591 Reportage - Mikael Jansson

Recently I visited Indonesia - the purpose of my visit was to meet my girlfriend who lives in Jakarta. Our plan was to visit her relatives on north Sumatra in the surroundings of Lake Toba - her origin is Bataknese. Batak's are an ethnic group of people in Indonesia, they have their own language and their heartland is around Lake Toba. There are six different groups of batak's, my girlfriend is Batak Toba.

Batak's are patriarchal and it's the elder in the family that decides and for a Western guy like me their traditions and customs may appear a bit strange.Most Bataks are Christians and they are the biggest single ethnic group in Indonesia that are Christians.

They are known to be strong people and hard workers, many batak's have worked at sea.
The people I met were frank and straight to the point in conversations but with a great generosity and hospitality.

Our journey went through cities (Pemantang Siantar) to small villages far off the beaten tracks like Tigadolok and to the seaside of Lake Toba.

Every place had something new to offer and new fascinating people to meet, they are very proud of being bataknese and willingly speak of their history and customs.

In the villages we sat on the floor among cats, dogs and chickens. During conversations before dinner tuak is served- it is a juice straight from a tree. Meanwhile people are dropping into the house that could be 60 square meters and soon there are around 20 people there and the smoke from cigarettes and from the fire is almost suffocating.

Conversations are loud and at times I wonder if there is a fight but there isn't – it is just their way of conversing. The food that is served is a special dish for the occasion, it has to be according to their customs.

Before dinner there is praying, we eat with our hands and conversations keep going and they can easily discuss into early morning about this and that and they have many questions for me my girlfriend - they want to know who I am and if I am worthy to marry her.

When they're pleased with our answers they start to discuss how the wedding should be organized and we just listen with astonishment. They want us to get married in batak traditional way, of course it's up to us but if we want to maintain a good relation to the family they explain that we should do it the traditional way.

On each place we visit the procedure is the same and we get blessings from all, both of us are overwhelmed with impressions and I am still trying to take it all in.

Still there is a warm feeling because everyone were so polite - the food was delicious and to me it was something unique that I experienced. It will stay with me for the rest of my life. Everyone I met had a strong character and I dedicate the images to them.

See "Batak" by Mikael Jansson

Mikael Jansson
Born: 1968
Lives in: Stockholm
Latest exhibition: 9 photographers - 9 visions in Uppsala 9.9 2006
Coming, planned exhibition: Nothing planned
Inspiration (photographers): Cartier-Bresson, Erwitt, Miguel Rio Branco, Paul Hansen, Steve McCurry, Salgado and many more
Inspiration (other): Interesting People
Film, digital or both: Both
Quote: The camera doesn't make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE. Ernst Haas
A favourite photograph: Gourma-Rharous, Mali, 1985 by Sebastião Salgado


Anonymous said…
You take really good pictures!
affe johansson said…
Verkligen kul att få ta del av både bilder och berättelse. jag önska så klart Micke lycka till med allt framöver :)
Rhonda Boocock said…
so glad to see so many wonderful pictures from your trip! Really fascinating!
br said…
great work...nice contact with people. congrats!
Unknown said…
Very interesting pictures and so interesting to read about, Mikael.
Fantastic work Mikael, every picture tells a story and are alive! Very good!
Anonymous said…
What a fascinating story...! We are all living in an aquarium...disconnected from the real life that are everywhere around us !
Good luck Mikael in your family life....!!! Your wife is beautiful !

Mikael said…
Many Thanks to you all or in indonesian,
Terima kasih!
u can tell the STORY about batak
better than the batak itself :D
nice pics u've got here...
even i been there before, still amazed w/ the view i saw in ur pics, those pics are truly batak
best man with his best effort will get the best result in his life.