On the road again

The start of the year saw me say farewell to my new home in the Netherlands and head back to the reality (and comfort) of Sydney.  4 months to reacquaint myself with family, friends and my beautiful city before I threw myself off into another adventure.

The first two weeks has been a whirlwind of stunning scenery, kind people and complex challenging questions that we have been given to grapple with. How do people interact with their economies, environments and each other? What external pressures lead to more or less sustainable outcomes? Through teasing out answers, my own questions have started to float in:
What role do we play in this (the environment, the economy, sustainability)?
What ethics exist around working in the field?
Who has the right to share their stories, and in what light should we present this?

The ethics of how we display our travels has been something that I have been thinking about, as we have been exploring and learning. As a (very) amateur photographer I want to be able to make a composition that is stunning. And Indonesia is stunning. Indonesia, just like everywhere else, also has huge environmental and developmental challenges that it faces. I want to learn how to tell a more rich and complex story than one that simply romanticises, but I also don't want to loose the beauty and kindness of the people. Photography and storytelling comes through a lens that we all hold. A lens that is shaped from our experiences and expectations of the world. Although it is also shaped by our capabilities as a photographer, and knowing how to (in)properly expose a shot.  Some photos come with ramblings, enjoy. 

 

early morning airport transfers

early morning airport transfers

mornings in makassar 

mornings in makassar 

A quick stop before study starts

A quick stop before study starts

DSCF0061.JPG
DSCF0066.JPG
DSCF0100.JPG
DSCF0118.JPG
DSCF0119.JPG
Our host family in Bokin, Toraja. Households are often made up of serveral families, who take on nephews, nieces or grandchildren as parents often move to other islands for work. Remittances and agriculture make up a significant proportion of the income in Toraja, however in some areas other professions are more prominent, such as teaching. 

Our host family in Bokin, Toraja. Households are often made up of serveral families, who take on nephews, nieces or grandchildren as parents often move to other islands for work. Remittances and agriculture make up a significant proportion of the income in Toraja, however in some areas other professions are more prominent, such as teaching. 

We conducted surveys in the field for 2 days, and our hosts (who were studying to become english teachers) conducted many of our interviews in Torajan, which were then translated to Bahasa Indonesian to our Universitas Indonesian students, and then to English. 

We conducted surveys in the field for 2 days, and our hosts (who were studying to become english teachers) conducted many of our interviews in Torajan, which were then translated to Bahasa Indonesian to our Universitas Indonesian students, and then to English. 

DSCF0165.JPG
Our host family invited us to join them as they prepared coffee beans for use. They only harvest a small amount of coffee, to be used for personal consumption, and to give  as a gift at funerals. 

Our host family invited us to join them as they prepared coffee beans for use. They only harvest a small amount of coffee, to be used for personal consumption, and to give  as a gift at funerals. 

Tongkanon are traditional ancestral houses, with their visual dominance over the landscape very much reflecting the importance of funerals and death in Torajan society. In Toraja, the funeral is the centerpiece for which society, and the economy revolves around. While in some western societies, much money is dedicated to houses, or weddings, in Toraja affluence  is often by how large your funeral is.  A large funeral can go for 5+ days, involves the entire community and includes up to 100 animals being sacrificed.  A prized buffalo can cost up to $100 000 (AUD), although most range from $1000- $10 000.  It is not uncommon for the body to be preserved, and funerals to occur 3-5 years after the individuals death, although the longer you wait, the more the community expects a large event. 

Tongkanon are traditional ancestral houses, with their visual dominance over the landscape very much reflecting the importance of funerals and death in Torajan society. In Toraja, the funeral is the centerpiece for which society, and the economy revolves around. While in some western societies, much money is dedicated to houses, or weddings, in Toraja affluence  is often by how large your funeral is.  A large funeral can go for 5+ days, involves the entire community and includes up to 100 animals being sacrificed.  A prized buffalo can cost up to $100 000 (AUD), although most range from $1000- $10 000.  It is not uncommon for the body to be preserved, and funerals to occur 3-5 years after the individuals death, although the longer you wait, the more the community expects a large event. 

