It’s time for the annual ogoh-ogoh review. For the last decade (at least) Ubud puts on quite the show – the annual ogoh-ogoh parade. Rio Helmi, nearly an ogoh-ogoh himself, takes a quick look not only at Ubud but at surrounding villages as well.

words and photos ©Rio Helmi

On my instagram account an Indian photographer colleague asked me “what do these ‘effigies’ symbolize”. D..n! This is the kind of thing that happens when I translate the term ogoh-ogoh. Suppressing the desire to be honest and say “Actually Abhishek, I don’t really know…”,  I threw this out: “The themes vary according to the mostly youth groups who make the big ones, there’s often social comment or reflections of new cultural influences. Originally ogoh-ogoh represented mythological figures and were used in funeral etc processions in North Bali. By the time it spread to south Bali last century it became identified with the “ngerupuk” pre-Nyepi (day of complete silence that marks the beginning of the New Içaka Year) celebrations when one is expected to create a huge hullabaloo to chase the demons out, followed by a full 24hrs of Silence and no lights etc ( strictly enforced in most parts of Bali, no cars etc ).”

I guess that makes me an expert.

But what I do know is that the first ogoh-ogohs I saw in Denpasar 35 odd years ago were definitely all about the Balinese commentary on the world around them that was seeping in through the then fairly new medium of TV. There were space shuttles and guitarists. Only the more timid did mythological figures. Ubud then picked it up and would field something like one ogoh-ogoh, crudely basted together out of bamboo and papier maché: what was more important back then was the noise making and the racket to scare the demons out, the rituals and the huge bonfire of the ogoh-ogoh and bamboo canons at the cross roads. Today it’s all about glitz and parades, but there’s a lot fun and plenty of creative juice flowing. This year’s crop over all wasn’t that startling nor really so well executed (hey don’t crucify me, many of my Balinese friends agree). Possibly the supposed ban on styrofoam made for confusion, but in any case there were of course exceptions and still fun to be had.

DSCF6999The Balinese have never really been prudes. The youth of Sayan are no exception. This one was called “Intim – I can’t hold back anymore”

DSCF7203Kid’s ogoh-ogoh are always part of the show. Up in the mountains in Bukian, the kids seemed obsessed with “Pocong” a kind of ghost zombie popular on TV. Ok it’s maybe a little cruder, but  a lot more interesting than anything we put together for art class in my grade school.

DSCF6989The youth in Penestanan are obviously very concerned about the recent bans on Indonesian TV regarding any kind of sexual element whatsoever. I can’t figure out how to put a fuzzy strip over these prominent, um, mammary glands.


You get points for engineering feats. Note above this guy is flying through the air in Br Pengaji in Payangan, the entire thing is supported by his whip, which is a thick steel rod. It has been heated and bent to perfection. People, this takes a lot of serious effort! And below the witch invoking her demon near Tegalalang has done this through the medium of yet another steel rod. Kudos.



DSCF7259As a photographer I was thrilled to see young talent evolving. Umm, maybe aim it a little to the left? (Ubud Tengah)

DSCF7040A community service message from the people of Bunutan: This is what happens when you got too many electrical wires going this way and that…

DSCF7027Hellboy meets batman vampire thingey up in Payangan

_RLH5510 IT’S TIME TO ROCK ‘N ROLL! back to Ubud: Br Ubud Tengah’s “Monkey” heads down to the football field to meet yet another Chinese legend, the long-tailed Dragon from Taman Kelod below.


_RLH5526Meanwhile the neighbours, Padang Tegal were doing their own thing. A wee bit more traditional but the best part is where they did they right thing and burnt the munsters at the end of the parade (well ok, they ripped of all the expensive ornaments first but hey at least they lit the bonfire!).



See you all next year!