We Wash Their Brains

Mr. Jati has been making art for 50 years. He is passionate about his work. But I didn’t know that until the other morning I notice the door to his studio is open. Dewa, Mr. Jati’s son, had told me I could go in any time, that his father would show me the paintings. Still, climbing the 8 or so steps to his door and announcing myself up to that moment hadn’t seemed appropriate. But on this day, with the open door issuing an invitation, I make the climb and peek in. “Hello? Mr. Jati, Hello?” I don’t know what I had expected, but a man shorter than my 5’2″ in a sarong and short-sleeved shirt buttoned haphazardly was not it. “Mr. Jati?” I ask. “Yes, yes, come in, please.” He is beaming and I immediately feel at ease. “Would it be alright to look at your paintings?” I ask politely. “Yes, yes, please,” he says again.

In very good English, he describes his work, the techniques he uses, the books he has read about art, the countries where he has held exhibitions, and the man’s love for his craft radiates from every pore of his being. There are three huge (I mean 5 x 8 foot) canvases with sketches lining one wall. There are easels with somewhat smaller canvases that have some shading applied to them on the other side of the room. And there are several canvases with the figures and vegetation already showing the colors that Mr. Jati had chosen in another area. His depiction of traditional Balinese life rendered in rich pastels holds me enthralled. I ask him why he is painting so many at once. “They come in my head!” he says, going on to explain that he is also preparing for an exhibition in Jakarta in 2013. “I need 30 to 45 paintings at least,” he tells me.

Picture compliments of website cited below:


I stare at his creations so beautifully and expertly rendered from a memory of what Bali used to be. After thoroughly absorbing the art I thank him and give him my best hands-together-incline-the-head gesture of gratitude. He beams again and says, “Come back tomorrow, I will have more.” The next day I don’t have to search for him. He greets me as I come out my door and says, “I will interrupt your day to show you again my art!” I have to chuckle as I follow him up the stairs. Sure enough! The man is prolific! He has several more semi-completed canvases. I am amazed and I tell him so. He beams.

The next morning I visit with Dewa over breakfast. We talk about his father’s art and the beautiful and complex traditions of the Balinese people. I ask Dewa if he thinks the next generation will continue to follow Hinduism and preserve the culture. He nods with an emphatic “Yes!” “Really?” I reply, “You seem quite sure.” He flashes one of those brilliant smiles and says,”From very little we take the babies to the temple every day,” then with that mischievous grin of his he continues, “we wash their brains!” After the initial shock and a good laugh I think to myself, in the U.S. we have a similar system. It’s called television.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Diane Struble
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 22:30:57

    How lovely. Thank you for including the picture.



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