When we arrived on Bali, our first phone call was to Gusti, who Donna has worked with and known for close to twelve years. He was distraught. His Mother had just returned home from a walk (at 80 she was a vital part of the family) and collapsed in the driveway. He was taking her to the hospital.
He later told us that she had a stroke and he had stayed with her, and two days after that conversation, she died. We actually spoke with him the moment after her death (weird how this all works).
So we knew the onus would fall on him, as the eldest son, to manage her burial ceremony.
In Balinese and Hindu culture, Gusti is upper caste. We knew the burial was going to be a big deal for him, along with being a lot of work and expense.
So we traveled back from Jasri in E Bali, in order to be with Gusti and the family at the burial ceremony.
Donna, Made and I, went to the event here yesterday. I shot motion and stills the entire time, in as unobtrusive a manner as possible (Canon 70D, no strobe, 70-200 when being discrete, the 24-70L and 11-16 Tokina ATX for video and pov work)
An all day long thing, the sequence of events was really beautiful. Members of the Royal family came, people from around Bali, and of course, the entire village.
His Mother was quite a wonderful woman. Beloved.
I had taught Gusti how to set up for portraiture years ago, and he had taken a beautiful shot of her that was framed and on the wall next to where her body lay, which he pointed out. “See, I remembered your lessons. You showed me how to do that.”
A storm moved in at the ending of the ceremony. This is how the finale transpired.
Everyone gathered outside the home streetside and they did a prayer, and burned an offering.
Then as one, all stood and cheered. ( The finale takes about an hour)
I was told the soul comes to the house for one last time. It is the final goodbye for the person.
In several months the village exhumes the body (Job of the eldest son, Gusti) and they have a cremation ceremony down at the beach.
The photo below is only a small portion of the people there.
Friendship on Bali means quite a different thing than in the West. I intend to write on it a bit at some point. I believe that in examining how it works, may lie an increase in cultural intelligence for those of us born into Western culture and possibly for Bali as well. The subject keeps rearing it’s head this trip. There is a reason for that.
At the end of the day, after I filmed him tidying up at the grave, and obviously having a conversation with his Mother, Gusti and I were walking back alone from the cemetery (everyone else had gone on back to the house). Thunder rumbled in the distance.
As we walked, Gusti put his arm on my shoulder and said “David, you are my friend.”
I said nothing, as I knew what he meant. I simply massaged his shoulders, the man’s neck and arms were in knots. Body holding the stress of the week, no doubt. He sighed as I did this. Release.
Last night the storm which began at the end of the ceremony raged late into the night, sending lightning from horizon to horizon. I shot a time lapse of it, when we got home. It was quite a show. Donna and I sat in the dark in front of the large windows in our room, a vodka and watermelon juice cocktail in hand, and quietly took it all in as the air tingled and land shook from the concussions.
Gusti has in the past waxed on about choosing the “good day” for auspicious events. He has actually lectured Donna and I repeatedly on the importance of this.
Yesterday was indeed a perfect example of that: The Good Day.
Check this beautiful rendition of “Blessed to be a Witness” by Ben Harper if you get a chance. How he ends the piece, is how the burial ceremony ended. With a shout and hands raised. This was the song my wife had played right after the Chumash and Hawaiians had performed our wedding ceremony. It is a hymn of a very high order in some ways.
As an artist, in spite of the repeated gifts of subject matter offered me over the years, it is important, the conscious reminding to myself, that I am indeed blessed in being a witness. But what strikes me, is being the good witness, matters very very much. How we do that is a detailed subject study indeed.
You can click on the images below to toggle through as a gallery in full size.