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THE purest example of Balinese art is the ancient mosaic-like lamak, woven from strips of palm leaf, bamboo, or yellow blades of sugar or coconut palm pinned together to form fancy borders, rosettes, and treelike or anthropomorphic designs.

There are infinite varieties of lamak patterns. Perhaps the most popular is the figure of a girl with an hourglass figure, a central motif on many lamak, believed to predate the arrival of Hinduism on Bali.

These abstract figures (cili) with rounded breasts and long thin arms appear in the rice fields when the rice seeds first sprout. Scholars believe cili derive from the goddess of the earth and fertility, Dewi Sri, the focal point of many rituals.

These dried palm-leaf decorative strips last only for a day; after hanging on an altar or rice granary, they're wilted by night. Lamak-making is one of the arts that women are best.

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