The Baduy people of West Java

Farabi Ferdiansyah

Society and culture | Southeast Asia

1 August 2014

Farabi Ferdiansyah provides an intimate glimpse into the life of environmental harmony of the Baduy people.

The Baduy people are a traditional community living in the province of Banten, Indonesia. Residing in hilly forest areas (far away from the usual hustle and bustle of Indonesia’s most populous island), the Baduy people are different to Java’s general population for a number of reasons.

Ethnically Sundanese, the Baduy people follow the religion of Sunda Wiwitan, which encompasses a belief in the power of nature and spirit of the ancestors (animism and dynamism). They are forbidden from using electricity or any other technology, drinking alcohol, eating at night-time or accepting gifts of gold or silver.

The Baduy people clothe themselves with handmade black or white cloth (including a headband) and do not use any footwear. During the mornings the men usually work in the fields while the women search for wood and take care of their children. Often the women will join their families in the fields and may live there for a few weeks.

Despite several attempts by the Indonesian government to modernise the Baduy villages, the people are adamant to conserve nature and the culture of their ancestors. They have rejected several proposals to build educational facilities, viewing such plans as an invasion to their community. The Indonesian government has now accepted the Baduy people as an important part of West Java’s heritage and gives more respect and recognition to their culture.

The infrastructure in Baduy villages is made entirely with natural materials and constructed by hand. Due to their wisdom and ability to live harmoniously with the environment, the physical surroundings of the Baduy people remain beautiful in their natural state.

The following photographs illustrate the daily activities of the Baduy people as they live harmoniously with the environment around them.

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