Artist | Ida Bagus Ketut Dharma
Home | Bali, Indonesia
Introduction by J De Jager | In 2018, I travelled to Bali and was very curious to learn more about the local people and their culture. During a day trip with a local tour guide named Dewa, who showed me around his small village, I was taken to Dewa’s friend’s house and introduced to Ida. I was awestruck as Ida showed me his remarkable fine art. All the while, young children were sitting and drawing around us, with Ida frequently motivating them and giving them more paper or instructions for improving their creations.
Ida’s fine art is of such high quality and contains such intricate detail that I can spend hours viewing it. In addition to his rare talent in fine art, Ida is the type of person you can spend hours talking to about anything. Our mutual love for art and life grew very quickly, and we soon became close friends. Ida is one of a kind in many ways: he is the local priest of Keliki, his village; a husband and a father; and a teacher of the Keliki style of painting to the young children in the village.
It astonished me how deep Ida’s passion for art, culture, and community went. Ida is one of only a handful of people in his small village who are still practising and teaching this specific style of Keliki painting, which has been handed down by generations and which Ida was taught by his grandfather. The village of Keliki has a rich artistic culture and history: in the old days, artists and talented people would gather there to display their work and share ideas.
Ida is a very down-to-earth and humble person. As the priest of the town, he is often needed at ceremonies for the young or for people who have passed away. He takes his duties as a husband and father very seriously, and he has a strong vision for the youth of the village. He realises that in this new age of technology and exposure of tourism, the younger generation is captivated by these lucrative markets and becoming less interested in learning the art and skills of the Keliki tradition. As a result, he has actively started teaching these sacred skills to some children in his village, and he is funding this venture entirely by himself, through paintings sold to tourists passing through the village.
The story of how I learned art by Ida | “In the old days, paintings and carvings were only used for the decoration of temple walls and for the decoration of the houses of the very rich. Previously, I only made decorations for temples. But then, once paper arrived in Bali, I started practising on paper and it looked even better. At that stage, I only used black paint, because there was no colour available in Bali. The black ink we used could only be made from charcoal. I started trying to make the artwork more complex. I started imagining my first painting, then my second, then my third, each time making it more complex. Over time, the very intricate modern style of Keliki painting developed, and this is what I practise today.
Why is it called Keliki style? Well, it comes from a village where there were many artists. Because their age prevented them from continuing with their painting, they all changed their work. I am the only one who has kept up Keliki painting, but remember, I too am getting older. I’m afraid Keliki painting will be lost, so I teach the children to continue painting.”
The Ida Schooling Project
Growing up as a child who had ADD and could hardly ever sit still, I found relief and courage through learning to draw and expressing my creativity through art.
Whenever I visited Ida in the afternoon and enjoyed an amazing traditional Balinese lunch, which was made by his most welcoming wife, I could not believe how well-mannered and quiet the village kids were while they sat and drew. Curiosity eventually got the better of me and I decided to ask Ida: How was it possible that these 7-to-12-year-old children were so peaceful? Ida smiled and responded in the matter of a Zen master. The children come here by themselves after school, he said. There is no pressure from their parents or myself. It is important for them when they are young to learn to focus and be still. The drawing is like a meditation for their mind. They can express themselves and learn valuable life skills at the same time.
I was still astounded each time to see this phenomenon: never had I seen children sitting quietly for such long periods and simply drawing. What I also realized about the atmosphere at Ida’s place was that it was always welcoming and warm, and that kids came and went as they pleased. Nothing was being forced: if they wanted to go and play, they could do so. It occurred to me that with the freedom and skills Ida was providing them, they had found a second home there.
Learn with Ida
Ida is very passionate about teaching the Keliki style painting as well as art in general. If you are visiting Bali and would like to spend an afternoon (2–3 hours) with him, or several afternoons with him, it would undoubtedly be worth your while! Meals can also be arranged. Having tried many different kinds of food since visiting Bali, I can genuinely say that nothing comes close in deliciousness and wholesomeness to the traditional meals prepared by Ida’s wife.
Once I had glimpsed Ida’s passion and understood that he is deeply committed to preserving this incredible style of painting, we decided to join hands and start a partnership. De Jager Art will promote Ida’s work worldwide, and a portion of the funds will go towards supporting his schooling project and helping Ida continue to teach the youth of Keliki. In time, we hope to create a way for upcoming and talented youth to nurture their passion for art and to be able to sustain themselves and their families through that passion, so that this exceptional style of traditional Balinese painting does not get lost.
If you wish to support our dream and help to make it a reality, please email us.