© Vincent Liew
© Vincent Liew
© Vincent Liew

Tengger – God, Land and People

Featuring work by: Vincent Liew

If civilization may be distinguished by unique settlement patterns (Childe V. 1942), the Tenggerese have indeed adopted an unusual habitat to build their lives. They live around an active volcano, Mount Bromo (named after the Hindu deity Brahma), in East Java, Indonesia. The Tenggerese are Hindus and they are believed to be remnants of the former Majapahit empire that ruled most of South East Asia at the beginning of the first millennia. After the collapse of the empire, the remaining loyalists in the isle of Java fled to the eastern volcanic highlands where they continue to practice their beliefs and traditions. Today, they share a ‘symbiotic’ relationship with the land they occupy. The land provides for their livelihood while they protect the environment from deterioration by excessive human activity. The Tenggerese is a representation that man and nature can coexist in a sustainable manner. The images are part of a research project.

Online: Exhibition Sep 21 - Oct 30

Exhibition title : Tengger - God Land and People

This online exhibition is the milestone of a research project conducted in the region of Tengger, East Java, Indonesia, since 2017.

The images were photographed within the village of Ngadisari. The Tenggerese in Ngadisari have a rich Hindu culture retained from generations since their ancestors moved to the volcanic mountainous region of Tengger in East Java, to build their homes. The Tenggerese are believed to be remnants of the former Majapahit kingdom that ruled a large segment of South East Asia during the period from A.D.1293 to circa A.D.1517. Very much like their Balinese kindred, they were one of the few surviving Hindu communities in Indonesia.

The village of Ngadisari has a Hindu-majority and it is a significant Hindu community in Java that still preserves ancestral customs and traditions. Initial data examinations show that the number of Hindus in Indonesia has been undergoing a steady decline between 1971, 2000 and 2010 despite a gradual increase in the population since the last half of the century. The percentage of Hindus fell from 1.94% in 1971 to 1.81% in 2000 and to 1.69% in 2010 (UNSD, 2010). From the census performed in 2010, only 0.3% of Hindus were identified in East Java and concentrated in the area where Ngadisari is situated (BPS, 2010). Based on these data, their traditions are gravely at risk of dissipating from Java.

The photography project is aimed at documenting the Tenggerese, to provide an archive and visual experience of their world.

The Photographer

Vincent Liew is a visual artist using photography as his main instrument of expression. As an artist, Vincent endeavours to produce work that enables his audience to immerse themselves into his world and engage viewers at a deeper level, both conceptually and emotionally. He aims to achieve a state where the photograph shares a synchronous relationship between the photographer, the subject, the subject’s environment and the viewer.

Vincent is a published photographer and a photography educator. He also curates the gallery space at the Selegie Arts Centre, in Singapore. Vincent’s works have been exhibited in more than 40 countries and in significant photography festivals. He had received multiple international awards and his works are being procured by private collectors. Vincent is a recipient of the prestigious University Research Scholarship awarded by the Nanyang Technological University’s, School of Art, Design and Media (Singapore) to study photography.