Sunday, June 22, 2008

Perang Pandan, part 1

The humanity of a society is not just measured by how people treat their friends but how they care for their enemies. But what happens when the lines distinguishing friends from enemies are blurred by cultural dictates? Are bonds of kinship strong enough when tested? These questions are posited in a ritual called perang pandan of the Bali Aga people in Tenganan where males of age of reason, from children as young as seven to men as old as seventy, engage in a bloody duel, every year.

Literally meaning “pandan war”, perang pandan is a man-to-man, or child-to-child battle using a thorny pandan (wild screwpine) leaves bunched into a club, with only a peresai or woven bamboo (?) shield as protection. There are no declaration of winners or losers and one can participate in as many duels as permitted by a council of adults who themselves participate in the rites.

Human as men are, the fights can get heated, resulting to lots of blood and bad temper but somehow after all the lashing and whipping, participants are put into place and acrimony is left on stage. Smiles and embraces are exchanged. Manhood is tested. Civilization survives.

More notes and photographs in the following days.

"I can do this.."
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/400s, f/5.6, 255mm, ISO 800, +1/3EV
phototip: Be early, especially on the 3rd and last day of the perang pandan. The fight started before 2PM, so by 1PM, I already claimed a stake in front of the the stage and soon enough all places would be taken. This, under the heat of noon sun. It would be worth the aggravation as even the sidelights leading to the battle ceremony are worth documenting.
a nervous young boy, psyching himself up for the perang pandan duel in Tengenan, Manggis, Karengasem, Bali, Indonesia (uncropped)

perang pandan
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/400s, f/5.6, 255mm, ISO 200, -1/3EV
phototip: Gradually, as the more than one-hour ritual progressed, the participants would sit around the arena and would block your view. Move backwards and seek higher ground and use a telephoto lens. Otherwise, bring a stool with you, or as other male photographers would do, wear traditional clothes and go bare-chested like the participants so as to gain access to the sacred pavilion overlooking the makeshift stage.
a seriously touch and bloody battle at the perang pandan in Tengenan, Manggis, Karengasem, Bali, Indonesia (uncropped)

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/50s, f/8.0, 22mm, ISO 200, +1/3EV
a gory duel in the perang pandan in Tengenan, Manggis, Karengasem, Bali, Indonesia (uncropped)

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1 comment:

jess said...


I came across some flickr photos about the Perang Pandan tradition and I found it interesting. I wanted to let others know about this tradition and I have quoted your blog as a means of explanation. It really hits the nail on the head about the events, and I hope that you will showcase the photos you have taken. I have included the link and hope to see you on the site and write about your findings on your travels.

I hope it is ok with you. Feel free to message me at anytime =)

best regards,