Sunday, May 31, 2009

On top of things

Close to Rantepao, Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi, May 2009.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Night market

The blessing of uncertain power supply is a huge rise in ambiance.

Agats, Asmat, Papua, April 2009.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Skull pillow

Life with the ancestors or sleeping on mother's head.

Agats, Asmat, Papua, April 2009.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Praying monkey

He seems to follow the right path...
Jakarta, May 2009.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Flying window cleaners

Jakarta, May 2009.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Modern talking

Jakarta, May 2009.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Garbage city

Jakarta is garbage city as garbage is everywhere. If you leave your house and wherever you go you will see open dumps. During the day these smelly places are full of cats and cockroaches, while at night dozens of fat rats storm them.

During the day all sorts of scavengers pass by to sort out the waste. Some are picking iron or copper others glass or paper. A home dump as seen above will be turned up to ten times a day depending on the specialization of the ‘recyclists’.

After having collected and sorted out the lot, the scavenger brings his prey to specialized collecting sites where a few Rupiahs will be paid for a hard day's work.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bamboo transport

Should have taken this picture in a curve...

Jakarta, Febuary 2009.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Knife grinder

The good thing about living in Jakarta is that you just have to sit outside of your house and you see all kinds of services coming to you. This time the knife grinder...

Jakarta, February 2009.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Dealing with foreigners

Sign at Kasunana Palace (Kraton Solo), indicating a Javanese perception on foreigners...

It seems to be allowed to enter the palace naked
or at least without trousers.

Please note that Solo's kraton is fairly run-down or at least the places open for the Rupiah paying crowds. The highlight was the sign above.

Surakarta (Solo), Central Java, April 2009.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Asmat smile

Beriten, Asmat, Papua, April 2009.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Drumming through the night

After the welcome ceremony the Asmat men gathered in front of the longhouse and started to drum. Drumming was ongoing as we left the festivity and was heard all through the night.

Beriten, Asmat, Papua, April 2009.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Asmat colors

Asmat colors are white, red, and black. White comes from mussel shells that have been burned and crushed. Red comes from mud found along river banks. After baking in fire, the mud is a deep rich red. Black used on carvings and canoes comes from charcoal.

Red applied around a man’s eyes imitates the eye feathers of an angry cockatoo which brings fear to the enemy. Welcome to Asmat...

Beriten, Asmat, April 2009.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Asmat welcome

Dugout canoe welcome in Beriten, Asmat.

Beriten, Asmat, Papua, April 2009.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Crossing the waters: Reaching the Asmat tribe of Papua

The Asmat are a coastal people occupying a low-lying swampy region in southwestern Papua. Their homeland covers approximately 29,000 km² (similar to Belgium), on which live about 65,000 people, in villages with populations of up to 2,000.

The Asmat and their natural environment are intertwined, as the culture and way of life are heavily dependent on the rich natural resources found in their forests, rivers, and seas.

The forests are rich in game, mangroves and other trees make for an endless source of wood. The abundant sago palm is the staple food of the Asmat, who process its starch.

Rivers are the life line of the Asmat region, being the only transportation infrastructure. Since the tides can be felt up to 100 km from the sea shore, people have a strong connection to the movements of the water and boats play a very important role. They exist in plenty of sizes, from small, plain fishing boats to huge, intricately decorated war and ceremonial canoes, all of the dugout type.

The absence of stone and the abundance of trees make wood the primary building material. Extended families occupy large houses on stilts, built of bamboo, sago bark, and sago frond thatching. Men sleep apart from their wives in the men's longhouse (yew). Ceremonial activities that take place inside the men's house are prohibited to women.

Wood and woodcarving play a central role in Asmat daily life and mythology. Any child learns early on how to fell a tree, carve wooden utensils, and build a house or a simple canoe. The Asmat believe that they originate from wooden figures carved by their creator God, Fumeripitsj. After carving a man and a woman, Fumeripitsj was not satisfied with his lifeless work and carved a drum. Once the drum started to be beaten, the wooden figures awakened to life and multiplied. Master woodcarvers are among the most respected people in villages, as they are though to be descendants of the creator god.

This intimate link between people and trees is reflected in headhunting. People are like trees. Legs are roots, the body is the trunk, arms are branches and the head is fruit. Therefore, fruit-eating animals are symbols of headhunting. Like these animals eat fruit to live, the Asmat have to take heads to go on living. Hence, war canoes are often decorated with cockatoos, fruit bats, hornbills, or the praying mantis for an obvious reason. Death by natural cause is unknown, so death is to be avenged. When a death occurs, family and friends of the deceased roll in the mud of the riverbanks to hide their scent from the ghost of the deceased. Ceremonies ensure that the ghost passes to the land of the dead, referred to as ‘the other side’. The skull of a person's mother is often used as a pillow.

April 2009.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Dutch in Indonesia

Jakarta, April 2009.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Ojek payung or rent a moving umbrella

With the first drops of rain the umbrella boys appear providing moving shelter for a small fee.
Ojek payung or umbrella provider.

