A Balinese artist and temple priest builds on her father’s legacy
Mangku Muriati at home in her studio
On a wet afternoon in the village of Kamasan, artist Mangku Muriati is taking a break from painting. Although she has just over a month to finish the commission she is working on, the rain provides an excuse to stop work. Flies have begun to gather on the surface of the painting, attracted by the glue she adds to the paint as a binding agent and the rice starch she uses to prime the cotton cloth. She sits crossed legged on the floor behind a low wooden table, with a section of the five metre long painting in front of her. The cloth is covered in images depicting the temptation of Arjuna, the warrior knight of the wayang tradition. In the past a painting like this was destined to adorn the pavilions of a Balinese temple, but this Kamasan painting has been ordered by a Javanese property developer for a new villa in the south of the island.
The style of painting Mangku Muriati produces dates back at least to the time of the great East Javanese kingdom of Majapahit, which flourished in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Today, Kamasan remains the only village in Bali where this traditional art form has not been superseded by the adoption of new styles and materials. In her painting style, Mangku