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.
In 2011, I found that young warrior again. He’s called Pelipus, he’s now the elected head of his village, and he still has the “don’t mess with me” look. Here’s a slideshow of people I found and re-found on my travels, the photos taken 20 years apart. Much has been said of Indonesia’s headlong rush for modernity but in some places, it seems, not so much has changed over the last two decades years.
I’m hoping to include slideshows like this one in the electronic version of Indonesia Etc. There’s a bit of work still to do on the aesthetics, I think, but you get the idea. Once again, your comments on whether this is worth doing, and your suggestions for improvements if so, are very welcome.