Albinos, dwarves and royalty: the magic of Java

Last month was the 15th anniversary of the coronation of the Sultan of Yogyakarta; here’s a belated tribute. I covered the coronation for Reuters in Indonesia, accompanied by the fabulous photographer Enny Nuraheni. Here are some of her pictures, rescued from the trash. The dwarves, albinos and albino dwarves that the Sultan keeps at court are supposed to concentrate mystical power around his person. He’s not all mystical though; he is a businessman who once had presidential ambitions and has…

An easter treat: Catholic kitsch from around Indonesia

There are just seven million Catholics in Indonesia — a drop in a mainly Moslem ocean. Yet they have managed to make their mark aesthetically, with an astoundingly wide variety of statues, murals, graveyards and churches that range between Kitsch and High Kitsch….

Rediscovering Sumba (and a working slideshow)

I was first invited to take tea with a corpse in Sumba, in southeastern Indonesia, some 23 years ago. It was also in 1991 that I first attended a pasola, a wonderful jousting match which aims to secure a good harvest by spilling human blood. During that visit to Sumba, my friend Enny and I both photographed a boy wearing primary school uniform shorts and the head-dress of a jouster. He was too young to go riding out, but his “don’t mess with me” look advertised his intention to become a warrior to be feared….