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Cultures of The Indonesian Islands

Cultures of The Indonesian Islands

Ring of Fire: An Indonesia Odyssey

Based on the Emmy award-winning documentary series of the same name, Ring of Fire is a first-person account of the adventures of two English brothers as they explore the astonishingly rich cultures of the Indonesian islands. nduring record of a vanishing world.

British brothers Lawrence and Lorne Blair set out in the 1960s on a marvelous, thought-provoking, ten-year adventure through the 3,000-mile length of the remote Indonesian archipelago. Inspired by a dog-eared copy of Alfred Russell Wallace's The Malay Archipelago -and his nineteenth century voyage of scientific exploration and discovery--their unforgettable odyssey set sail out of the Celebes (Sulawesi) for the Spice Islands on a perilous schooner crossing with the seafaring Bugis. Tossed to and fro from home port Makassar to isolated Aru Island-stalked all the way by rotting ship beams and the specter of pirates-they were rewarded with one of the rarest sights on earth-the fluffy white plumage of the elusive Bird of Paradise.

Metaphysical, anthropological, and intellectual in tone-with a healthy dose of dry wit and humor-the Blairs take you along as they confront komodo dragons, chew betel nut in Sumba, witness a traditional Pasola battle, and herald the annual arrival on shore of the sacred nyale sea worms. Full of naive courage and boundless curiosity, they sought out Asmat headhunters/cannibals in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Undaunted, these dream wanderers went eye to eye with the fiery blast furnace of simmering Krakatoa. They commandeered a longboat upriver and trekked through the leech-ridden jungles of Borneo with native guides on an arduous land search for the secretive, traditional Punan hunter-gatherers. Ring of Fire chronicles their cultural encounters on Java as they visited the sultan's court (and sacred "kris" knife) and an acupuncturist who harnessed yin/yang energy to heal the sick with self-generated electric charges. Open-minded and non-judgmental about the diverse religions and customs they encountered, the Blairs became deeply enchanted by trance, and by the shadow screen nether world of the wayang kulit. Their travels took them back to Sulawesi for the funeral of the last king of Tanah Torajah-into a unique architectural-animist pocket where boat-shaped roofs rise out of the cool forest floor representing ancestral sky ships on their descent from heaven to earth.

The thrill-seeking, nomadic Blairs unexpectedly found themselves permanently landlocked and suspended-mind, soul, and body-in the island Shangrila that they discovered in Bali. An artist friend in Pengosekan-a vibrantly creative community of farmers and painters-invited them to build a new house on his land. In true, cooperative Balinese style, the brothers had only to pay for the necessary raw materials (bamboo, coconut wood, and elephant grass) and the religious celebration at the completion of the structure. The people of Pengosekan freely contributed their skilled labor and artistic expertise; this shared investment in and commitment to each other's dwellings works to further bind the village together. Sleeping and learning in their open-air platform obervatory perched high above the sculpted jade rice terraces, the Blair brothers came to call Bali their very own, lifelong island of the gods. They would return time and again-in between sometimes dangerous, always enlightening meetings with natural peoples along the equatorial frontier-to their permanent home base in Bali. It is here that they fell in love with one culture and one island out of the hundreds that they visited. Lawrence and Lorne fully explored their adopted pied à terre-from startling footage of the eruption of Mt. Agung in 1963, to the cremation of famous 116-year-old Balinese artist Lempoad, to the opulent funeral procession of the last rajah of Gianyar. (When Lorne died on his beloved Bali in 1996, he was cremated and his remains returned to the sea in accordance with Bali-Hindu religious rites.) Their amazing adventures (available in book or video format) are the stuff of storybook legends-from the hidden rainforest peoples of Borneo, to islands where magicians still hold sway, to the sun-speckled spiritual haven of heart-shaped Bali.Ring of Fire: An Indonesia Odyssey