Cleaning and Cleansing – A Communal Whitewash

From first light people streamed to the waterfronts around the island and participated in ritual cleansings. A wash with water. A sprinkling with water. A playing with water. A feasting at the seashore. Food for all. The timing was not so precise as were the rituals of prayer and devotion. The acknowledgement that God played a major role in their lives.

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These were not family gatherings. These were community gatherings that involved the entire community. Celebrations flowed from geographical temples to the nearest beaches. Shops and stores remained closed until the cleansing was completed some days before Nyepi (that day of silence that marks the end of an old year and the beginning of a new year).

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There was a playful welcome extended to those of us visiting and photos were required for their cameras as well as ours. We are posted with a group of teens seeking to break rank with some of the rigidity of ceremony by inviting us to stand with them.

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Margaret is drawn into an extended family selfie, celebrating cleansing in colours other than white. A daring clash in a whitewashed ceremony. There is a ceremonial solemnity to all this white-wear. A presentation of the self as cleansed. Yet there is room for playfulness. In the looking-for-waldo shot below one of the figures does not belong with the others. looking to fit in without belonging. Each of us tourists welcome in a sacred ceremony.

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