Jakarta, May 2009.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009


Dani tribe, Baliem Valley, Papua, April 2009.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

American Indian?

Looks as if Papua is quite close to North America...

Wamena, Papua, April 2009.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Living with the dead

It was custom that successful chiefs or village elders who protected or defended the community in their lifetimes should offer protection after their death. As a fetish such elders were mummified by smoking and being kept in the upper level of the main hut.

Most of the century-old mummies were systematically destroyed as they didn’t match with modern belief systems being brought into Baliem valley in the 20st century. Some accounts inform that there are only three mummies left protecting the Dani people.

Akima, Baliem Valley, April 2009.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Mourning, mutilation, spirits and Dani women

Funerals once were the most important Dani rite. They lasted several years, starting with mourning and the cremation of the deceased to drive the ghost from the living area. Elaborate rituals were held for important men and those killed in battle. The ghosts of these men were particularly powerful. Corpses of important Big Men were not cremated but mummified to be kept for supernatural reasons.

Mourning can be observed nearly everywhere. Women usually smear their faces and bodies with yellow clay or ashes to express grief for the lost relative.

One of the adjuncts to the cremation ceremony was the cutting off of a girl’s finger upper part. The fingers were tied off with string half an hour before the ax fell. Afterwards, the finger upper parts were left to dry, burned, and the ashes were buried in a special place.
This cruel practice of impressing the spirits is now prohibited but many middle-aged or older women can still be seen with missing finger parts and even cut-off earlaps once too many relatives had died.Living a life devoted to the spirits of the dead Dani, at the price of a handicap for daily life.
Baliem Valley, Papua, April 2009.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Weird frog

Bon appétit?

Kuala Lumbur, January 2009.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Cute back-seat passenger

Somewhere close to Malang, East-Java, April 2009.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

The heart of Indonesia

Somewhere between Timika and Denpasar...., April 2009.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Market scene in Papua's highlands

Wamena, Papua, April 2009.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Nasal art

How would this Mbua tribe man clean a stuffy nose?

Mbua tribe men, Baliem Valley, April 2009.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Traditional Dani pig feast

A traditional Dani pig feast is something very special, not least due to the high pig prices on the market. Considering that a smaller pig starts at 1.5 to 2 million Rupiah (approx. US$ 180), such a feast is costly. Considering also decades of acculturation of the Papuan community by the Indonesian central government and such campaigns as ‘operation koteka’ designed to prevent Papuans from wearing their traditional clothes, we were not expecting that our contribution of a pig could be enough to revive traditions, but thankfully the traditions still exist, and can be taught to younger members of the community.

The pig feast involves a whole village, men, women, and children alike. Everybody has a distinct responsibility. Men take care of the pig and light the fire, women collect leaves and herbs in the forest and get sweet potatoes from the fields, and the children observe what the adults of their respective sex are doing, learn from them and help with minor and easy tasks.

The Dani tribesman responsible for the organization of the feast kills the pig with a single arrow shot, placed in such a way that bleeding can occur easily and that the entrails bag is not torn (see above). Once the pig is dead, another person cuts its ears and tail with a sharp bamboo piece (see below). These are to be kept as a memory of the feast.

In between, a fire had been lit using bamboo and straw, and a ‘pyre’ with tree trunks and branches erected to heat the stones which would be going to line the cooking pit. The heat generated was also used to rid the pig off its fur.
Burnt fur is easier to remove, a task performed by using a sharp piece of bamboo or fingernails as seen below.
The pig was put again on the fire to clean its skin.
The men then cut the pig open, removed the bag containing the entrails and took out some of the fat. The entrails were also separated. Young boys were helping in this operation, learning how to perform a perfect cut, what to keep and what to throw away.
In the meantime, the women and some young girls had come back with different kinds of leaves and herbs and emptied their full noken into the open pit. Once enough leaves were available, the women left again for the fields, to collect sweet potatoes.
After a first lining of leaves had been done, hot stones were carried into the cooking pit using wooden prongs.
Both men and women attended the hot stone business.
More leaves were put in, the sweet potatoes were neatly placed on the leaves, with some stones in between to ensure regular heat.
After this operation, the whole pit was more than full. It was then covered with straw and fastened with rattan to prevent it from collapsing.
More leaves were put on top of the heap, banana leaves added and the pig placed on top of them.
Here again, some hot stones were put under the thicker parts of the pig to ensure they would be cooked. The pig parts were then covered with leaves and ferns. Again, some straw was added on top of the heap, and a layer of leaves placed on it where the halved buah merah was laid. Hot stones were put in the hollow buah merah to ensure cooking, and the red fruit was covered with leaves and straw.
Rattan was again used to ensure the stability of the heap.
After nearly three hours, the stack was untied and the straw and leaves removed. The buah merah was pressed to make an oily red sauce in which to dip the sweet potatoes. The meat was shared in equal parts among all people, and everybody enjoyed the rare treat.
Suroba, Baliem Valley, Papua, April 2009.

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