In the face of disaster, communities in the shadow of the volcano hold fast to their traditional beliefs
Little escaped the volcano’s fury
The devastation of the village, one of many in the sub-district of Cangkringan on the slopes of Mount Merapi, defies belief. All the familiar sights are gone – no more women carrying heavy loads of firewood, no more lines of ducks heading home across the rice fields, no children playing after school, joking with each other as they wash their buffaloes. All there is is silence, a total absence of life. The few houses not destroyed in the eruption lie derelict and abandoned. Dozens of motorbikes, reduced to nothing but scrap metal, litter the side of the road. In the middle of the village a tent has been erected over the villagers’ few remaining possessions, in an attempt to protect them from marauders. ‘We don’t know what to do, Pak. Why are people turning us into a tourist object?’ says a young man standing watch over the tent. ‘We don’t want outsiders here, gawking at the ruins of our lives. It makes us feel worthless and humiliated.’ His sentiment is echoed in a line of graffiti scrawled on an ash-stained wall nearby: ‘Our grief is not a sideshow’.
Surviving the aftermath
In fact most of the visitors to this scene of devastation are there to do what they can to help.