Chaos and Abuses at the Denpasar-Based Indonesian Arts Institute?


By: Jusuf Wanandi

The Bali Revival Committee, organized by a group of Balinese art and culture lovers in Jakarta, has held many lectures and exhibitions of paintings, masks and wayang puppets in Jakarta and Bali since the two Bali bombings to help Bali’s economy, which is dependent on tourists, to recover.

The Balinese people and especially the artists suffered. Now that Bali is flourishing again, we of the Bali Revival Committee think that we have to maintain our support to make Bali a tourist destination that is enriched by its arts and culture.

That is why we are very disturbed by the three recent articles published in The Jakarta Post Bali editions of March 20, 21 and 26 on several bad developments at the Denpasar-based Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI, Institut Seni Indonesia), which began in November 2010, due to the abusive management under the leadership of its rector, I Wayan Rai, who was allegedly supported by some high-ranking individuals in the Education and Culture Ministry in Jakarta.

Herewith I summarize some of the salient points from the three articles:

Some of the victims are I Made Arnawa, a well-known music director, Prof. I Wayan Dibia, Prof. I Nyoman Sedana, I Wayan Karja (a well-known painter, and a former dean of ISI’s Fine Arts Department).

Also, there are at least 10 lecturers who had been granted scholarships by overseas universities but who could not pursue their studies because Rai refused to give them permits.

The reasons for denying the permits were incorrect, but there was no recourse to protest or to overrule the decisions based on contradicting facts submitted to the rector.

Initially, the ISI’s senate of professors selected the popular I Nyoman Catra as the new rector. Rai, with the help of senior ranking ministry officials, annulled the results of the election and organized a new election. Rai also threw several professors out of the senate and filled the vacant seats with his supporters that ensured his smooth reelection as rector.

Faculty members and the majority of students rejected Rai’s victory and organized rallies that lasted for months and triggered a court drama, in which two of Rai’s aides were found guilty of misappropriating funds.

Three senior professors were grilled by the ministry over their opposition toward Rai. The prolonged conflict waged by I Wayan Rai against several senior professors and students made the once prestigious school lose its stature in the eyes of the island’s public, among the intelligentsia and, now, even at the national level.

Internationally, questions are being raised, because good lecturers chose to leave the institution. One of them is the well-known Professor I Made Bandem, the best, if not one of the best of the few ethnomusicologists with extensive knowledge and research on Indonesian traditional music.

He is one of the founding fathers of the ISI and once served as its rector. Known as one of the most influential cultural thinkers in contemporary Bali, Bandem wrote seminal books, such as Kaja and Kelod, Balinese Dance in Transition, Prakempa and the Ensiklopedi Tari Bali.

He was one of the art curators and choreographers of a Balinese spectacular wedding festival performed at the Kennedy Center, Washington, DC in the mid 1980s.

Many arts institutions and universities abroad were puzzled why the ISI easily allowed Bandem to retire in 2011 after Rai accused him of siding with his opponents. In fact, he was Rai’s teacher in traditional music and promoted Rai in achieving his current stature.

While on the surface everything looked normal, this silent conflict really disturbed academic activities.

It also showed Rai’s disrespect of seniors, his shortsightedness over critical human resources and, above all, his urge to play dirty politics, especially in using the Education and Culture Ministry in Jakarta to win the rectorship against the wishes of the most senior professors and students.

Needless to say, the Bali Bangkit Committee was upset because of the set-back this conflict had caused to the human resources development of Balinese art and its potential.

We would like to appeal to the Education and Culture Ministry to look into this problem seriously and come up with a just solution. The much-respected NGO Bali Corruption Watch (BCW) will keep pursuing the corruption case against the ISI where the rector can still be implicated.

Two of his aides, I Nyoman Sutedja and I Nyoman Sanggra were tried, convicted and sentenced in August 2010 to four and three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment, respectively. Rai’s case had earlier been closed a few months after he was named a suspect by the local prosecutor’s office, which was not acceptable to civil society.

Without an honorable rector and his staff, the ISI will be damaged and the future of Balinese artists’ education and training will be affected, too. And that will be a big loss to Bali, which the Bali Bangkit Committee will not condone.


Notice: This opinion article was displayed in an online newspaper, The Jakarta Post, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Monday, 23 April 2012. It is also available at: [accessed in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia: 27 April 2012].

The writer is Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) Foundation, Jakarta; and Chairman of the Bali Bangkit Committee.



  1. Bad news. I think the conflict, according to ISI Rector, is an art matters too. So, as the Rector, he want to be considered not only as Professor but also as Dictator and Provocateur. And, I think, this case is not only faced by ISI in Bali, but also by some higher education institutions in Indonesia. In this context, the Ministry of Education and Culture has to responsible about the bad quality academically in Indonesia’s higher education.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here