The practice of animism is very obvious in Thailand, although 95 percent of its people are Buddhist. However, they still believe in supernatural spirits.
The Thais believe that every home has its own invisible guards who live on the front gates of the house. They call these guards Saan Chao Thii and Saan Phra Phum.
Instead of getting rid of them, they believe that providing a special space in each house and befriending the spirits are a better solution. They believe it will also create harmony in the world.
When Thais are about to leave their house, they inform Saan Chao Thii, or the House Spirit. They keep grandpa or grandma dolls as a symbol of the spirits. Other symbols are dancer or elephant dolls. Thais usually feed them red soda drinks, especially in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
This tradition is similar to a practice in Bali. Balinese Hindus also believe that each house is guarded by spirits who live on the front gates. The Balinese also provide offerings for the spirits.
American activist Susan Sontag says in her book On Photography that “to photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed”.
Sontag’s view on photography was the basis used by me in creating this image series.
When taking pictures of strangers for journalistic and mass media works, I tries my best to get to know my subjects. I positions myself as a stranger who captures images of other strangers I meets on the streets.
The development of digital enhancement technology has forced the photographer to work harder in producing honest work because, nowadays, people often assume that images are digitally enhanced to look better.
The boundary between treating strangers as merely objects and as living subjects is very thin — it depends on each photographer’s personal approach.
Strangers whom the photographer captures might not be aware that images of them can turn into a viral sensation once they are uploaded to the online world. In this case, the strangers are an illustration of me, who makes my imagination come true by using a camera.
Additionally, visual images can represent so many interpretations and expressions, from happiness to sadness to fear and so forth. Eventually, a string of images are capable of producing a certain mood for those viewing them.
A Sweet Delight of Tourism
Paddy fields are a part of the Balinese community’s rituals dedicated to Dewi Sri, the Goddess of Fertility.
Today, instead of functioning as a food supplier, paddy fields in Bali are shifting to tourism. The paddy fields of Ceking in Tegalalang, Gianyar regency, for instance, are famous for their well- maintained terraces that attract numerous tourists enchanted by the gorgeous views.
“My family gets Rp 10 million [US$750] a month from the village for a plot of just one hectare,” said Vitri, a Sebatu villager married in Tegalalang.
This allowance is provided to help farmers maintain their paddy fields in Tegalalang. In another area, Wayan Runia, a 90-year-old farmer, receives Rp 2 million a month for his rice fields, which can be easily seen from the road separated by a small river and a small cliff.
Runia asks for donations from passing tourists who use a bridge constructed from iron pipes and bamboo to get to his rice field. Some tourists donate money while others show some reluctance as they already pay an admission fee at the main gate and make voluntary contributions at the trekking entrance.
Becoming a farmer in this modern era, Runia says, is difficult because farmers can only enjoy the fruits of their crops every five months, while prior to this they have to spend money on fertilizer and farm laborers. At his age, he is physically no longer capable of working in the fields.
The Tegalalang tourist destination has several zones of paddy field, with some parts allowing free passage and others seeking donations. The more creative owners turn some corners of their plots into food stalls and places of attraction. They seem unwilling to jettison the sweet delight of tourism.
A bridge to connect the rice fields with the different owner
With his limited English, Wayan Runia tried to ask the donation from the tourists.
Donation collected by Wayan Runia
The farmer's basket as an attraction in the middle of the ricefield in Tegalalang, Gianyar.
Vitri, the resident of Tegalalang village pray in a small shrine for Dewi Sri, the Goddess of Prosperity.
Wayan Kantun attracts the tourist with his balinese music ensemble while he sell snacks and young coconut.
Wayan Arnawa builds up a small stall in the middle of ricefield for the tourist to take a rest.
Gapul (left) and Bawa (middle) farming in his land.
The tourist took a self portrait with the farmer.
Tegalalang rice terrace are known for its beauty that's owned by a certain number of landlord. The owner gets a monthly salary to support the tourism by keeping the ricefield alive.
Menyambut Dewa Gunung
Berjarak hanya sembilan kilometer dari puncak Gunung Agung, Dusun Geriana Kauh tercantum dalam kategori Kawasan Rawan Bencana (KRB) II. Beberapa ruas jalan di sini telah jebol akibat terjangan lahar dingin. Banyak warganya direlokasi. Mereka yang berstamina kuat kadang mudik ke dusun pada pagi hari demi sekadar menengok rumahnya, kemudian kembali ke pengungsian sore harinya.
Letusan gunung kerap dianggap semata sebagai mala atau nasib sial. Tapi warga Hindu Bali memiliki persepsi yang berbeda dalam melihatnya. Bagi mereka, duka, sebagaimana suka, dipandang mengandung makna spiritual. Dan layaknya peristiwa yang bermakna spiritual, ritual khusus pun digelar guna meresponsnya.
Ketika Gunung Agung pertama kali meletus pada 21 November 2017, warga Geriana Kauh menanggap upacara untuk menghormati lahar dingin. Mereka percaya, muntahan dari perut gunung ini merupakan bagian dari dewa yang bertakhta di Gunung Agung. Prosesi upacara ini cukup sederhana. Warga melayangkan canang (sesaji) dan menyulut dupa, sementara pemangku (pendeta) merapal mantra kepada Dewa Gunung yang bergelar Ida Bhatara Lingsir Giri Tohlangkir.
