Sutiah the Tengger Farmer

Sutiah is a real mountain woman. She lives in a small village high up on the edge of the Tengger massif, a spectacular area including Mount Bromo and five other volcanoes. Sutiah is no stranger to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, having experienced many during her 70 years living in the area. Her life is a simple but happy one, she told me while I spoke with her in front of her small, weather-beaten, but comfortable home.

“The soil is quite productive in this area and I am able to grow many vegetables such as potatoes, corn, cabbages, onions and soya beans,” she explained.

The Tengger people are real survivors and Sutiah is no exception. They have managed to stick to their Hindu beliefs despite the dominant influence of Islam in the area, and still hold ancient traditional ceremonies each year, such as the Karo festival. Sutiah explained, “During this time we make sacrifices to appease the spirits of the volcanoes. We believe very much in this, as it can make the difference between life and death.”

Sutiah has two children who live nearby and it is clear to see they are a very close-knit family, with strong connections to the land and their ancient heritage.

The Tengger are a very friendly and hospitable folk and remind me a little of the hobbits in Lord of the Rings; very comfortable in their simple homes, a strong sense of community and, despite the environmental challenges and ever present threats of volcanic eruptions, will continue to survive for thousands more years, I am sure.

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David Metcalf is based in Bali and welcomes you to visit his photo gallery — Taksu on Monkey Forest Road, Ubud. He provides half and full day photography tours in the Ubud area and longer 7-14 day workshops to Myanmar, Java, Borneo, US, Japan, Vietnam and other destinations. David’s photos appear in three books on Indonesia. More info can be found about his books and tours on his website www.davidmetcalfphotography.com