I Made Sidia: art keeps the world in balance

I Made Sidia

I lean back on the column of the porch in a balinese traditional home and prepare to enjoy settled evening and singing of cicadas. But that is a hopeless try, as silence grasp the village, things in a fenced courtyard just begin: kids around me loudly giggle trying to hypnotise each other with an old mobile phone string. Women rush around in their colourful sarongs preparing drinks and snacks. Suddenly, the courtyard is filled in with huge silver dragonflies, bright green and violet ladybirds the size of a goat. And all this masquerade is followed by a white cow cheerfully jiggling in front of me with its shining golden horns and brightly lipsticked lips. Do you think I have taken some magic mushrooms maybe?

No, this is just an everyday scenery at I Made Sidia house, a great artist that we had an honour to meet while in Bali.

A man in his 40-ies, with distinguishing long black hair falling loosely from under white traditional headcloth, I Made Sidia is happily greeting us at his house. His manners do not let you think a second that this man is very famous and highly respected both in Indonesia and abroad – his humbleness, kindness and pacifying stance are qualities that every visitor of his house is met with. Only later, through research, we found out all the titles that I Made Sidia’s name carries. But for us, he is first of all a great source of inspiration and admiration.

A cow that was jiggling happily in the courtyard

Talking about titles, I Made Sidia is a well known traditional Balinese shadow puppets (wayang kulit) master – dalang. In his considerably young age for dalang, I Made has achieved an acclaimed name for shadow puppets both in Indonesia and abroad. He also teaches at Denpasar Institute of Art, he is the director of Paripurna Art company in his village Bona, he is a topeng (traditional balinese mask dance) dancer, gamelan player, director of many local and international performances, a father and a loving son. I Made Sidia grew up in artistic family: his father and grandfather all were respected and well known shadow puppeteers. And indeed, I Made adds a lot to already known Sidia family name.

To truly tell about a great personality of I Made we wish we could make a documentary about him, as his experience in art scene is enormous, his contribution to preserving and developing shadow puppets of Bali should take deserved place in history books, and his way of using art as a tool for making a difference is exemplary.

We first wanted to talk with I Made about what he is praised for – the shadow puppets. But his wisdom and philosophy were the top topics of our conversations. However long before we could arrange talks we were immersed in the daily life of I Made: following him for a rehearsal of the big show for the Bali Arts Festival, seeing him after the show making an appreciation speech for his troupe, celebrating two important Hindu festivals together (kuningan and galungan), visiting together his father and much more… And not a second within our time with I Made he acted like an arrogant artist, constantly keeping us in awe of a great personality he has. Like on the evening of a performance for Bali Arts Festival, the show that I Made has created together with people from his village, was of high standard, a mile ahead in quality and artistic expression from another show also performed that evening. Genius in everything he does!

Scene from performance in Bali Arts Festival directed by I Made Sidia

As we talked about arts with I Made, he explained us that according to Balinese philosophy art should be used for keeping a balance between good and bad in the world. Or in a relationship: “Dance for him if he is angry!” – I Made suggests as the best trick to manage a conflict in a relationship, – “and he will forget what he was angry about!”. As I Made explained art has a great quality of involving people into the show so much that people forget their misfortunes and pain. The same philosophy was used by Sidia after Bali bombing in Kuta resort in 2002 and 2005 when hundreds of tourists were killed in terror attack – he created a shadow puppet play to help people deal with grief and pain, but also to recover balance between the good and evil in accordance with Hindu beliefs. “When something bad happens, like the terror attack, we need to answer with good things, like dance or art. The evil cannot be fought with another evil,” – explained I Made the philosophy behind the shadow puppet show for Bali bombing victims.

Meeting with I Made Sidia was definitely one of the highlights of our stay in Bali: we felt overwhelmed by his generosity and humbleness, amazed by his restless nature and passion for everything he does, surprised by his innovative ideas and inspired by our talks with him and the way I Made lives his life. Artist that truly makes a difference by preserving valuably shadow puppet art, by creating new tendencies, setting a standard for many other artists, acting on social or political issues, and foremots – happy to share everything he knows with people around him!

I Made Sidia (on the right) directing his troupe before performance

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