Indonesian Funeral: Ngaben


On a trip to Indonesia in 2017 I was staying with friends in a rice paddy outside of Ubud. I was introduced to Degul and his family that live in one of the local kampungs (villages). A lack of bahasa on my part and no English on his side made communication difficult, but a mutual appreciation for king coconuts seemed to cement a bond. 

I was living in Bali working for a couple of months and Degul asked me if I’d like to photograph an Indonesian funeral that occurs in his village. The Ngaben is a day, 5 years after the death of a villager where the bodies are exhumed and cremated before their ashes being spread into a river and reach their final resting place in the sea.

The Ngaben begins with the exhumed corpses being wrapped and prepared with offerings made to the gods beside them. Ornate pyre statues are created and tied onto bamboo frames when a family member climbs on top with a live chicken in hand and then raced down the hill towards the pyres in the jungle.

After a parade around the pyres they are lit around dusk. The smoke thickens, cracks of burning bones can be heard and a rush of insects, snakes, birds and animals rush past your feet fleeing the heat from the fires.