2016-03-19 By Robin Burbidge

For over 1000 years, the art of shadow puppet theatre in Bali has been used to tell stories, to entertain, to inform, to educate Balinese people. Puppets now have an urgent story to tell in Bali and share with the rest of the world: Balinese people and their island paradise is under threat.

“We are worried after modernization, global information, a lot of people, investor come to Bali. They want to build hotel, restaurant and other building, right now is too much. If they keep going… we worry about the future of Balinese island.”

These are the words of I Made Sidia, one of many Balinese who are becoming increasingly worried about Bali’s current and future situation.

I Made Sidia comes from a long line of Dalangs and has been studying the art form since he was a child. He is one of the Bali’s most acclaimed shadow puppet artists and has showcased his skills throughout the world. The Dalang or Puppet Master is a spiritual leader of their community and are considered vital to ensure the protection and well being of society.

Made Sidia has cause for concern: up to 1000 Hectares of agricultural land are sold every year for development. Over 50 percent of Balinese people have lost access to fresh water and now 75 percent of rivers run dry in the dry season. Hotels and villas are sinking their bores ever deeper in a ‘race to the bottom’ as the water table drops rapidly.

RescueBali is a movement aiming to empower farmers to retain their lands and Bali’s 1000 year-old farming legacy. How? By utilising the ancient tradition of Shadow Puppet Theatre to provide vital messages to the Balinese population and outreach to communities living in rural, remote farming areas.

Under the mandate of Made Sidia and his team of 10 puppeteers and orchestra, the ‘Balinese Rice’ production will premiere at the 38th Annual Bali Arts festival in July. “For me I am very interested being involved in this project because this project is very good for our future, for Balinese, for Indonesian people,” says I Made Sidia.

To compliment the ‘Balinese Rice’ performance RescueBali is also creating a documentary series of short films to showcase Balinese farmers who have adopted natural methods of farming that uses 85 percent less water and increases their income by up to 400 percent.

The challenge RescueBali faces is sharing the project with the entire Balinese population, but they have a plan and it involves you! If you care about Bali and it’s people look how you can help spread the solutions.