Ngaben: Emotion and Restraint in a Balinese Heart (Video 2012) Poster

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  • A vast majority of Balinese people are Hindu. Balinese Hindus believe in reincarnation; that after death, the soul is reborn into ones own family lineage, and goes through the cycle of rebirth numerous times until being liberated. Cremation is a very important step in this process, in that it purifies the deceased and prepares them for re-birth, hence all Balinese Hindus are cremated, sometimes at great cost to the family. A small minority of Balinese are Christian or Muslim, who are buried rather than cremated upon their death due to different religious beliefs about what happens after death.

  • In addition to their cremations, the Balinese honor the spirits of the dead every year. During a ritual ceremony known as Galungan departed souls are invited back to earth to be honored. Ten days later, during a ritual known as Kuningan, the souls return to heaven.

  • I met Nyoman while doing fieldwork in Indonesia in the 1990s. He worked as my driver on many trips, and we developed a close friendship. I knew how important being able to bury his father was for Nyoman, and so I filmed the event.

  • Nyoman and his family are wellhe has a small peanut business, which supports his extended family, and he remains one of my closest friends in Indonesia.

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