The Big Issue : Edition 507
26 THE BIG ISSUE 18 – 28 MARCH 2016 ONCE UPON A time, Rangda, the revered mother of the King, was cast out for practising black magic. Consumed by wrath at her punishment, Rangda soon returned to exact her revenge. A battle ensued, but Rangda’s black magic was too strong; her sorcery made all the opposing soldiers turn their swords back on themselves. The leaders pleaded for the help of Barong, the lion- like king of the spirits. His good magic made the soldiers’ bodies resistant to the sharp ends of their swords, and Rangda lost the battle. She fled, and the celestial order was restored. This is a story you are likely to have heard before: one of revenge and triumph, of good versus evil. It could be a Shakespearean play or a Hollywood drama. But, in fact, it is an ancient Balinese myth. Every year, during the Galungan holy festival, the Barong dance is an essential part of celebrations. Performances of the battle are enacted with great splendour on stages. Later on, the hulking, maned figure of Barong dances through the streets of central Balinese towns to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Boys and young men from the area – ranging in age and size from a tiny five-year-old to a fully-grown adult of 20 – are the ones beneath the costumes, charged with travelling through their town to help drive away malevolent spirits. They gather offerings and donations as they go, the money helping to fuel their journey and to purchase better instruments and more elaborate costumes for the next festival, held at a different time each year. Australian photographer Jenny Hodge found herself in Ubud during these festivities, and was gripped by the enthusiasm with which the boys took on this responsibility. Camera in hand, she followed the procession. “It was a happy, joyous atmosphere out on the street with the boys,” she says. “While on the main street of Ubud, the boys interacted mostly with tourists, but after they left the main street...the majority of people they met were locals, who would come out of their houses to greet them and seemed very happy to see them.” But this is more than an elementary tradition. Hodge soon discovered that the dance was also an important rite of passage for the young boys. They begin performing and travelling at a young age and spend hours out on the streets being mentored by the older, more experienced, males. “The boys’ participation in the Barong...is so integral to the life of the local people. It is an important way for kids to learn about the culture and to keep the culture alive and flourishing,” says Hodge. It is something that benefits the whole community. One mother put it simply: “The boys have a mission to make other people happy.” That seems like a story worth telling. by Katherine Smyrk » See also jennyhodgephotography.com. BOYS AS YOUNG AS FIVE HIT THE STREETS WITH THEIR PEERS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CELEBRATIONS.