First published:Summer 2007
Beside a muddy track in the Balinese forest is an impressive structure that would pass as an installation in a more conventional setting. But this is no gallery piece. Hundreds of painted volcanic rocks have been piled up to form a wall from which incense sticks project and at which flowers and imitation gold have been laid. This is clearly an altar, but it is an altar quite unlike anything else found on Bali, where religion takes a particular form within a clearly structured environment. This is the work of Ni Tanjung.
Born about eighty years ago, Ni Tanjung has led a life marked by hardship and tragedy. During the Japanese occupation of 1942-5, she was captured and taken away to do forced labour. At the end of the war she returned, married and had four children. In 1965, one of her children died whilst still of school age. Deeply traumatised, Ni Tanjung withdrew into herself and embarked upon the lonely passion that continues to consume her.