Feature: G20 summit brings hope to artists with disabilities in Bali

by Nurul Fitri Ramadan

BALI, Indonesia, June 1 (Xinhua) — The upcoming Group of Twenty (G20) summit on the Indonesian island of Bali has brought fresh air to I Gede Agus Mertayasa, a disabled Balinese painter.

For Agus, the high-level government meeting, scheduled for November 15-16 this year, will be a time to attract more tourists to the country’s most renowned resort island, which means more people will visit art exhibitions and will buy his paintings. and t-shirts.

“We are grateful that Indonesia is becoming the host country and that Bali is chosen as the central location. The G20 event will be a turning point for us in the recovery of our family’s economy,” said the mother recently. Agus, Ni Made Rosanti, at Xinhua in Denpasar, Bali.

Born deaf and mute, Agus was gifted with excellent painting skills. Sitting all the time in a wheelchair, he successfully painted Balinese art and symbols, which require intricate patterns and careful attention to detail.

Before the pandemic, his paintings could sell for between 1.5 million rupees (103.2 US dollars) and 3 million rupees (206.4 US dollars) a piece. His paintings are also printed on T-shirts, each of which was usually sold for 70,000 rupees (4.82 US dollars).

“Paintings and t-shirts were still sold at many art shows. But that was before the pandemic,” Rosanti said, adding that two years of the COVID-19 pandemic almost totally killed the dreams of Agus.

For a few weeks, Agus has returned to the exhibitions. Now he is focusing on displaying and selling his paintings and painted t-shirts at the Bali Bangkit Small and Medium Industries (IKM) exhibition in Denpasar.

According to Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment, Bali Bangkit is one of the few art exhibits to be visited by G20 Heads of State and their entourages during the G20 Summit in Bali.

Bali Bangkit IKM coordinator Robert told Xinhua that the expo venue has several artists with disabilities who usually display and sell their artworks, ranging from paintings, weaving bags and souvenirs, and other handicrafts.

“Before the pandemic, this venue was known as an outdoor mall for tourists. But it closed during the pandemic. We hope the G20 event can attract more and more visitors, bringing Bali back as before.” , said Robert.

Bali is known for its pristine beaches and rich local cultures. Tourism contributed about 53 percent of its regional income. Data from the Indonesian Central Statistical Agency (BPS) showed that Bali received 6.2 million foreign visitors in 2019.

When COVID-19 started in 2020, 90% of the island’s tourism ecosystem was devastated and only 10% of tours and travel providers were able to survive. To date, the island has lost around 9.7 trillion rupiah (US$667.3 million), according to the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism.

While the number of daily reported COVID-19 cases has been steadily decreasing, the Indonesian government has started to gradually relinquish social restriction policies since February, since reopening international borders, reducing quarantine periods, easing health protocols, up to the granting of a special visa on arrival for dozens of countries.

Since then, tourism in Bali has started to rebound. In March alone, the BPS recorded that the total number of foreign tourists entering Bali reached 14,620, an increase from the 1,310 tourists it received in February.

The Indonesian government has also prepared strategies to help people with disabilities in Bali so that they can promote their artwork.

Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno has ordered thousands of handmade tote bags from a number of artisans with disabilities in Bali as souvenirs to give away to G20 delegations.

“We must use this momentum from the G20 to promote their products. I promise to showcase their products and works internationally,” Uno said.

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