Bali is arguably one of the most often photographed place in the world. But, strangely enough, almost all good photographers of Bali are foreigners, or non-Balinese Indonesia. All, but one, Ida Bagus Putra Adnyana, better known as Gustra. Whose last book, “Bali, Ancient Rites in the Digital Age”, has just been released by BAB Published, a reputed Jakartan publisher.
What is the peculiarity of this book? That is does not delve into exoticism. Some of the images you will see, if you open the book, may look exotic to the outsider. But they have not been chosen for their exotic quality, but for their meaning. So don’t expect fantastic rice field landscapes or nude Balinese women at bath. Expect rather photos that will show you the philosophical logic inherent to Balinese rites and ceremonies. Gustra is aware of his unique position as an insider: “Whenever I photograph a ceremony, I become part of the people who who are holding it. For example, if I attend a ceremony during which a trance occurs, to me this trance is real: the person in the trance is genuinely under the sway of unknown forces.” This is not mere boasting. Gustra is a Brahmin, a member of Bali’s highest caste. Which means he understands everything that is going on, and can gain access to any rite, anywhere, without impediment –something that non-Balinese photographers may not do. “
From this book, you will also learn from its content. It depicts the rites that are addressed to the components of the world: The ManusiaYadnya, addressed to humans, residents of the middle world; there you have the rites of passage. The DewaYadnya, addressed to the heavenly world of the gods. The ButaYadnya, addressed to the ground spirit. To keep the balance between the dwellers of these three worlds the RsiYadnya are added, the rites of access to priesthood, and other secondary rites. This book can open up to you, in a visually beautiful way, and provide a clearer knowledge of this fantastic culture of Bali.