( Bali: Fifteenth Century -- Present)
Defying demons of all descriptions, clowns in Bali offer laughter as an antidote to annihilation. Trained as philosopher priests and revered as sources of laughing wisdom, they help maintain the dynamic balance that the Balinese have established between the historical forces that sustain the integrity of their traditional culture and the contemporary forces of Westernization that are poised to destroy it.1
Throughout its history Bali has skillfully resisted the potentially devastating influence of military and cultural invasions from other parts of the world. Like the resilient clowns who appear in their temple ceremonies, the Balinese owe their success to the art of improvisation. They have adapted their traditions to accommodate changing circumstances, ingeniously preserving their heritage through indirect assimilation rather than direct defiance of their invaders.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the island absorbed the migration of the Hindu Majapahit Dynasty from East Java, resulting in a hybrid form of animistic Balinese Hinduism that is unlike any other branch of that religion in the world. At the turn of the twentieth century the Balinese were the last major Spice Island to resist colonization by Holland, and even after their surrender to the Dutch army in 1908, the Balinese continued their traditional lifestyle with only slight modifications. The Japanese occupation during World War II was equally ineffective in changing Balinese traditions. Now, although they are ostensibly part of an independent Indonesian state, Balinese villages continue to