marginalized; I believe in developing Denpasar while maintaining the existence of the Subak system and the application of appropriate advance technologies in agriculture that are suitables for urban farming and that aren’t very expansive. Another thing that Denpasar did to support the existence of the Subak system was to implement nature tourism by building a tracking path in the rice fields as well as offering agrotourism. We want the rice field area to become developed into a multi- function site, which will require a regulation of land conversion to be applied.

I would also recall that Tri Hita Karana, as explained above, is a representation of the identity of the Balinese. Although currently Denpasar has been transformed into a city, its identity won’t disappear as it will always live in a harmony (and that refers to local genius).

6. In your opinion, what makes Denpasar such a special place?

There are many aspects that I think make Denpasar a very special place. Since traditional times up to now, Denpasar has experienced various changes in the system of government: at first a royal city, it then became an administrative capital, a capital district, a town, and, finally, today’s city. This development certainly contributed to the existence of our urban planning or our urban landscape, for example.

However, the main factor of specificity of Denpasar city is in its community which is dynamic, pluralistic, heterogeneous, multi-cultural, creative and innovative. It has a long history (4 centuries) based on solid Balinese culture as identity-forming, and a small geographic resilience (adaptive). The changes that occurred in the city of Denpasar are the result of the intermingling of cultures and ideas to create a mirror of the citizen’s existence: it’s a reflection of people’s lives related to social dynamics of space and time. According to the Tri Hita Karana philosophy, the people of Denpasar live in a balance that combines cultural roots with novelty (foreign culture, technology), which generates new values in new contexts in order to create an ideal city for people living in it. A city with Balinese identity that echos in the physical, social, cultural, psychological, and spiritual perspectives of the citizens.

Without the involvment of the citizens, I realize that I am nothing. The citizens are the main actors of our heritage. They guard it, they preserve it and they keep it as a part of their daily lives.

As time flows, a new cultural heritage and a new civilization are continually getting formed. As mayor, I believe that people from Denpasar will always know their true identity, maintain the cultural heritage of the city and introduced it to the world. I am confident that Denpasar’s urban society will keep on developing into a plural society with a solid foundation of cultural traditions.

Technical Assistance and Cooperation


Activities of the Regional Secretariats