Howard Nowes - 07/30/2007
Epic of the Ramayana staged in Bali
I was fortunate enough to travel to the lovely archipelago of Indonesia in 1992. I wanted to have a non-western experience in a beautiful place rich with non-western artistic traditions and culture. I knew the tropical rain forest climate, rolling hills, remote villages, and sandy beaches would be nice scenery on such a trip.
I visited with the cultures on the islands of Bali, Lombok, Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi where the Toroja live. I had always been fascinated by these Islands where we find a mix of Buddhist, Hindu, Muslims and the indigenous people with animist’s beliefs.
The Island of Bali, with its beautiful beaches is famous for the high quality wood carvings it produces. The art and culture reflects past generations and still exhibit its living traditions, in Music,dance and Puppet Theater and decorative arts.
I hope you enjoy the following photos, which I dusted off after 15 years. I somehow lost my journal so memory will serve here. Mainly enjoy the images.
I went for a three week trek into Central Silawewsi and saw some very authentic tribal cultural rituals, in the original settings and using the traditional arts for expression.
The first stop was Bali, where a pre-Islamic Hindu culture was preserved the longest. The architecture of Bali is composed of ancient Hindu temples, shrines and grottos. Here is a wonderful large elephant's head carved in the side of an andesite, volcanic rock, mountain entrance. Ca. 11th century AD, commonly known as the 'Cave of the Elephant'.
Bedulu, Goa Gajah (Cave of the Elephant) bath.
Ancient stone carving of a Garuda or mythical animal as a temple guardian, Ca. 11th Century AD. North Bali
Your's truly at Tampak Siring, the Royal tomb of Gunung Kawi, wearing a sarong.
Artist workshop, central Bali. Teak and other fine woods are carved into lavishly decorated sculptures based on characters from rich Balinese myths like the Wayang and the Ramayana. Here we have elephants and traditional colorful carvings hanging on the wall.
Women weavers at work on the looms on the Island of Lombak weaving traditional festival garments in silk. Clothing was an important part of class and social status.
I flew into Rantepao and drove to Lemo and treked north on foot. I encountered a classic Toraja Longhouse, the animist roof shaped like the buffalo, whose sacrificial spirit will aid the soul of the deceased, is a large frame structure, the gables built out and with free standing posts.
The Geometric decorated and painted wood facade with complex ritual patterns on this Societal house bears images whose meaning only the members understand.
On our 20 mile trek we came across various ancestor shrines which were no doubt tombs. The lack of roads had left these villages remote and somewhat isolated.
Bulls roam around village
The ornately carved panels and wooden buffalo head commemorated the holding of a funeral ceremony of a high ranking individual.
Wonderful panoramic vistas with stepped rice paddies and traditional buildings.
Toraja village Funerary complex
Funeral Procession for the elderly deceased with long rows of mournors, each with offerings and in traditional costumes. This young man holds a kris sword.
The offerings of pigs sacrificed for the release of deceased soul and more practically, to give meat to all the representatives of all the families who have come from miles around to pay their respects.
The coffin sits in a place of honor and draped in elaborate textiles.
Row after row of village elders
The large compound was well designed with open spaces and flowed nicely as it functioned for the ceremony.
The men and women wore traditional textile garment sarongs, shoulder cloths, and hats.
the offerings of the bulls
Whose meats will be distributed to the attending mourners and their families.
The cows heads are sliced off but only after the blood is fully let from a machete to the neck. Here is where the spirit of the animal is used to aid the deceased.
Beautiful hills and cliffs
'Tao Tao,' hanging cliff graves that are cut from the rocks as a way to prevent the common crime of grave plundering. They help protect these ancestors.
'Tao Tao,' missing due to grave plundering.
Our guide had heard of a newly discovered tomb and lead us to it just to observe.
Sarcophagus up in a high cliff cave perch with dense forest growth in front left this tomb secreted away. We were very lucky to discover several 12 foot chambers, each with groups of coffins, some small boar shaped wood examples. The larger ones were all decorated in relief patterns and pigments representing some ancestral theme.
More sarcophagoi carved in wonderful form similar to the houses with the angular projections at top, here openwork and delicate. The bones may have been placed there for our amusement. These tombs were at least 100 years old and still held some ceramic vessels and shell jewelry also.
I really enjoyed hanging around there.
All photographs by Howard Nowes with a Pentax P3 slr and a couple of good lenses.
Copyright Howard Nowes 2007.