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Malu Dong festival highlights garbage problem in Bali

I Wayan Juniarta
I Wayan Juniarta

The Jakarta Post

Denpasar | Thu, April 20, 2017 | 09:22 am
Malu Dong festival highlights garbage problem in Bali

Symbol: Thousands of cigarette butts collected from the island's streets and beaches are a symbolic reminder of the residents' low awareness on the danger of littering. (Malu Dong Community/File)

Yoka Sara, one of Bali’s most renowned architects, picked up a new hobby: collecting cigarette butts.

His chic office in downtown Denpasar is being gradually annexed by boxes filled with thousands of cigarette butts. One day, he has revealed, he will use those cigarette butts to construct a gigantic art installation in one of the city’s squares.

The new hobby and plan for the installation is not driven by Yoka’s artistic inspiration, which, in the last few years, has been the primary engine behind SPRITES, a series of public performances featuring collaborative pieces created by the island’s young artists.

This time, however, the driving force is resentment over the lack of public awareness regarding one of the island’s most pressing problems: uncollected trash.

“Many people carelessly throw their cigarette butts on the ground, which is a huge revelation of the attitude a large number of people have toward trash. They simply don’t care,” he said over a glass of fine single malt Scotch.

His drinking buddies nodded in unison. The meeting took place a few weeks ago on a breezy evening at Voltvet, a hip café on Denpasar’s historic Veteran Street. They were discussing a plan to stage a major art and music festival aimed at educating the public on the gravity of the island’s trash problem.

Fresh hope: Children carry colorful Malu Dong Community flags during the street parade on Monday. Many of the organization's programs focus on educating the next generation.(Malu Dong Community/File)

Sitting next to Yoka was Komang Sudiartha, a native of Tampak Gangsul hamlet, who alongside Putu Teryl has organized community-based clean-up activities since 2009.

Fondly called “Bemo,” after the public transportation van of yesteryears, Sudiartha was the inspiration behind the establishment of Malu Dong Community (MDC) last year, an activist organization that set its sights on tackling the garbage problem.

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Yoka, Bemo and Marlowe Bandem were some of the co-founders of MDC, which boasts members from different generations and occupations.

“It is strange how people choose to bury their garbage in the sand at the beach or next to a tree instead of placing it in the garbage bin,” Bemo said.

Since its inception, MDC has organized a weekly beach clean-up at Mertasari beach in Sanur, and sent its volunteers to numerous festivals, including the packed PICA clothing festival, to educate the visitors and assist them in collecting garbage. It has also organized regular Trashveling programs, during which volunteers travel to popular destinations and mobilize the locals to conduct clean-up activities.

Statement: The festival poster bears a powerful message: (Malu Dong Community/File)

Furthermore, it rallies youth communities to spread the message of “malu dong  buang sampah sembarangan” (you should be ashamed of littering), through public campaigns in the real and virtual realms.

As MDC expands its operation to Gianyar and Jembrana, its colorful flags and banners, bearing the signature sad face and the message “malu dong buang sampah sembarangan,” now can be seen in schools across Denpasar, as well as major public events and important temple rituals across the island.

Balinese Hindu rituals generate a huge amount of trash and the success of the island’s fight against trash would be very much determined by the way the Hindu followers manage that trash.

Read also: Bali marathon to be held in August with new route

MDC’s plan to stage an art and music festival will take shape this weekend. Organized to celebrate Earth Day and MDC’s first anniversary, the two-day festival, dubbed Malu Dong Festival, will feature storytelling sessions, workshops on recycling and upcycling, exhibitions, art installations, mural painting, video mapping as well as music concerts.

“It is a volunteer-based festival, in which all the participants, including the musicians, volunteer their time and energy to appear in the festival. To some extent, it reflects the increasing momentum of support for this awareness movement,” Marlowe Bandem said. The festival is supported by the local sekeha teruna teruni (youth organizations of the traditional hamlets) and scores of creative communities, including NK13 custom motorcycle community and Antida Music Production.

Music sensation: Zat Kimia is one of several popular bands that have volunteered to perform during the two-day Malu Dong Festival.(Malu Dong Community/File)

“The music concerts will see some of the island’s best talents, including Joni Agung & Double T, Emoni, Nostress, Zat Kimia, Lily of the Valley and Navicula. All of these artists share concern of the environmental challenges facing Bali,” Antida’s founder Anom Darsana said.

Prior to the festival, MDC has gifted MDC flags to the Mayor of Denpasar IB Rai Dharmawijaya Mantra, who is to distribute them to banjar (traditional hamlets) across the city’s 43 villages. On April 17, hundreds of children from Tainsiat and Tampak Gangsul hamlets participated in a street parade to carry the MDC flags and signs to Puputan Badung square, the main venue of the festival.

“It is a collective effort, and hopefully we will reach the point where the whole island will stand together to deal with this problem,” Yoka said.