Are they getting ready for a major music festival? Are they Vogue models? Is it Halloween? No they are Balinese boys engaged in a traditional ceremony. In Tegallalang and several other districts around Gianyar, the boys paint themselves up a storm before parading down the streets in a ceremony known as Ngerebeg .
Before they start the paint work, the boys in each village pray and eat together communally, Megibung style, then head out to prepare themselves for the main event. The Ngerebeg ceremony happens once every Balinese year, not long after Galungan. Judging from the display, the boys have created a modern take on an older more traditional ceremony, but it creates a visual feast for everyone who attends. The scary clothes, demonic faces and brightly coloured makeup are a photographer’s delight and it is fun for everyone.
Guarded by Pecalang, the local village police, the boys, most of whom are under fifteen years, carry ornaments made from coconut leaves, which symbolize a part of the adat (tradition). They enjoy a great day out, while neutralizing any bad spirits or the six negative aspects of human nature (sadripu) that may be occurring around their village.
The belief is that if they don’t carry out the ceremony, bad things will become them and the lower realms of human nature will take over. Thousands of children are involved in this ritual, which is always a dramatic display and great fun to watch.
More photos of the Ngerebeg, one of the most unique ceremonies in Bali: