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memoriesof the sacredrio helmi
memories of the sacred        rio helmi        Limited Edition
For my father, Alfian Yusuf Helmi, who first brought me to Bali when I was eight years old.              He infected me wi...
01. 	 A M B U H    G                                                                                          memories    ...
This book represents part of an ongoing series of photographs “Bali: Between Godsand Men” that I have been working on in B...
what you see and what you don’t                                                          The Balinese word for this certai...
The Barong Ket (the most familiar of many varieties of barong) is an eminently iconic effigy, uniquelyBalinese. Although i...
tions. They learn traditional dance in early childhood, perform in temples, and head up processions.               Farmers...
tourists. Ritual costume is available for hire for tourists who would like a Balinese­style wedding. Ritualparaphernalia, ...
02.	GErEBEG    In Banjar Dur Bingin at the end of the    Galungan season for one day the village    virtually belongs to t...
03.	 	 Ur	BINGIN	PrOCESSION     D    Back in the Eighties, primary school    uniforms were red shorts and with white    sh...
0 4 . 		 I T E S 	 O F 	 PA S S AG E ,	       r       TENGANAN      When the young boys of Tenganan      hit adolescence, ...
05.	TENGANAN	MUDSLINGING    At the end of the manhood initiation    that the adolescent boys of Tenganan    undergo, I saw...
0 6 . 	T E N G A N A N 	 G I r L      During the various village ceremonies      in Tenganan the young girls wear the     ...
0 8 . 	T H E 	 P OW E r 	 O F 	 WO r D S     A young participant asserts his voice in     an extraordinary cultural event ...
0 9. 	 G A r U DA 	 B I r D     A figure representing a mythical bird     in the story behind the Legong Lasem     perform...
1 0 . 	 M E PAYA S     In Balinese literally means to decorate or     dress something up. The single neon light     on thi...
11.	 KETEWEL	MASKS    In the area around Ketewel, there is a set of    sacred masks which are only brought out    during c...
1 2 . 	 L E G O N G 	 D E DA r I      This sacred mask which is kept in the      Yogan Agung temple in Ketewel is only    ...
1 3 . 	 WAYA N G    An important medium of communication    for Balinese even today, the wayang    kulit is ostensibly the...
14.	 C A K 	 r I N A	     Rina was a young boy when he was first     spotted by Indonesian choreographer     Sardono W Kus...
16.	 DEMANG    One of the ‘hard’ characters of the    Gambuh, this Demang sits and    waits his turn as other characters  ...
1 7. 	 B A r I S 	 G E D E      A troupe of Baris or warrior dancers from      Kintamani perform in the ante­court of the ...
1 8 . 	 B A r I S 	 B AYA N G A N     The shadows of Baris Tumbak dancers at     a Brahmin priestess’ cremation in Sanur. ...
1 9. 	 V E T E r A N 	 O F 	 T H E 	 B A r I S      During high caste cremations often a      troupe of Baris dancers will...
2 0 . 	 N G AYA H 	 AT 	 P U r A 	 B AT U r     The Balinese concept of offering covers     not only such things as flower...
21.	 TUMBAK    Baris Tumbak could be translated as    the ‘(warrior) line of spears.’ I have    seen this veteran dancer p...
22.	 THE	TrOOPS    Accompanying a set of sacred Barong    Belas­belasan on an annual procession    which takes place over ...
2 3 . 	 T E J A K U L A 	 WA r r I O r      A Baris Gede performer dances in      the courtyard of the village temple in  ...
24 . 	 B A r I S 	 P r E S I      One day in the late Seventies,      I went with some friends up      to the area around ...
2 5 . 	 LOT U S 	 S T E P S      During the 2010 Bali ‘happening’ Gerebeg      Aksara in Mas in which various Balinese    ...
2 6 . 	 S E E K I N G 	 TA K S U      A wayang wong performer in Mas con­      templates the mask he is about to don,     ...
2 8 . 	 AG E M     In all traditional Balinese dance, the     combination of gesture and posture,     known as Agem, is mo...
2 9. 	 S U T r I      The temple attendants of Samuan Tiga      temple perform the sutri dance at each      of the shrines...
31.	 PErANG	SAMPIAN     The temple of Samuan Tiga is so called as it     was here that 10th century warring parties, in   ...
34.	 TrANCE    During the Pengerebongan ceremony    in Kesiman, the tension reaches a    fever pitch which pervades the in...
35.	 PENGErEBONGAN     Despite the Pengerebongan ceremony     being classified by some as Bhuta Yadnya     or sacrificial ...
3 7. 	 K I N TA M A N I 	 E L D E r      For me, the people from the Kintamani      area in the mountains of the northeast...
38.	 BELANTIH	CErEMONY    On the ridges running south and south    west from Kintamani are a series of villages    whose t...
3 9. 	 A L A S 	 S A r I      Tucked into a small but thick patch      of secondary forest right off the busy      highway...
41 . 	 	 A r O N G 	 B E L A S - B E L A S A N	       B      S E B AT U      Closer to my home in Ubud, in Sebatu      a s...
4 2 . 	 	 A r O N G 	 L A N D U N G	        B     S I N G A PA D U     Obviously the most anthropomorphic of     all the f...
4 3 . 	 PA DA N G 	 DAW E     Up in the mountains around Apuan     and Padang Dawe during the month     of Galungan, the s...
4 5 . 	 	 A r O N G 	 I N	        B      THE	rICE	FIELDS      A village Barong procession makes      its way through rice ...
46.	PENULISAN     Several gamelan troupes, distinguished     by their uniforms, converge on the     hundreds of steps on t...
4 8 . 	 B AT U K A r U 	 T r A N C E      At a certain point during the      annual odalan at Batukaru temple,      the fo...
5 0 . 	 B ATA r A 	 T E D U N , 	 B AT U K A r U     The most important figure during the     Batukaru festival is when th...
51.	 TrANCE      A young woman erupts into trance at the      village temple of Tejakula in northeastern      Bali. Curiou...
5 3 . 	 PA K S E B A L I      Every Kuningan in Paksebali, history is      re­enacted with a brutal emotional reality     ...
55.	 TWILIGHT	TrANCE      During the Perang Dewa ritual some of      the men in trance put up a huge fight,      resisting...
5 8 . 	 K I D ’ S 	 C r E M AT I O N 	 G A M E      Balinese children learn by imitating,      and they have fun doing so....
acknowledgementsThis book spans over three decades of work in Bali, and I fear that I will not be able to mention all of t...
Memories of the Sacred is a photographicessay of ineffable moments in Balineseritual. Compiled over decades, many ofthese ...
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi
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"Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi

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This book represents part of an ongoing series of photographs (“Bali— Between Gods and men”) that i have been working on in Bali for the last 30 years. Despite the rampant over-development and commercialization of parts of the island, a certain spirit lives on. A preview copy of the book published by Afterhours Books (info@afterhoursgroup.com). Available both in Regular Bookstore Edition and Special Signed Limited Edition of 100.

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Transcript of ""Memories of the Sacred" by Rio Helmi"

  1. 1. memoriesof the sacredrio helmi
  2. 2. memories of the sacred rio helmi Limited Edition
  3. 3. For my father, Alfian Yusuf Helmi, who first brought me to Bali when I was eight years old. He infected me with a love of photography and of our country.
  4. 4. 01. A M B U H G memories of the sacred This dance form has apparently barely changed since it originated in the courts of Majapahit in East Java nearly half a millenium ago. Its highly stylized forms seem in contrast with many of today’s almost raucous Bali­ nese modern choreography. Perhaps, it was this that caught the attention of my friend, the late Cristina ‘Wis­ tari’ Formaggia, an Italian performer rio helmi who ended up dedicating the last 2 or 3 decades of her life to perform­ ing and preserving Gambuh. I was shooting a series on Gambuh for her foundation at a performance in Batu­ an one night. As I stood next to the entrance to the stage, this performer who played the character Tumenggung, a ‘hard’ and comic figure, came and stood perfectly still between two lamps waiting for his cue—in perfect contrast to his on stage character. It was also a perfect gift wrapped set up: these were the days of film, and shooting at night was fraught with uncertainty! The Special Edition Publisher: Lans Brahmantyo ‘Memories of The Sacred’ Project Manager: Cherry Salim is limited to 100 copies. Photo Editor: Rio Helmi Writer: Diana Darling Copyright © 2010. Artistic Director: Chandra Rahmatillah Creative Manager: Celvie Toramaya All Rights Reserved. Graphic Designer: Rully Jatmiko No part of this publication may be Design Operators: Nasrullah & Nasrudin reproduced or transmitted in any Production: Andri Wirawan & Reza Inovani form, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording Paper: or any other information storage Regular Edition: Matte 150 gsm and retrieval system, without Special Edition: Garda Pat Klasica 135 gsm prior permission in writing from the publisher. Printed by Indonesia Printer Designed and Published by ISBN 978-602-97507-2-0 Afterhours Jalan Merpati 45, Menteng Dalam Jakarta 12870 Indonesia 9 786029 750720 +62 (21) 8306819 info@afterhoursgroup.com
  5. 5. This book represents part of an ongoing series of photographs “Bali: Between Godsand Men” that I have been working on in Bali for the last thirty years. Despite therampant over­development and commercialization of parts of the island, a certainspirit lives on. Many have tried their hand at defining it—spiritualists, psychologists,anthropologists, artists, hoteliers, travel agents, amateur experts and dilettantes likemyself. I should simply be quiet and let these images which have captured me speakfor themselves. But despite that, I have added a few words describing what I haveseen and understood. It is, of course, just one point of view. The name Bali is saidby some to come from an acronym of batara linggih or seat of the gods; others say itcomes from the term wewalian which means a ritual offering of dance during templeceremonies. Ritual here, staged with great fanfare, has as its goal to make manifestboth loyalty to a tightly structured society and devotion to a myriad of gods whoserelationships mirror those of the human realm. In Bali, communication betweengods and humans takes place on a regular basis. During temple ceremonies, heldaccording to strictly­kept calendars, many temples host ritual trances which serve asthe medium through which this communication takes place. The gods and ancestorsspeak through the medium, often with specific messages. Meanwhile the humansoffer not only flowers and foods, but highly stylized performances as well. Visuallyelaborate as these events are, the most intense junctures during these moments arehuman ones. At some point there can come a shift, a transition from an everydayidentity to something beyond, and from the divine to the everyday. During ceremonies,the music and the manipulation of ritual paraphernalia build up momentum, creatinga tension which will finally be relieved in the central event around which the wholeevent revolves. Tuned in by lifelong immersion in this magical world, the Balinesehave a sense of timing that no watch can measure. And then it happens: wrathfulancestors arrive into trembling bodies; studied roles come alive; spontaneouslychoreographed performers transform into other­worldly tableaux. This link to theunseen carries over into everyday life, even into the landscape. To this day the visualproof of the Balinese admission to the divine in every aspect of their lives is alive andwell, a vibrant esthetic unlike any other in the world. rio helmi
  6. 6. what you see and what you don’t The Balinese word for this certain something is niskala, usually translated as ‘the invisible world’—potent and ambivalent, the big reality behind the surface we see, like some roiling, shimmering electrical milk. The niskala lurks in trees, rocks, mountains, rivers, the warm earth, and the hungry sea; and the Bali­There’s a certain something—a wild, spangled nese meet it with a mania for controlling, ordering, counting, specifying, wrapping, situating, naming, and then venerating it with offerings—in other words, through ritual. Sometimes, the Balinese open themselvesenergy—that once saturated Bali as tangibly as its wide for the niskala to come streaming through them; this is generally described as ‘trance.’ Some Balineseown tropical humidity; something that could catch are said to be able to make niskala weapons; this is generally described as ‘magic.’ The niskala penetrates gemstones and clings to human hair and accumulates in certain man­madeyou in its teeth anywhere—on your way into the things. It lingers in wood long after the tree has been felled and the wood shaped into a mask or the walk­ ing stick of a sage. The sounds and letters of the alphabet are charged with niskala power, as are musicalKuta from the airport, say, as you rode along a sandy tones, the kris dagger, certain drawn shapes (rerajahan), certain hand gestures (mudra), and an uncountable variety of abstract forms which the Balinese render in cut leaves or colored rice dough and compose in antrack on the back of a motorbike—and rattle your uncountable variety of offerings. The niskala is particularly dense in graveyards, where it gathers naturally, and in temples, where it is layered through the cycles of the ritual calendar.heart at the sight of children dancing with the slow The niskala is amplified by water. Spring water is transformed into holy water with incense, flow­dignity of gods; or that could hit you in the face like ers, and mantra, and tuned to specific functions in the rites of life and death. The blessings of deities are conveyed in holy water. Lakes are venerated as the nourishing source of the island’s irrigation networks.a sluice of cold champagne at the sight of clowns The sea has tremendous powers of dissolving physical and spiritual impurities: it is a station in the post­ funerary rites of purifying a soul, and sacred effigies are taken to the sea at special times for cleansing.jousting in a graveyard, reducing you to a jelly of These are big occasions. In Bali, you don’t just go get spring water, or just take the god statues to the sea. You put together a procession: music, offerings, parasols, banners, streams of white cloth, palanquins of ef­laughter even though you don’t understand a word figies, dancers with flowers fresh and of hammered gold in their hair, and hundreds of people, these daysthey say; or that could freeze your skin in a cloud of dressed in white. This is the public face of the niskala, with all its attributes and defenses on display, an an­ nouncement of beauty and danger.chattering cymbals and drums as a corpse is carried For there is an atmosphere of dread in the niskala. You can see it in the demonic figures in temple carvings and magical drawings, in the themes of war in ritual dance, and in the many terrifying masks inout to the street through a house gate. ritual theatre; you can hear it in the processional gongs and cymbals. The source of fear is perhaps the power of nature and the damage it can wreak on human beings, especially those who live (as the Balinese until recently always have) very close to the earth. When you are armed with little more than a hoe and a cleaver, you are not in a position to argue with storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, or the devouring darkness of a forest. Human beings die easily, overcome by snakebite, plagues, the hazards of childbirth. The idea is to show respect to these frightening powers and to try through ritual to strike some harmonic accord with them, so that the human being vibrates with, not against, them, and the order of the world hums on in balance. It is this flaming out of the niskala that Rio Helmi pursues when he photographs Balinese ritual: the trigger moment when the holy becomes real. This takes place in circumstances that are almost inscrutably complex and varied. To appreciate what is happening in the photographs it is useful to contemplate some of the dominant visual elements in them—such as masks, cloth, weapons, trance, children in ritual—and then to reflect on the society from which these images emerge. Masks are instruments for capturing and expressing the power of certain spiritual personalities. Most conspicuous among sacred masks are that of the Barong—the revered lion­like figure whose guard­ ian power is focused in the mask but whose majesty is so bulky that the creature must be animated by two dancers, front and back—and the Barong’s consort cum nemesis Rangda, widely described as ‘the Witch’ or the ‘Queen of Demons.’
  7. 7. The Barong Ket (the most familiar of many varieties of barong) is an eminently iconic effigy, uniquelyBalinese. Although it has lately become a flashy component in tourism advertising, this, like all barongs, Extreme forms of ritual violence take place underis an intensely sacred creature, and a very local one: a barong belongs to a specific community—usually a trance, that inexplicable state where astonishingbanjar (village association) whose members keep it safely stored, usually in a temple, and attend to itsritual upkeep. things happen. Here the niskala is at its most To make a barong is a holy undertaking: the wood for the mask must be harvested on a particular dayfrom a special tree, often a kepuh tree growing in the grounds of a graveyard, and always with appropri­ explosive, ignited by arcane cues that may be asate offerings. The mask is carved only by one who is deemed spiritually qualified. The beard of the barongis of human hair, preferably that of the virgin youth of the community. The body’s luxuriant coat may be simple as a melody.of plant fiber or crow feathers or any number of materials from the natural world. Gilded carved leatherframes the mask in an elaborate headdress, and shapes its grand and saucy haunches. A lively arching tail isdecorated with mirrors. As a final step, the barong is ‘brought to life’ in the graveyard at night with the mostexacting ritual magic. Scholars describe the Barong as chthonic, relating to the underworld. He is a sort of Weapons and combat play a surprisingly big role in Balinese ritual. The kris is part of a man’s ceremo­fearless and benign ambassador among the forces of chaos. nial dress. In the constellation of nine Hindu deities (nawa sanga), each has its own mystical weapon; these His counterpart Rangda personifies fear, illness, and all that can go wrong in the world; and in the are sometimes represented as ingredients of offerings. At temple festivals there are ranks (baris) of warriorBalinese world view, this is precisely why she, too, should be venerated. A Rangda mask is treated with dancers, also called baris, armed with spears or shields or sometimes leaves. There is one­to­one ritual com­the same careful dread in her making and maintenance that is accorded the Barong. Like the Barong, she bat with spiny pandanus leaves and the free­for­all siat sampian where a roiling crowd of young men bashmay be danced only by the spiritually initiated. each other with figures of woven palm leaves. There is the rite popularly known as perang dewa (‘battle These two powerfully charged entities spend most of their time slumbering in sacred seclusion, of the gods’) where temple deities fight each other through the entranced bearers of their palanquins.shrouded in white cloth in the hush of a temple pavilion, until a ritually prescribed date arrives for them The cockfight with its bright blood­letting is a part of purification rites. These expressions of violence canto be aroused. Then they may be carried in procession, semi­dreaming, on ritual visits to various temples. be viewed several ways. First, they are just the sort of festivity that ground spirits enjoy; second, they mayOr they may be fully awakened—with music, mantra, scented smoke, and animal sacrifice—and allowed to express an ancient memory of the wars of deified warrior­kings; and on a subtler level they represent theunleash their vast, weird powers in a public mystery play that culminates in combat. They do not actually struggle of the soul against the pull of the material world.fight: they are far too exalted for that. Instead, their battle is carried out through proxies, human beings Extreme forms of ritual violence take place under trance, that inexplicable state where astonishingin trance—driven by Rangda to stab their naked chests with kris daggers but protected by the Barong things happen. Here the niskala is at its most explosive, ignited by arcane cues that may be as simple asfrom the knives piercing their skin. Neither side is supposed to win, for this is the real world, after all, a melody. In Bali, trance is considered to be possession by a deity or some other niskala being, and it iswhere the forces of order and chaos are always in contest. This furious psychic exercise is held to be regularly induced as part of temple festivals, although with a great deal of variety in its local forms, as ifgood for the community. the particular trance ritual is part of the history of a particular temple. This is especially legible at the fes­ Cloth appears in Balinese ritual in a variety of ways: in traditional dress and theatrical costume; tival of the Pura Dalem Pengerebongan in Denpasar where trance rituals commemorate a force of 18th­as parasols; as tall banners; and in wrapping almost everything in sight—sacred objects, big stone century warriors who kept fighting even when their entrails were hanging out—the entrails representedstatues, pavilion posts, even trees. Appropriate temple dress (which is prescribed by convention and by a long rope of black­and­white checkered cloth. The trance at this temple festival is famous for theenlivened by fashion) requires that the waist be tied by a sash and that a man’s head be wrapped in a hundreds of people who, at a flick of holy water, fall into trance and are then helped to circumambulatetemple scarf. It is as if the function of cloth is to bind and isolate the niskala. The waist sash keeps the the civic pavilion outside the temple. The weeping, shrieking, and self­stabbing of the entranced create alow energies of the ground from invading the heart and head, while the headcloth protects the head chain­saw level of tension.from noisy interference. (Women do not seem to require this precaution, although for certain very sa­ But, not all trance is violent. Some of the most tender dance­trance rites are performed by young girls.cred ceremonies, all members of the congregation will wear a strip of white cloth tied around the head). Sanghyang is a generic term for certain kinds of illness­banishing trance possession induced with a capellaPriests dress entirely in white, with the headcloth covering the crown. Parasols indicate the presence singing, in which the trancer may become, for example, a monkey, a pig, a broom or the lid of a pot. In san­of deities and accompany the Barong; in former times, parasols were also attributes of royalty. In pro­ ghyang dedari, the incarnating spirit is what is usually described as a heavenly nymph, which is certainlycession, long streams of white cloth connect god effigies to the congregation. The black­and­white what the child dancers look like as they move, with eyes closed, in unison under a spell of mysterious beauty.checkered poleng cloth is warning signal of the magically charged, and is symbolic of the positive and Children are considered beings of special purity. In the Balinese world view, children are born holy,negative energies at large in the universe. Certain handwoven textiles, such as the obscure cepuk cloth incarnations of deified ancestors. They are introduced to the world very gently through a series of lifeand celebrated double­ikat geringsing cloth woven in Tenganan, are thought to have special niskala rites and become fully of the world only upon marriage. Children participate in rituals from babyhood,qualities in themselves, imbued during the long intimate processes of weaving and dyeing mystical fig­ not only in their life rites but also accompanying their parents at temple festivals and in family celebra­ures into the cloth.
  8. 8. tions. They learn traditional dance in early childhood, perform in temples, and head up processions. Farmers become laborers, and farmers’ childrenDuring the Galungan festival season, when barongs are out on the road protecting the neighborhood,children mimic these processions with mini­barongs and little gongs of their own. By the time they reach become craftsmen, domestic servants, civiladulthood, Balinese are so imbued with their religious culture that is integral to their gestures, thought,humor, fears, and most intimate personal identity. servants, bank tellers, tour guides, waitresses, Rio Helmi has called this collection ‘memories of the sacred’: although Bali’s rituals are as big andopulent as ever, the niskala seems to be ever more eclipsed by modern life. To understand the dynamics graphic designers, public relations managers, fitnessof this, one might look at Balinese society itself, to understand how it is organized in regard to the nis­ trainers, dentists, and real estate brokers—andkala and to see in what ways it is under pressure. In Bali, the fabric of life and death is the community, which is comprised mainly of the family and people find it hard to take off a couple of weeks tothe village (whose traditional banjar neighborhoods persist even in towns). To a degree that is remark­able in the twenty­first century, Balinese society renders irrelevant such existential questions as Who am prepare for a temple festival.I? and What is my role in life? and What will happen when I die? The community has the answer to allof these. The family and village define the individual, who in turn nurtures the community with his andher participation in its many rituals. This interdependence between the individual and the community ismost striking on the occasion of a death, when family and village undertake all the care of the corpse, itsbathing and preparation for burial or burning and then the long series of rituals to conduct the soul backto the divine source, from where it will extend an invisible thread to the family house temple, and per­ In modern Balinese society, the importance of observing one’s obligations to the niskala is almosthaps eventually to other temples as well. unquestioned. What is under pressure is the context in which these ritual obligations take place. Bali’s reli­ Nearly all the rituals recorded here take place in temples, demarcated plots of sacred ground where gious culture developed in an agricultural and deeply conformist society, where the ritual calendar reflectedvarious deities are honored. Balinese temples have rather abstract relations to the high classical Hindu the rhythms of the rice­growing cycle and the seasons, where people survived (or not) with what they pro­trinity—Brahma Vishnu Shiva—who are associated with the three principal temples around which Bali­ duced on their own land, and where there were few demands on their time beyond those of the village andnese village communities are organized: the pura puseh founding temple; the pura bale agung or pura desa the fields. To keep up the ritual surface of this culture today is ever more at odds with modern reality.community temple, and the pura dalem associated with the dead. The actual shrines are dedicated to more Under the twin storms of tourism and speculation, agricultural land is being quickly sold and pavedintimate gods, such as deified kings, sages, and founding ancestors, or to powers associated with mountains, over for petrol stations, shopping malls, resort complexes, or simply more housing for the growing popula­lakes, the sea. These gods are invisible, of course. The Balinese give them visiting places, usually in the form tion—which literally undermines the ground of the traditional culture. Many people now have to pay cashof a small statue which is kept in a dedicated shrine; and this object—easily adorned and transported in for the materials for offerings rather than harvesting them from their own land. Farmers become laborers,procession—becomes a point of focus during rituals, which occur mainly on the anniversary of a temple’s and farmers’ children become craftsmen, domestic servants, civil servants, bank tellers, tour guides, wait­founding. There are also many other types of temples where a Balinese (family) may have ritual obligations: resses, graphic designers, public relations managers, fitness trainers, dentists, and real estate brokers—andagricultural temples; clan temples of varying types and extent; and pura penataran or ‘state’ temples associ­ people find it hard to take off a couple of weeks to prepare for a temple festival. The labor of making offer­ated with ancient unitary kingdoms or new urban centers. Temples are major nodes in the social network, ings is increasingly contracted out to specialists, putting a gentle but persistent strain on community ties.where relationships are concentrated and which burst into crowded activity during periodic temple festi­ Bali’s towns are growing fast, and they are growing ever more cosmopolitan as they are settled by peoplevals. Thus the crowds at ceremonies. from other parts of Indonesia. The presence of foreigners, be they visitors or expatriate businesspeople, cre­ Balinese temple festivals (and other major ceremonies such as death rituals) demand the participa­ ates a hugely visible footprint. As Bali becomes more integrated into the national and international world,tion of entire communities because of the great amount of time and labor involved in the preparation of ideas about society and spirituality are changing, and this also challenges the foundations of the old culture.the required offerings, which are profuse and complex beyond description. This gloriously extravagant Tourism, whose economic contribution is obvious, presents a particularly complicated challenge.form of worship seems have evolved from several conditions: the great natural richness of the land with On the one hand, because Bali’s tourist industry brands itself on the basis of its glittering ceremonial cul­its abundance of rice, fruits and flowers; leisure time during phases of the rice cycle, which gives people ture, tourism is a force of conservation—at least in the sense of perpetuating its most visible forms. Cer­time to develop an elaborate ornamental culture; the drive for specifying things, which is given expres­ emonial arts, especially music and dance performances, are heavily merchandized into tourism packages;sion in minutely detailed figures of the niskala; and a sacrificial motive—for animal sacrifice remains an ticketed performances of the ‘Barong Dance’ may be viewed day or night every day of the week. The touristimportant aspect of ritual in order to pay respect to the lower orders of the world. Higher beings are hon­ performance industry is backed up by performing arts academies that assure a steady supply of musiciansored with all that is beautiful: sweet music, flowers, elegant dances; while the grounds spirits that follow and dancers. Traditional sculpture and painting fill hotels and decorate supermarkets; and there is officialthem prefer raw meat, sharp drink, combat, and noise. Whether the scale of the ceremony is modest or pressure for buildings to exhibit at least a token amount of Balinese architectural decorative elements.royal, there is a concern to include and account for the whole world. Temples themselves become venues of tourist performances, and their festivals are attended by admiring
  9. 9. tourists. Ritual costume is available for hire for tourists who would like a Balinese­style wedding. Ritualparaphernalia, such as masks and parasols, is available for anyone to purchase and take back to their owncountries to decorate their homes. On the other hand, the commercialization of these cultural elements leads to a hollowing out oftheir niskala power, which alarms thoughtful Balinese. Leaders in the government make well­meaningefforts to preserve formal aspects of the culture by mounting competitions (lomba) of everything fromgamelan orchestras to folk arts; perhaps the most puzzling of these are the ‘beautiful graveyard’ contests(lomba setra). The annual month­long Bali Arts Festival (Pesta Kesenian Bali), opened every year by thePresident of the Republic of Indonesia, provides a venue for the display of both new and traditional cul­tural performances from around Bali (and increasingly with the inclusion of groups from other parts ofIndonesia and the world). Some argue that while this affirms the prestige of traditional dance forms, itweakens their sacred character by turning them into a show. In some quarters, the spirit of conservation is heating up into religious conservatism. This is particu­larly so in urbanizing south and central Bali, where tourism and all the dynamism of modern Indonesiahave wiped out the old agricultural character of life and are imposing drastic new alternatives. This pro­vokes an almost defensive attitude, which appears in grand displays of the force of Balinese culture. The recently coined motto Ajeg Bali means ‘Bali upright and strong’ but has become the slogan of arather strident sense of ethnic identity. Curiously, this sometimes finds expression in Balinese Hindus imi­tating certain Muslim conventions. For example, the Sanskrit prayer Tri Sandhya is broadcast on local radioand television stations every evening at six, as if Balinese do not want to appear less pious at dusk than theirMuslim compatriots. A certain militancy lurks among young Hindus, who from time to time decry as blas­phemy the use of Hindu religious symbols in, for example, advertising or an album cover, as their Muslimcompatriots in other parts of Indonesia sometimes do. The notion of blasphemy in Bali is new. At the turn of the 21st century, Bali suddenly found its traffic being directed by young men in polengtemple dress and sunglasses, armed with kris daggers. These are pecalang, the new face of order at Bali­nese religious ceremonies. The term formerly referred to palace henchmen and was nearly extinct untilit was recently revived for community patrol groups and freshly translated as ‘Bali’s traditional securitypersonnel’. Pecalang, who are not supposed to bully outsiders, excel at enforcing the 24­hour curfew onthe holy day Nyepi (the ‘day of silence’) when the streets of the entire island are to be deserted from dawnto the following dawn. During this period, no lamps or fires are to be lit, and Balinese Hindus are encour­aged to refrain from work or entertainment and to spend their time in introspection. The airport shutsdown for twenty four hours. The prohibition from venturing outdoors extends to absolutely everyone(except the pecalang) including the non­Hindu Indonesian population, foreign residents, and tourists;compliance is docile and universal. This year in a new flourish of public pietism, the local governmentblocked all national and local television broadcasts, prompting outcry from progressive Balinese, whofound this an unfair imposition of their religious values on others. Progressive and conservative opinion leaders in Bali have been arguing for nearly a hundredyears about the direction their religion should take in response to the emergencies that history hurlsat this little island: Bali did not choose to become a showcase of enlightened colonial policy, or thekilling fields in a Cold War exercise, or the terrain of choice for anthropological aesthetes, or theworld’s favorite tropical playground. Today, it is a society swarming in mirrors. Who wouldn’t bedazzled by the glare? diana darling
  10. 10. 02. GErEBEG In Banjar Dur Bingin at the end of the Galungan season for one day the village virtually belongs to the kids of the vil­ lage. The boys eat in the village temple, then process around the village with palm fronds, shouting and having a good old time. I took this in the Eighties; nowadays the kids are given to dayglow face paint and other innovations which somehow aren’t quite as primal.
  11. 11. 03. Ur BINGIN PrOCESSION D Back in the Eighties, primary school uniforms were red shorts and with white shirts. The shorts ended up being all­ round wear, and as these boys demon­ strate, were perfect for this ceremonial procession. They were chuffed that I was photographing them—prior to that no one had really taken any interest in their ritual—and seemed just a little extra boisterous as a result.
  12. 12. 0 4 . I T E S O F PA S S AG E , r TENGANAN When the young boys of Tenganan hit adolescence, they undergo a special communal rite of passage. But because the cost is relatively high, the community tends to wait a few years till they have saved up enough. Consequently, it is relatively rare to see, and the boys vary quite a bit in age. They are first shaved, then led to through a series of specific rites—for example at the village blacksmith and so on. They then enter a completely closed bamboo confine, which no one else may enter, for their secret initiation. Quite a few of my Balinese friends expressed surprise when seeing these images as they had never even heard of this ceremony before.
  13. 13. 05. TENGANAN MUDSLINGING At the end of the manhood initiation that the adolescent boys of Tenganan undergo, I saw perhaps one of the most bizarre rituals I have seen in Bali. The young unmarried girls of the village gathered to sit in turn on a platform a pavilion of a private compound, wearing traditional ceremonial clothes. The boys then prepared buckets of mud, which they then proceeded to sling handfuls of at the girls who had to sit there with their backs turned and simply take it. They had an oil lamp burning; when it went out everyone had to stop while it was relit. I never really got to the bottom of what was behind this ritual.
  14. 14. 0 6 . T E N G A N A N G I r L During the various village ceremonies in Tenganan the young girls wear the famous double­ikat cloth—the warp and weft threads are dyed in special pat­ terns prior to weaving. There are very few places ion places in the world where one finds traditional double­ikat, and the Geringsing cloths of Tenganan are famous, to the point where some enter­ prising Japanese actually copyrighted some geringsing designs—the ultimate cultural theft. Tenganan girls wear them with pride. During the ceremony, they sit or stand in the central balé or pavilion of the village, almost as if on display, fully aware they are the center of attention.07. r E J A N G A S A K The Rejang is one of my favourites, so slow it’s hardly even a dance, but yet so elegant and graceful—even when a bunch of young girls are awkwardly imitating the leader. And my favourite rejangs are in East Bali, like here in Asak twenty years ago when the Seke Dahe (the unmarried maidens association) perform under canopy of newly erected jaka palm fronds. The effect was almost cathedral­like.
  15. 15. 0 8 . T H E P OW E r O F WO r D S A young participant asserts his voice in an extraordinary cultural event ‘Gerebeg Aksara Prasada’ which is part of a modern movement to purify and refocus modern Balinese culture. The villages of Mas and Sakah staged a procession with five high priests escorted by thousands of participants which closed the main road to Ubud for hours. Power to the people.
  16. 16. 0 9. G A r U DA B I r D A figure representing a mythical bird in the story behind the Legong Lasem performance is played by the ‘condong’ or attendant of the court. I was watch­ ing this performance in the house of a friend in a village before the days of easy electricity; the bamboo lamps gave off just enough smoke to give the feel­ ing that she is flying through the clouds. Still one of my favourite images.
  17. 17. 1 0 . M E PAYA S In Balinese literally means to decorate or dress something up. The single neon light on this young boy’s face being made up backstage for a performance in the tem­ ple of the dead in Batuan one night made me think of a mask.
  18. 18. 11. KETEWEL MASKS In the area around Ketewel, there is a set of sacred masks which are only brought out during certain ceremonies and are said to be linked to the wellbeing of the community. They are performed by young girls who enter a state of semi­trance as they don the masks, first covering their faces with the cloth that the masks are wrapped in as if to breathe in their essence. This was shot in the late Seven­ ties when the kerosene pressure lamp was the main illumination in most Balinese villages.
  19. 19. 1 2 . L E G O N G D E DA r I This sacred mask which is kept in the Yogan Agung temple in Ketewel is only brought out on specific occasions. I was lucky to be able to shoot the semi­trance performance that night in the late 1970s. I hear that the temple doesn’t allow it to be photographed anymore. This was shot by the light of the once ubiquitous ‘petromax’ or ‘strongking’ kerosene pressure lamps.
  20. 20. 1 3 . WAYA N G An important medium of communication for Balinese even today, the wayang kulit is ostensibly the shadow puppet performance of ancient myths. In reality the dalang (puppeteer) always incorporates contemporary social comment into his story, often picking up bits and pieces of local goings­on to weave into his story. The more skillful he (or she) is at doing this, the more popular he or she is on the circuit. This dalang Wayan Wija, an old friend since the 1970s, has always been innovative and popular. He has even created special optical effects and new sets of figures, drawing from a variety of sources.
  21. 21. 14. C A K r I N A Rina was a young boy when he was first spotted by Indonesian choreographer Sardono W Kusumo. Sardono included him on his international tours, includ­ ing one legendary tour to Paris. Rina grew up to be a nationally­renowned dancer. When I met and toured with the him in the 1980s, he was already a strong creative performer in his own right. In his defining role in the kecak of Teges village, a powerful performance dominated by him and his counterpart Lunge, finds the troupe literally playing with fire. This is must­see for serious Bali lovers. Rina’s presence has resulted in the Teges group’s performance being labelled Cak Rina. Many of his moves and choreographies have been copied, with limited success, by other groups around the island.15. C A LO N A r A N G When performed in its traditional setting, at the temple of the dead during special magically powerful days of the Balinese calendar for specific rituals, the Calonarang is riveting, even spine­ chilling. The central character is the witch Walu Natang Dirah, and is played by a man. This actor, now long gone, was famous for his especially powerful depiction of Calonarang. The eerie light of the kerosene lamps seemed to enhance the image even more.
  22. 22. 16. DEMANG One of the ‘hard’ characters of the Gambuh, this Demang sits and waits his turn as other characters dance out their roles in the Gambuh. This old performer from Batuan always had a such a twinkle in his eye, and to me just the way he sat there waiting for his cue was already a performance.
  23. 23. 1 7. B A r I S G E D E A troupe of Baris or warrior dancers from Kintamani perform in the ante­court of the Pura Batur in Kintamani during the anniver­ sary of the temple (Odalan). As this temple is important to all the other communities on the southern and western slopes many of them come to ngayah or ‘offer their work’ to the gods as well. But the local Baris group has always had a special place in my heart, their slow mesmerizing series of stylized battle dances with various weapons—spears, shields—and formations punctuated by war cries. It is especially magical when the afternoon mist rolls in, which in Kintamani is frequent.
  24. 24. 1 8 . B A r I S B AYA N G A N The shadows of Baris Tumbak dancers at a Brahmin priestess’ cremation in Sanur. Behind the tourist strip of this beach resort, the traditions of Bali live vividly on, and stumbling on this cremation in 2009 reconfirmed this for me.
  25. 25. 1 9. V E T E r A N O F T H E B A r I S During high caste cremations often a troupe of Baris dancers will perform, taking part of the procession as well. This Brahmin priestess’s cremation in Sanur was no exception. This old man, obviously a veteran Baris dancer, was the highlight for me. Though reasonably stout and decades older than the rest, his sense of style and timing were impeccable, all accompanied by that oh­ so­necessarry element of Balinese dance, a perfectly animated face.
  26. 26. 2 0 . N G AYA H AT P U r A B AT U r The Balinese concept of offering covers not only such things as flowers, fruits, cakes and so on but also to offer work— ngayah. Ngayah is especially relevant when it comes to temple ceremonies, and for larger regional temples such as Pura Batur in Kintamani, people from all over Bali—especially from the south central part of Bali—come to make their offerings, and the central courtyards are a harmonious cacophony of dance, offerings and prayers all happening simultaneously.
  27. 27. 21. TUMBAK Baris Tumbak could be translated as the ‘(warrior) line of spears.’ I have seen this veteran dancer performing for years now, and though we have barely spoken a few casual sentences to each other without even so much as a formal introduction, we have our own dance—he with the spear, me with the camera.
  28. 28. 22. THE TrOOPS Accompanying a set of sacred Barong Belas­belasan on an annual procession which takes place over a few days in the Tampaksiring area, this troupe of Baris dancers made an impressive sight. The entire procession including men, women and children, end up spending the night in various temples along the way before heading back home.
  29. 29. 2 3 . T E J A K U L A WA r r I O r A Baris Gede performer dances in the courtyard of the village temple in Tejakula. Located at the foot of the barren northeastern slopes, Tejakula hosts a surprisingly active dance and arts community for all its remoteness.
  30. 30. 24 . B A r I S P r E S I One day in the late Seventies, I went with some friends up to the area around Ngis in the district around Karangasem in East Bali. We ran into a temple ceremony in a small temple whose outer walls were in shambles. There was none of the grandeur of the rituals that I had gotten used to in the richer southern part of Bali. But there was a special feeling to all the proceedings, it was truly a sacred moment. And the there was a wonderful fierceness to the Baris Presi dance that was offered to the gods that afternoon.
  31. 31. 2 5 . LOT U S S T E P S During the 2010 Bali ‘happening’ Gerebeg Aksara in Mas in which various Balinese high priests, intellectuals and performers gathered to both celebrate and revive the sacred in the arts, Bali’s de facto poet Laureate Cok Sawitri arranges lotuses in the path of a pedanda Brahmin high priest.
  32. 32. 2 6 . S E E K I N G TA K S U A wayang wong performer in Mas con­ templates the mask he is about to don, becoming one with the character of the mask and the role he is to play. When a character has spirit, when a painting ‘comes to life’ it is said to have taksu, something akin to divine inspiration. 2 7. WAYA N G WO N G Taken about twenty years ago in Mas, the wayang wong (the ‘human wayang’) performance continues to be an integral part of the annual odalan temple ceremony of Pura Taman Pule to this day. They perform in anticipation of the arrival of the gods who arrive in procession. This dancer for me encapsulated the energy and style of wayang wong.
  33. 33. 2 8 . AG E M In all traditional Balinese dance, the combination of gesture and posture, known as Agem, is most important as both a statement of the reaction and as a description of the basic character’s attitude. When a discerning Balinese senses the Agem of a dancer is off, it doesn’t matter how pretty they are or how glitzy the stage, it just doesn’t make it. Even if it is a rustic troupe, if they have that special ingredient of inspiration, then it pleases.
  34. 34. 2 9. S U T r I The temple attendants of Samuan Tiga temple perform the sutri dance at each of the shrines in the temple prior to the main ritual, a slow rhythmic dance that is slightly hypnotic, alternating with almost anti­climactic pauses before picking up and moving on. 30. SAMUAN TIGA The sutri dancers, elderly female temple attendants, dance their way in a slow, undulating serpentine line across the courtyard of Samuan Tiga temple in Bedulu. Each time they come to one of the shrines in the entire complex, they stop and dance especially for the deity therein. They go around the whole temple three.
  35. 35. 31. PErANG SAMPIAN The temple of Samuan Tiga is so called as it was here that 10th century warring parties, in disagreement over religious beliefs, finally came together to settle their grievances and forge peace. The pact basically revolved around the agreement to worship the three principal deities Brahma, Wishnu, and Shiva (Tri Murti) hence the name Samuan (from pesamuan or coming together) Tiga, meaning three. At one point during the commemorative ceremony, all the men in the temple congregation break out into a wild frenzy reminiscent of the war, bashing each other with the sampian dried palm leaf offerings. 32. NGrEBEG, MUNGGU In the village of Munggu, this raucous Ngrebeg ritual commemorates the return of Munggu’s soldiers who had been conscripted into the royal house of Mengwi’s victorious army in a war with Blambangan in East Java. The soldiers march proudly around the village with their spears, and at given spots stop, put their spears together and fight a mock battle, each side trying to push the other down. During the Dutch colonial times, the spears were replaced with sticks by government decree. But, no one ever managed to put a stop to the rowdy spontaneity of the young men re­enacting their ancestors’ victory celebrations. 3 3 . K E r AW U H A N The intensity of the trance during the Pengerebongan ceremony in the Pura Petilan of Kesiman gets a great much of its spark from the participation of several Rangda and Barongs. There is a moment when the Rangda performers explode into violent trance, and somehow it triggers the rest of those who go into trance.
