MEKARE – KARE

Tenganan Warriors Festival - Bali - Indonesia

Every year in the Eastern part of Bali, off the tourist circuits of Kuta and Legian, in the month of June there is the Mekare - Kare, the Tenganan village festival in honor of Indra, the God of War and ancestors. The Bali Aga, are the indigenous people in the Island of the Gods, with a different dialect and habits respect to those of balinese people.

The blood flows through the bodies. The tradition runs through the streets of Tenganan in the form of a child warrior. The women crowd the Bale Patemu, in the village's center. They wait and smile, while their eyes look up the faces of their sons and husbands to spur and support them. Clothes made by double Ikat are those of a remote past. They preserve women from the disease thanks to the wise skills of Tenganan's weavers. The tradition, undisputed queen of the village, dictates rules of life and death. If a woman marries a man from another village she is banned and she has to go away. The spiky leaves of Pandanus, framing the ground where young and old souls will face in a demonstration of sheer courage. The martial rhythm played by the Gamelan Selonding, the typical Indonesian orchestra composed of drums, xylophones and gongs, announces the next duel.

The Mekare-Kare begins.

It is not a matter of age, training, strength or ability. Here there are not loser or winners. The leaves, garnished with thorns, are raised in a sign of respect. The warriors face each other. Bare chest. Sarong tied tight at the waist. The audience of fighters laugh heartily. They make fun of warriors’ fear, while waiting their turn. Wicker shields and Pandanus leaves run from opposite corners to meet with a thud at the center of the ring.

The spikes penetrate the sweaty skin. The movement, imprinted on the stuck weapons, is necessary to provide more pain as possible. The blood brooches from the wounds as the juice from a cut fruit. The body is filled with diagonal lines and points of a deep red as constellations drawn on animated painting.

At the end all smile and hug. The game of war is over and women spread ointments on wounds overlapped from too many demonstrations, waiting for the dance that will close the festival days. And while the hands are moving in the air, between veils and headdresses of flowers, the happiness runs at the same rhythm of blood. There is not shelter for fear, in a village, where, the traditions are stronger than the monsters of our present.

Written by Sarah Falchi - Photos by Paolo Castellari

HANDS
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WAITING FOR THE FIGHT
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Image Title: WAITING FOR THE FIGHT

Location: BALI - TENGANAN

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THE SHIELD
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EXCITED
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BETTING TIME
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Image Title: BETTING TIME

Location: BALI - TENGANAN

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PANDANUS LEAVES
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FRUIT COMPOSITION
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Image Title: FRUIT COMPOSITION

Location: BALI - TENGANAN

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BACK VIEW
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HOLY WATER
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BEHIND PRINCESSES
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THE KING’S SON
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Image Title: THE KING’S SON

Location: BALI - TENGANAN

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TENGANAN’S GANG
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Image Title: TENGANAN’S GANG

Location: BALI - TENGANAN

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THE HAPPY FIGHTER
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Image Title: THE HAPPY FIGHTER

Location: BALI - TENGANAN

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IKAN TISSUE
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YOUNG SPECTATORS
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Image Title: YOUNG SPECTATORS

Location: BALI - TENGANAN

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PAIN
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SCRATCHES
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LITTLE DANCER
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HUNGRY PRINCESS
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WOMAN’S SHADOW
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Image Title: WOMAN’S SHADOW

Location: BALI - TENGANAN

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DISTRACTION
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  • 2017© Paolo Castellari