Bird attack is one of the factors that can kindle a crop failure of rice farmers in Bali. In harvest season, birds often compete to eat farmers’ grains. Unmitigatedly, they come in crowds with thousands of members. Now, farmers in Bali have a tradition to dismiss those naughty birds, namely by posting lelakut or scarecrow in the form of human figure to scare them. Scarecrows are usually installed when the milky rice stage occurred before harvest. They are installed on the rice field plot and embellished with colorful plastic tassels. Each is tied with a rope and connected to the main rope stretching from one end to another in the rice field. A more creative farmer sometimes makes movable scarecrows so that they can nod when blown by wind.
Although their form and material are relatively simple, the scarecrow in rice field is just like a showcase of installation art. Its music is made by using cans filled with small gravels to make it vibrate. Sometimes it is accompanied by human cheers and shouts. However, mystically the scarecrow that has been given a mantra and special offering can serve as a catastrophe repellent. “Scarecrow can be made from various materials. If given a particular ritual and mantra, it can effectively resist black magic. Besides, it is also believed to keep the field from any disturbance of bad intention,” said I Wayan Sumajaya, Chief of Subak Mole, Tabanan.
The man familiarly called Pan Padma said that farmers formerly believed if it was capable of keeping the rice field away from leak or black magic disturbance or those who envied to the rice field owner. However, now the scarecrow is made modestly but can still dispel the approaching birds maximally.
Simple but having aesthetic value
According to this organic farmer, it was easy to make the scarecrow and the materials were easy to find. Typically, he made it from a dry woven straw and formed into a scarecrow. Meanwhile, others made it from reeds, banana and dried coconut. Further, it was shaped to resemble a human figure showing a gesture of people repelling birds. Then, it was given a head and decorated with used clothes in order to look like a real human. There are many materials that can be used to make the head.
It can be made from straw with round shape and given palm fibers as the hair, or the head can also be made from empty coconut painted with human face. Depending on the creations of farmers, it can be made into a spooky face with big and protruding teeth, large eyes and so on. To color it, farmers usually use whiting (white) and charcoal (black). These colors are used to form the eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth and teeth to make it look creepy. Sometimes, it is also given a hat made from palm leaves or damaged bamboo steamer, so that it looks like a real human.
I Ketut Murdana, a lecturer at the ISI Denpasar, admitted the scarecrow was an expression of farmers in the fields. However, its aesthetic value was not emphasized because they needed to have a scary and spooky figure. The inspiration was very simple, namely to make something that could look spooky and drive birds away. “It indicates the Hindu community in Bali as an artist. As evidence, farmers are able to assemble the scarecrow without having to learn in particular,” he said.
Since the birds were then increasingly stubborn, it was equipped with sounds like the music. Though the materials were simple like can, bamboo and clapping hands, the sound generated could help repel the birds. “In the past, it was very simple, but now it is combined with modern materials, such as plastic, clothes and so on,” he said.
Lately, the tradition to make scarecrow was started to be left by generations of farmers. On that account, many subak organizations or institutions preserved it through competition or festival. Denpasar Municipality through the Culture Agency puts it into competition every year through a scarecrow competition. It is usually accompanied with the competition of windmill and sunari or bamboo flute catching wind.
The Head of Denpasar Culture Agency, Made Mudra, said such an activity was intended to explore the cultural wisdom involving subak organizations in the city of Denpasar. Its location was always changing according to readiness of the existing subak. “The competition is usually held to enliven the anniversary of Denpasar government and city,” he said. (BTN/015)