Pada 18 Desember 2017, bertepatan dengan Tilem Sasih Kanem (“Bulan Mati” pada bulan keenam dalam kalender Bali), warga menggelar upacara kedua. Lokasinya kali ini di sekitar sebongkah batu besar yang merupakan tempat pemujaan Dewa Gunung. Batu ini masuk zona yang lebih berbahaya, KRB III. Jaraknya hanya 6,5 kilometer dari kawah Gunung Agung.
Dalam upacara tahap kedua, warga menyusuri tepian Sungai Sabuh, meletakkan canang dan dupa, lalu membasuh tubuh dan meminum air sungai. Di dekat batu besar, lima pemangku mengucapkan mantra dengan iringan gamelan. Seekor ayam hitam kemudian disembelih sebagai simbol persembahan kepada Bhuta Kala atau penghuni alam bawah. “Apa pun yang datang dan menjadi bencana besar mengakibatkan dunia tidak seimbang, karena itu kami menghaturkan sesajen samblehan untuk Bhuta Kala”, ujar Nyoman Bratha, warga Geriana Kauh.
Berada di tempat yang mengancam nyawa, warga tetap khidmat menjalankan upacara. Saat banyak orang memilih menjauhi amukan alam, mereka justru mendekati pusat bencana, kemudian bersimpuh dan berupaya berkomunikasi dengan Dewa Gunung. Jika kita memandang erupsi sebagai petaka, laku spiritual itu tentu bisa dicap sebagai kenekatan. Tapi agama kerap punya cara pandang yang kadang hanya bisa dipahami melalui iman, bukan pikiran. “Kita percaya penuh apa yang dilimpahruahkan lewat lubang kepundan Gunung Agung adalah anugerah. Kita bersyukur bahwa Beliau bisa melintasi kita yang dianggap seperti memberi berkah. Kita justru menyesal jika Beliau tidak dapat mampir ke Geriana Kauh,” ujar Wayan Bratha, Kepala Dusun Geriana Kauh.
I Don't Hate Terrorists!
“My religion doesn’t teach hatred,” Ngesti Puji “Yuyuk” Rahayu said when I interviewed her in 2012 at her then workplace on Jl. Teuku Umar, in Denpasar, Bali. I asked her whether she hated the terrorists who inflicted the permanent burn scars all over her body.
Her words four years ago reverberated in my mind. She suffered severe wounds to her body, yet she smiled easily.
Yayuk is a strong woman.
Born in Jember, East Java in 1962, Yayuk was a survivor of the first Bali bombing on Oct. 12, 2002.
I created her portraits as part of a photography workshop by John Stanmeyer. I met with Bali bombing victims and they opened my eyes to the many problems experienced by survivors of the bombing. They suffered trauma, their wounds continued to give them health problems. They actually needed a government-funded trauma center.
We met again at an event held by the Association of Widows and Children of the Bali Bombing at Beachwalk Mall this year. The foundation released a book titled “Janda-janda Korban Terorisme di Bali” [Widows of Bali Terrorism Victims]. She looked happy despite the scars and the keloids on her left arm.
On the night of the attack on Paddy’s Club she was with her friends having a good time. But the good time turned into horror when a bomb exploded and her body was blown several meters before landing near the DJ booth. She passed out for a while, and when she woke up she saw piles of bodies and heard a voice shouting “Hot! Hot!”
Yayuk was sent to an intensive care unit in a hospital and she was thought to have died because of the severity of her wounds. She was already being sent to the morgue to be cleaned. Fortunately, she woke up and a foundation, Yayasan Kemanusiaan Ibu Pertiwi (YKIP), flew her to Australia to get all-body surgery.
Since her first operation in 2002, she cannot allow her skin to be exposed to direct sunlight because it no longer has the protective layer of normal skin. She feels itchy when she is in the sun for too long.
In 2003, Yayuk got more treatment at the Royal Perth Hospital in Australia for her ears. In 2009, she underwent further surgery because keloids grew on her burned skin, which limited her movement. Afterward, she had several more operations, mostly to reduce the keloids that kept growing.
The tragedy inspired her to convert from Islam to Christianity.
Yayuk is now living a new life as a domestic worker in a villa belonging to a German in Krobokan, Bali. She takes care of the household from morning to 3:30 p.m., sweeping, watering the plants, doing the laundry, and feeding her boss’s two dogs.
Yayuk in 2012 explains her series of surgical operations since 2002 in Australia through several pictures
Yayuk on July 2, 2012 while working as a domestic worker in Denpasar, Bali.
Yayuk prepares to water plants in her new workplace on Oct. 12 in a villa in Kerobokan. Her left arm has keloids that sometimes restrict her movement
Yayuk ties a scarf to her waist in the villa belonging to a German citizen at Kerobokan, Bali on Oct. 12. She has been working there for two years.
