Tuesday, 28 September 2010

My Work: Bali: Ngaben (Cremation Ceremony)

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

Here's the first of a number of audio-slideshows of Balinese traditional events which I worked on following my return from my Bali: Island of Odalan Photo~Expedition

Ngaben: Cremation Ceremony is a thematic multimedia photo-essay of black and white stills and ambient sound of a cremation ceremony for 6 villagers held on August 11, 2010 in Blahbatuh. The actual cremation was almost a whole day event, and was preceded by a ceremony of remembrance at one of the villagers' homes during which food and drinks were partaken by the families, villagers, friends, neighbors and whoever else wanted to share in the occasion.

While Balinese Brahmins and its wealthier class cremate their dead as soon as death occurs, the poor need to accumulate funds to do the same for their dead...and frequently organize group cremations to spread the costs. This means that years can pass before their dead are finally cremated. The Balinese Hindu tradition calls for bodies to be cremated in order to free the soul from all worldly ties, and as such the cremations are usually bitter-sweet occasions, since it provides closure to families.

During this event, some bodies were exhumed just before the cremation, bones and skeletons were washed...and these remains were put in coffins placed in sarcophagi fashioned in the form of bulls. These are called wadah or lembu that are made of bamboo, papier mache and cotton fabric. The climax of Ngaben is the burning of the structures and the bodies.

During other cremations I've attended, fire accelerants were used to speed up the process. On this occasion, I didn't see any.

The audio slideshow is also iPad-compatible.