ESSAY Timothy L Marsh

NWR Issue 108

Banjur Dalung

The Dutchman

Bruno van Persie stays away from his kind. He thinks it’s just awful what they’re doing to Bali. All the development and pollution, the exploitation of the natives. He photographs traditional Balinese habitat before the onslaught of civilisation stamps it from existence. He wanders the banjar with his Nikon and tripod, and when he spots something traditional he spikes the ’pod and snaps its picture with seven different lenses.

Rudi Haryaputra just fell out of a coconut palm. He was up there because he doesn’t have a job and can make a little money selling coconuts to restaurants. He fell 25 feet into a pile of water buffalo shit and shattered his ass bone and something in his foot.

Rudi is still learning English. He isn’t sure what Bruno means by traditional.

Using the photo album on his laptop, Bruno shows him commercial photographs of flamboyant resorts and luxury villas. Then he shows Rudi photographs of the banjar. The humble tenements, the roads of naked earth, the rustic washerwomen with bundles of clothes balanced on their heads, a black-and-white portrait of an itinerant harvester squatting in a flooded paddy, slashing rice stalks with a hand sickle. The coconut palms.

‘Traditional,’ Bruno explains. ‘Truh. Dih. Shun. Nul. Understand?’

Rudi knows that rice field. The parcel is badly irrigated and yields just one growing season. Rudi knows that harvester. He sleeps in a shack that’s missing a wall and sometimes coughs up blood. Rudi knows the cheap tenements that crumble during earthquakes and crush families, the unpaved roads that wash away during rainy seasons, and the disfigured Shudra washerwomen with dark beans for teeth and scales for skin. Most of all he knows those coconut trees.

Traditional? Rudi Haryaputra understands all about the traditional. And if the silly bules like it, praise Allah, they can have it.

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Timothy L Marsh was raised in Los Angeles, California. He is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University, and was recently a graduate exchange scholar at Auburn University, USA. His work has appeared recently in The Los Angeles Review, Ninth Letter and Barrelhouse. A two-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize (Best of the Small Presses), he has received scholarships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Squaw Valley Writers’ Workshop, and the CAMAC Centre d’Arts. His docu-journal, from which this is an excerpt, was highly commended in the New Welsh Writing Awards 2015, WWF Cymru Prize for Writing on Nature and the Environment, run by ourselves.


previous essay: Scenes from a Hokkaidan Life
next essay: Heligoland: An Ecology of Exile


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