We were lucky enough to be invited to part of a funeral, although for the most part this involved sitting in specially designed guest areas and observing the buzz of activity around us. For weeks before the event, many family and community members will work to set up the funeral site, and will be paid non-formally after the event in sacrificed buffalo or pig meat.  Funerals are a key place where community comes together, but it is also a key site for business  and politics. 

We were lucky enough to be invited to part of a funeral, although for the most part this involved sitting in specially designed guest areas and observing the buzz of activity around us. For weeks before the event, many family and community members will work to set up the funeral site, and will be paid non-formally after the event in sacrificed buffalo or pig meat.  Funerals are a key place where community comes together, but it is also a key site for business  and politics. 

DSCF0246.JPG
Lately, it has become common practice to pay for funeral ceremonies to be professionally videoed, so the family can relive the experience at a later date. 

Lately, it has become common practice to pay for funeral ceremonies to be professionally videoed, so the family can relive the experience at a later date. 

All of the eldest men from the families came together and sung. By far one of the most beautiful and eerie songs I have ever heard.  If you look to the right, you can just see the buffalo that had just been sacrificed, and skinned.  During this process, the pigs gave little care or regard, I suppose happily ignorant to their eventual fate. 

All of the eldest men from the families came together and sung. By far one of the most beautiful and eerie songs I have ever heard.  If you look to the right, you can just see the buffalo that had just been sacrificed, and skinned.  During this process, the pigs gave little care or regard, I suppose happily ignorant to their eventual fate. 

We visited Kampung Aquariam in Jakarta, a fishing village on the edge of the harbour that had been demolished by the government. The courts then deemed the governments actions illegal, and demanded they help rehabilitate (some of) the locals back into the the area. The legal system around land ownership in Indonesia complicates the story of informal communities and government action more so than in other parts of the world, and is partially the reason for these tensions.  As does certain environmental logic(s), which present these communities as environmental problems, blocking flood zones, or preventing sea wall creation. 

We visited Kampung Aquariam in Jakarta, a fishing village on the edge of the harbour that had been demolished by the government. The courts then deemed the governments actions illegal, and demanded they help rehabilitate (some of) the locals back into the the area. The legal system around land ownership in Indonesia complicates the story of informal communities and government action more so than in other parts of the world, and is partially the reason for these tensions.  As does certain environmental logic(s), which present these communities as environmental problems, blocking flood zones, or preventing sea wall creation. 

Despite the  circumstances, life seemingly adopts quickly 

Despite the  circumstances, life seemingly adopts quickly 

Heading out towards the outskirts of town towards a new social housing complex, the constant building and abandonment of buildings here  visually exemplifies the history of market speculation. 

Heading out towards the outskirts of town towards a new social housing complex, the constant building and abandonment of buildings here  visually exemplifies the history of market speculation. 

While shiny and new, these complexes have huge rates (up to 80%) of tennats unable to pay their rent. Programs that are run onsite aim to teach workers skills like sewing in the hope that they will be able to pay rent.  The kicker is that for many, to access social  housing it involves moving away from an informal settlement that might be in the process of demolition,  where people previously often had jobs and livelihoods that could sustain their families.  For some though, this is a stepping stone to a better life. 

While shiny and new, these complexes have huge rates (up to 80%) of tennats unable to pay their rent. Programs that are run onsite aim to teach workers skills like sewing in the hope that they will be able to pay rent.  The kicker is that for many, to access social  housing it involves moving away from an informal settlement that might be in the process of demolition,  where people previously often had jobs and livelihoods that could sustain their families.  For some though, this is a stepping stone to a better life. 

Kids know how to brighten any situation, and how to turn any area into a soccer field.

Kids know how to brighten any situation, and how to turn any area into a soccer field.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Day 125: Guy Fawkes Night

Day 125: Guy Fawkes Night