Galih Mulya On How Bali Adapting and Finding Balance

Farah Nadya Djamin
Galih Mulya Nugraha

For a Bali-based video producer, capturing shots of the Island of God’s current empty streets leaves quite an uneasy feeling. We sat down with Galih Mulya Nugraha at the center of eerie Kuta, where we talked about the unusual sights of Bali, and how we might be able to see beyond.

It was late 2016 when Galih decided to move to Bali. He’d been working at an architectural firm for several years when he started dabbling in video-making, focusing on nature and culture. Hobby turned into passion, and that was when he and Febian Nurrahman Saktinegara decided to take things seriously and started Embara Films. Filmmaking offers shorter project terms, with a work environment that suits him better. It did start on a whim before he and his co-founder decided to take things seriously and produce videos through Embara Films.

With the international borders being closed down due to pandemic, he realised that the world is curious about how the pandemic is affecting the Island of the Gods. With that in mind, he started capturing images of desolate Legian and its surroundings.

It was necessary for me, for the sake of giving out information and also for survival. I could not travel, jobs were postponed if not canceled, so I took this situation as a chance to seek other opportunities.

Way back then, Bali was never considered sexy by the Dutch colonies when they’re busy rummaging Banda & Maluku spices, but they believed Bali’s strength lies in the culture. They’re the ones responsible for spreading the word to Europeans about this hidden magical place in Dutch East Indies. It was Walter Spies, a Russian-born German painter who was clever enough to believe what he has heard, moved to Ubud in 1927. Through A View from Above (1934) and many other watercolor artworks, he influenced the direction of Balinese art and was also involved in the fruition of the infamous fire dance, or Kecak Dance, as we now know. Walter’s paintings that have gotten to Europe gave the Europeans a slice of a world so different from theirs.

Based on his vast knowledge of history and the hours spent exploring Indonesia, Galih highlighted Bali as a unique brand. It’s comprehensive enough to touch different angles and able to cater to diverse worldwide needs.

But even though you’re in awe of the blue sea of Andaman in Phi Phi Island, still… there’s no place like Bali.

Galih spoke about incomparability

In his eyes, Bali is where all of our five senses melt in a pot. What the brain records are snapshots of the ever-changing scenes, from locals in their traditional kebaya putting canang at 6am to monkeys stealing sunglasses. Taste buds met with rich Indonesian flavors, while hearing subtle gamelan sounds from art places nearby. Not to mention, the sunset. Combine little bits of the above plus a certain tropical vibe, then we get the 360-degree experience.

Bali as a place to live, is also an interesting matter. People are laid back, some with friendly smiles, the rest roam around with a mind-your-own-business invisible stamp on their foreheads. This is why a lot of people feel welcomed and appreciated as is. Topped with the continuous development, Bali has become a focal point of modernization offering quality of life as well as high mobility to those who stay.

Balinese know their cultural value and are excited to share them to the world. While in another way, taking too much pride in something could lead to entitlement and false segmentation.

Galih spent some of his time dissecting his thoughts during quarantine. The process is to strip away any kinds of label, or entitlement that made us who we were, for a chance to make anew. Same case with all the different characteristics that are accustomed to Bali, seeing beyond this pandemic means stripping away from what we once knew. When we have become more fluid, we adapt to wherever the world leads with ease. For example, during this hard time, Seminyak beach clubs are practically dead and Galih pointed out Nusa Dua hotels are desperate for domestic guests while they were so used to welcoming international tourists.

2020 forced Galih to zoom out and learn more about how the world economy works. He had already been into trading for the last three years and had he not prepared an emergency fund, maybe he would be going through a rough patch now. In addition to that, he learned to listen to his inner conflict – should I buy or sell, and when, then come out a better decision maker.

From my point of view, finding balance is the way to go when responding to hard times. Social media has opened many great opportunities for work, and took me places I’ve always wanted to go to. But I often find myself limiting my screen time to filter news and take care of my wellbeing – which is most important.

As important as finding balance, the ability to adapt is also critical to determine our success to get through difficult times. People taking new roles or jobs to survive daily life as Galih also did, is a real form of adaptation. Your job doesn’t define you but they will define your capability to adapt and find balance in any condition.