Monica Hunter-Hart, Arts Extravaganza in Paninjauan, 18.01.14
On the last Saturday night of our trip, we went to an amazing arts extravaganza in Mbak Jeni's village. Groups from her village and neighboring communities came and performed, including our favorite, now-familiar talempong players. One performance of particular interest to us involved a few men and four girls, who smashed glass bottles on the ground in the middle of a blanket and then danced on the pieces, rolled in them, and rubbed them all over their bodies. At the climax, we watched one of the men take a knife and stab himself five times in the stomach! As far as we could tell, despite this injurious behavior, all participants were unharmed at the end of the performance. They said that it was because man with the knife had said a prayer at the beginning to protect them all. On the way home we debated various scientific ways to explain what we'd just seen, although others of us felt uncomfortable immediately dismissing the villagers' own explanations. The night made some of us wonder whether magic really is real... and also what defines "magic," anyway.