30 imagesBanda Aceh, is an autonomous province in the north of Sumatra, and the only place in Indonesia - the country with the world’s largest Muslim population - where sharia law is currently implemented. Aceh was the hardest-hit area by the 2004 tsunami where over 170,000 inhabitants tragically lost their lives. Many Acehnese viewed the disaster as punishment for their lack of devotion to God. Though Sharia law was only officially introduced in 2011, the cataclysm helped religious authorities to accelerate radicalization within the society. Alcohol, gambling, not dressing according to Islamic code, premarital romance, and adultery are now outlawed and punishable by public flogging. A feared “Sharia police” team doles out warnings and passes transgressors on to the relevant authorities. In March 2016, I spent 10 days with the youth of Banda Aceh, I explored unseen subcultures, and followed the lives of artists, musicians, dancers, skaters and surfers; documenting their efforts to find their own creative space in a conservative and closed society. I’ve been documenting under-reported religious practices around the world for the last 3 years focusing my attention on how people interpret and justify their beliefs and sacred secular traditions.
52 imagesI recently covered the Pasola Festival on the remote Sumba Island in Indonesia, where I followed one families preparation for the festival. I witnessed how the traditional village of Wainyapu, mixed Christian rituals with ancient Marapu elements, such as animal sacrifice, ritual spear fighting games, and ancestral dancing. The Pasola Festival is an important annual event to welcome the new harvest season, which coincides with the arrival of the 'Nyale’, multicolored sea worms. Appearing only once a year, they mark the start of the festival. Pasola, an ancient ritual fighting game, involves two teams of men on horseback charging towards each other, whilst trying to hit their rivals with 'pasol' javelins and avoiding being hit themselves. Such rituals preserve the bond between modern families, and their ancestral roots.