  36. 36. 34. TrANCE During the Pengerebongan ceremony in Kesiman, the tension reaches a fever pitch which pervades the inner sanctum of the Petilan temple. When these young boys became possessed, it was a spine tingling moment. I felt as galvanized as they were, and started shooting that same split second.
  37. 37. 35. PENGErEBONGAN Despite the Pengerebongan ceremony being classified by some as Bhuta Yadnya or sacrificial ceremony for the lower realms, there is a large part of it which revolves around ancestor ritual, as in many such ceremonies in Bali. Here priests enact the role of various figures from the past related to the event that Pengerebongan commemorates, even donning the costume of the time.3 6 . K I N TA M A N I S H A D OW Pura Batur, or Batur Temple in Kintamani, being one of the most important temples on the island, has a huge inner forecourt. To access it, one has to pass through an enormous Candi Bentar or split gate. This was one of those magical moments that caught me as I stumbled into the temple just as these women were carrying their offerings to the inner court. Sometimes, I think this picture just took itself.
  38. 38. 3 7. K I N TA M A N I E L D E r For me, the people from the Kintamani area in the mountains of the northeast are, in a word, intense. When I was shooting a ceremony up on the peak­ top temple Penulisan, these men came out shoring up this one old pemangku priest. For one long minute as this old man stared at me, it was difficult to tell which one of us was the stranger in this world.
  39. 39. 38. BELANTIH CErEMONY On the ridges running south and south west from Kintamani are a series of villages whose traditions and beliefs are older than south central Bali’s Majapahit­influenced culture. I happened on this village ritual in the area of Belantih, and to be honest never really got a proper explanation. But what really struck me at the time was all these mountain girls wearing rembang shoulder cloth which traditionally comes from an area called Rembang in Central Java. As this was taken in the early 1980s, my conjecture is that it had some specific history other than someone buying bulk fake rembang from some enterprising travelling salesman.
  40. 40. 3 9. A L A S S A r I Tucked into a small but thick patch of secondary forest right off the busy highway from Tampaksiring to Kintamani, this temple and its ceremonies are still mercifully unknown to the stampede of tourist buses that charge up and down that route. The pemangku priest whose matted hair is bound up in a kind of turban, though still young, seems plays a special role here as some kind of intermediary between the divine and our world. Here he hands down the sacred Barong Belas­ belasan masks to be donned by devotees who will head a procession that will tour the area for a few days, blessing the villages they pass with their presence.4 0 . B A r O N G B E L A S - B E L A S A N Up in the mountains of west Bali during the month of Galungan, the sacred Barong masks, including the multi­character form called Barong Belas­belasan, travel through the area, staying at various community temples on their journey. The purpose is to both bless the region and, secondarily but importantly, to collect donations. At this gathering, in which all the barongs from the entire traditional area come together, this lone human face almost blends in with the other characters.
  41. 41. 41 . A r O N G B E L A S - B E L A S A N B S E B AT U Closer to my home in Ubud, in Sebatu a set of Barong Belas­belasan marches through the town, inserting a touch of the sacred into what has become one long row of tourist shops. I was just as intrigued by the grizzled face under the mask as I was by the mask itself.
  42. 42. 4 2 . A r O N G L A N D U N G B S I N G A PA D U Obviously the most anthropomorphic of all the forms of Barong on the island, the Barong Landung (literally Tall Barong) come in the form of a pair: a dark male figure representing a Balinese king and a white female representing the daughter of a Chinese advisor to the court who became the king’s second wife after his first wife passed away. They never had any children—some legends say because she was barren, others because they spent so much time discussing philosophy that they never properly consummated their marriage (I’m a little sceptical). Whatever the case, it is said that she brought joy back into his life. Somehow they are always bringing a bit of joy into the lives of people with their slightly comical dance when they tour villages.
  43. 43. 4 3 . PA DA N G DAW E Up in the mountains around Apuan and Padang Dawe during the month of Galungan, the sacred Barong and Rangda, representing good and evil, go on a special tour through the area, staying at local temples on their journey and blessing the region. Here they all come together at Padang Dawe for the final ceremony. I was lucky with my timing this particular time about twenty years ago—it was an impressive sight to see this kilometres long procession come marching into the ‘finish line’ at Padang Dawe. 44. PUAKAN PrOCESSION A procession of gods makes its way down through the village of Puakan back when there was no asphalt. The lulls in the gamelan music where filled in by the sharp clacking of the barong’s teeth. This particular barong is in the form of a tiger. Once upon a time, a century or so ago, tigers roamed the mountain forests of Bali.
  44. 44. 4 5 . A r O N G I N B THE rICE FIELDS A village Barong procession makes its way through rice fields near the Tirta Empul temple in Tampaksiring. Though nowadays people tend to hire trucks to take their local barong to ceremonies, for some village Balinese who are still fit and nimble it is still more convenient, and perhaps even faster, to simply cut down through the valleys and up the other side rather than try and organize people to get into the truck and drive the long way around.
  45. 45. 46. PENULISAN Several gamelan troupes, distinguished by their uniforms, converge on the hundreds of steps on the way down from Penulisan temple. One of the most animated forms of Balinese music is any kind of procession music with drums thundering away, interspersed with crashing cymbals and persistent handheld gongs. Despite each one seeming to be in their own world, Balinese musicians pride themselves in the precision of their syncopation. 47. S A K E N A N In the days before the causeway linking the mainland to the island of Sakenan, popularly known to tourists as Turtle Island, the annual procession to the temple there was scheduled according to the tides. We will probably never see this sight again, nor the boats laden with devotees making their way through the mangrove.
  46. 46. 4 8 . B AT U K A r U T r A N C E At a certain point during the annual odalan at Batukaru temple, the forecourt erupts into mass trance. To the onlookers, it has all the trappings of wild party as various spirits and gods possess the trancers. A whole spectrum of emotions emerges, from ecstatic dancing to fierce displays of wrath, and famously even animal trance. 4 9. AT U K A r U r E F L E C T I O N B Women perform the pendet in the mountain temple of Batukaru. This greeting dance, offered to gods when they are ensconced in temples during rituals, is reflected in a puddle after massive downpour. They reminded me of birds taking flight after a rainstorm.
  47. 47. 5 0 . B ATA r A T E D U N , B AT U K A r U The most important figure during the Batukaru festival is when this particular priest is possessed by one of the ancestral gods who represents a kind of leader of the local gods. His arrival in the forecourt triggers a wave of trance amongst the devotees present. At a given point, once seated on the main pavilion, supplicants come forward to ask his advice on important matters concerning the community.
  48. 48. 51. TrANCE A young woman erupts into trance at the village temple of Tejakula in northeastern Bali. Curiously enough, most of the people present were almost blasé about it, and finally turned to her as she began to collapse to prevent her from hurting herself. In general trance seems to be more of a south and central Bali phenomena, although of course it’s not unknown in other parts of Bali. I was just surprised that she seemed so isolated, nobody else had followed suit. 5 2 . E D U N , T TA N DJ U N G B U N G K A K This temple in Tandjung Bungkak in what used to be the outskirts of Denpasar has long had a reputation for being spooky. It was not until I attended an odalan ceremony there that I understood why. The trance I saw built up over a couple of hours (although not on the same scale as the one in Pura Petilan, for example) had deep intensity to it, all the more so as it happens at night. Women dance around the courtyard carrying incense burners as a group of temple priests sit on the main bale dressed in period costume, invoking the ancestors until suddenly they arrived, possessing not only the priests but some of the devotees as well.