Yayuk puts on an earring in her workplace in Kerobokan, Bali. Besides watering the plants, her tasks include doing the laundry, cleaning the house and feeding the two dogs.
Yayuk takes motorcycle taxis and public transportation to get around.
Bali bombing Ground Zero during the 14th anniversary of the tragedy in Legian, Kuta, in Bali. On Oct. 12, Yayuk attended an event held by Yayasan Isana Dewata, a foundation for widows and children of the Bali bombings
A book provided by the Isana Dewata foundation for those who want to write their hopes and prayers for the victims of the Bali blasts on Oct. 12
Yayuk and other direct and indirect survivor of Bali Bombing.
Yayuk on July 2, 2012 posing with a Bible. She converted to Christianity from Islam after the bombing
Cokek the Entertainer
in 1940's, cokek was an entertainment only for the privilege of upper middle class people among the Cina Benteng (Ethnic Chinese living in Benteng area), Tangerang, Banten. Nowadays, everybody can get entertained by the singers-dancers due to an adaptation process as an impact of both modernisation and a revocation of the ban against Chinese cultural practices stipulated through a Presidential Instruction No. 14 in the year 1967 during the New Order era.
The term cokek is originated from a Chinese Hokkian dialect, namely chiou-khek. Chiou means to sing, and Khek means a certain kind of song in Hokkian culture. This art form, which is a combination of Betawi (native Jakarta) and Chinese culture, is always performed with gambang kromong group of a musical accompaniment.
A cokek sings various Dalem songs (whose lyrics in a form of rhyming poem in Malay) and Sayur songs (sung to accompany jogged dance). Back then, cokek was one of the social status symbols for ethnic Chinese leaders, preventing nobodies from making a pass at any cokek.
This Cina Benteng entertainment has remained existed up to now, yet it has evolved into a new form. Gaming Kromong musical group and cokeks find their new stage when they entertain people in a wedding hall (a rental hall for ciotao or a wedding reception in Cina Benteng tradition).
Meanwhile, Herlina Syarifudin, a film director, a script writer and theater artist, tries to portray the story of cokek in a monologue titled "Tumbal Dewi Cokek" or "The Charm of Cokek Goddess".
"I tend to be interested in any traditional art now in the brink of extinction caused by the changing of time and influences of foreign culture. At least, I could record it as part of my artistic journey in a theater world and to retell the story to our children and grandchildren," said Herlina, who dedicates her work to the late Mak Masnah, a cokek maestro who died at the age 90s in 2014.
Trunyan's Ancient Mythology
Trunyan is a village located in the crater area of Mount Batur that is inhabited by the Bali Mula. The Bali Mula are the original inhabitants of Bali who believe their ancestors descended directly from heaven, while the ancestors of the mainland Balinese migrated from Java bringing Majapahit Hindusim to the island.
October 2014 was an auspicious time for the Bali Mula to hold the Saba Gede temple ceremony for their gods. The celebration was held for one month, ending with the Barong Brutuk performance. Brutuk is derived from the words baru tuwuk, meaning ‘to meet.’ This performance symbolizes the meeting between Ratu Ayu Pingit Dalem Dasar and Ratu Sakti Pancering Jagat, who are believed to be the ancestors of the Trunyan people.
In Trunyan mythology, Ratu Ayu Pingit Dalem Dasar was the daughter of a goddess who had descended to the earth and was impregnated by the god of the sun. She married Ratu Sakti Pancering Jagat (or Betara Da Tonta), the eldest son of King Dalem Solo. Betara Da Tonta is considered to be a manifestation of Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (God Almighty).
The Barong Brutuk performance is a form of worship to their supreme god Betara Da Tonta and is also dedicated to increasing fertility in the Trunyan village.
The holy Barong Brutuk performance is a dance by adolescent Trunyan boys who are first quarantined for 42 days, during which time they are not allowed to consume alcoholic drinks, gamble or date. They stay in quarters called bangsal pekemitan that are built specifically for the Kapat Lanang ceremony.
Whip Lashes as a ‘Cure’ When the dancers enter the open stage in the outer part of the Pancering Jagat Village Temple (built in 10th century AD or 833 Çaka according to the Balinese calendar), the audience shouts out, “Meriki Tu, meriki” meaning “Come here please, come here,” which is then answered by the Betara Brutuk with whipping.
The whipping is believed to be a method to ensure fertility. Some women make offerings in the form of sesari (donation money), cigarettes or energy drinks for the Barong Brutuk, and then tear a little piece off of the keraras leaves worn by the Betara Brutuk to be used as a talisman.
At the end of the performance the Betara Brutuk dancers perform the metambak procession, which is a love scene between Betara Da Tonta and Ratu Ayu Pingit Dalem Dasar. This final scene is considered to be very important because it determines the fertility of the universe and all its contents. If this scene fails, it is believed that the dancers will suffer the unfortunate fate of remaining unmarried for the rest of their lives.
At the end of the performance both characters embrace, then dressed only in their loincloths, they run into the lake to bathe and purify themselves. Before leaving the lake there is a small selamatan ceremony done to return the masks into their large bamboo basket.