Saturday, 23 August 2014

Christian Werner | Chained In Paradise

Mental sickness, lack of psychiatric hospitals and traditional healers...all come together in a compelling and disturbing documentary on the mentally sick who are chained, caged or tied up by their families,  on the "paradise" island of Bali.

As is common with other nations of the world, Indonesia is unable to provide adequate mental health facilities to those who are in dire need of them, and it's reported that there are 40,000 Indonesians who are afflicted with mental illnesses, and are treated inhumanly. In Bali alone, it's reported that there are 350 cases who are chained like animals...for fear they will wander off, or that they'll hurt someone or themselves. The Balinese call them "pasung"... or "in chains" and consider them to have been 'punished' by the gods..

With the lack of mental health facilities, families refer those mentally sick to traditional healers; the balians, as they're called, number about 8,000 in Bali. There are about four times as many balians as doctors. The balians are traditional healers who play an important part in Bali’s culture by treating physical and mental illness, removing spells and channeling information from the ancestors.

I photographed balians during one of my photo expeditions in Bali, and found them to be a mix of witch doctors and chiropractors, mixing mumbo-jumbo with massage and manipulation. Most of those I've seen had waiting rooms with many patients.

Chained in Paradise still photographs can be viewed on Christian Werner website.

Christian Werner is a freelance multimedia/photojournalist based in Nordstemmen, Germany. H graduated from the photojournalism & documentary photography course at the University of Applied Sciences in Hannover. His interests are social diversity and global political issues. He worked in various countries in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and South America, and he's represented by the agency Laif.