  49. 49. 5 3 . PA K S E B A L I Every Kuningan in Paksebali, history is re­enacted with a brutal emotional reality that reflects the pride of what was at once an agrarian but also martial culture. The palanquins bearing ancestral gods are first brought down to the river to be ritually bathed, then on the way back there is a frenzied battle outside the temple. With dozens of men shoving and pulling each jempana or palanquin, things get out of hand quickly. Getting into the fray to take pictures has its own risk. I paid for this shot when someone shoved me from behind and ended with the bamboo pole grazing my nose and just missing my eye. Though the wound was very slight, the blood flow was impressive—my offering to the spirits for this shot. 5 4 . P E r A N G D E WA During the frenzy that accompanied the perang dewa trance in Paksebali, some really archetypal images flashed before my eyes. I couldn’t resist this Christ­like moment as the dusk started to swallow us all up—the watchers and the actors.
  50. 50. 55. TWILIGHT TrANCE During the Perang Dewa ritual some of the men in trance put up a huge fight, resisting being pulled into the inner sanctum with inhuman strength. It can take up eight people to drag and shove them in. It took about five tries to finally get this possessed bearer in the gate.56. THrOUGH During the Perang Dewa, there are certain designated men who bear krisses. Though not violent, they are in trance nonetheless. Fortunately they enter into the jeroan inner courtyard of the temple on their own steam. 5 7. L E M PA D ’ S A S H E S Part of the rites for dead in Bali will always include a moment when the ashes of the deceased, or in another phase of the rites the ashes of his or her effigy, are gathered and crushed by the family. For a while in the early 1970s, i lived in the pondok (outlying hut) in the rice fields where Lempad used to get away from the hustle and bustle to draw. These were the hands of his family—and the watch was my favourite; the fact that it didn’t work was ultimately symbolic to me.
  51. 51. 5 8 . K I D ’ S C r E M AT I O N G A M E Balinese children learn by imitating, and they have fun doing so. Back in the 1980s children didn’t have lots of fancy toys; they made do with what they had. My own children did the same—they would disappear after school and come back at sunset, but the neighbourhood always knew where they were. And we always knew they were being creative, making toys and inventing games. What a privileged childhood they had. 5 9. B AC K O F T H E B U S This is one of the earliest images I shot in Bali. In the 1970s, this bus was the only regular transport between Ubud and Denpasar. It was slow, with plenty of time for conversation. It is now gone, along with many memories of another time, another spirit.
  52. 52. acknowledgementsThis book spans over three decades of work in Bali, and I fear that I will not be able to mention all of the manyfriends, both Balinese and not, who over these last thirty years have encouraged me, given me insights, pro­vided information, and who have simply made it possible for me to be at the right place at the right time. Tomention just a few: I Gusti Made Sumung (son of Lempad) who not only provided my first real dwelling inUbud but also many mischievous insights into Balinese character; John Darling whose love of the “real” Baliwas infectious and dragged me up to Batukaru my first time, crammed into an old bemo with three quartersof Gusti Made Sumung’s clan and their offerings; Lorne Blair who shared his lenses and vision; Ketut Budianawhose persistent awareness of the unseen was always so delightfully balanced by his wry humour regardingthe visible; Diana Darling for not only pointing out my favorite Calonarang to me that night but also for givingme valuable feedback (and proofreading); Made Wianta who got me up to Padang Dawe and Apuan and alwaysbelieved I knew what I was doing with my cameras; my old boss at the Bali Post, the late Raka Wiratma, who,with a big smile, gave me my first media job and plenty of rope after I spent half an hour pointing out the faultsin the English edition of the Bali Post in 1980, the job gave me a great excuse to go out and shoot and shoot Bali;Cristina Formaggia who lived and breathed Gambuh, inspirational to the very end; Gusti ‘Pekak Balian’ of Ta­man whose doses of fiery medicinal arak and bone crunching adjustments were always accompanied by mirth­ful tales of witches and warlocks; Made Wijaya whose passion for the drama in Bali made those underpaid daysat the Sunday Bali Post so interesting; to the team at Afterhours who kept the faith but stayed practical too.There are many more of you who have helped me, and if I have not mentioned you all it is solely due to a failingmemory and not a lack of appreciation. To you all, and especially to the people of Bali, this book is our book.rio helmiBorn in Switzerland in 1954 to an Indonesian diplomat father and a Turkish mother, Rio’s childhood andyouth was spent living in the various countries where his father was posted: Switzerland, Australia, andGermany as well as visiting many countries in Europe and Asia. After finishing school, more voyages lay instore: Rio traveled across Asia by land, and lived in India for a year. After several years in Australia where achildhood interest in photography was rekindled, Rio moved back to Bali, Indonesia in 1978. He now divideshis time between Bali and India.Rio has been capturing images of Asia since 1978, constantly adding to a richly textured portolio that cel­ebrates the region’s people and places, contemporary lifestyle and Mahayana Buddhism. Now one of Asia’sleading photographers, his work is often seen in books, magazines and documentaries. Shows of Rio’sstill photography have been held in Bali, Jakarta, Madrid, Miyazaki, Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Sydney.From 1978 to 1983, Rio worked as a photographer/writer and associate editor in the Indonesian media (BaliPost, Mutiara, Sinar Harapan). Most of the stories focused on isolated ethnic groups and remote tribes fromaround the Indonesian archipelago. From 1983, Rio has freelanced for many regional and international mag­azines (Asiaweek, Geo, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times, Seven Seas, Tempo, Time, Vanity Fair, Vogue andothers) as well as providing commercial material for a wide range of clients (aerials, hotels, fashion, industr,etc.) including the Aman group, Bulgari, John Hardy, Hyatt International, and Ritz Carlton.Since the late 1980s, Rio has been involved in book publishing. These include amongst others, Borobudur: APrayer in Stone (Times Editions, Singapore), Malaysia: Heart of Southeast Asia (Editions Didier Millet, Singa­pore), Offerings: the Ritual Art of Bali (INI, Bali), Bali Style [sole photographer] (Thames & Hudson, Times Edi­tions, Singapore), River of Gems: A Borneo Journal (INI, Bali), Made in Indonesia (Equinox, Jakarta). Currently,he is working on a retrospective portfolio of Bali over the last twenty years. He has a gallery in Ubud, Baliexhibiting his private work.
  53. 53. Memories of the Sacred is a photographicessay of ineffable moments in Balineseritual. Compiled over decades, many ofthese images document scenes that liveonly in memory, as modern developmentchanges the physical face of Bali.Rio Helmi—an Indonesian photographerwho has lived closely within Balinesesociety since 1978 and is fluent in theBalinese language and intimate withritual lore of the island—says of Balinesereligious ceremonies, “Visually elaborateas these events are, the most intensejunctures during these moments arehuman ones. At some point there cancome a shift, a transition from aneveryday identity to something beyond,and from the divine to the everyday.”It is these moments that have been hisresearch as a photographer and that givethis collection its special power.

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