Saturday, February 7, 2009

Quintessential Flores

Quintessential Flores – A photo essay by Henri Ismail

Portuguese traders and missionaries came first to Flores in the sixteenth century – that explains why ‘Flores’ is etymologically derived from the Portuguese word for flower. They called themselves discoverers – as if the island was uninhabited. They saw themselves as bringers of civilization in the name of Enlightened Europe in general and Rome in particular. Half a millennium later almost the entire population of Flores is Catholic. As one priest remarked, even Flores’ grass is Catholic. However, older cultural traits have survived beneath the prevalence of Catholicism. Religion and culture are interwoven in the daily lives of the Floresians. The Abrahamic religions seem to find this problematic and frown upon heterodoxy. After all, the second Commandment of the Decalogue in the Old Testament requires from believers to belief in no other God than God. This means that the believer is not allowed to worship a similitude or to worship old pagan rites. The Floresians, though, are generally too poor to worship the golden calf of consumer fetishism. Moreover, it can be seen as a strength that Catholic and Flores’ civilizations co-adapted over the ages. Acculturation, therefore, is a dialogical process that changes all who are involved. Purity is solely reserved for the eerie heavens – but now and here, on this volcanic island, a free tropical breeze of exchange so far from Rome. Catholicism has flowered beautifully and is visible in every fiber of the society of Flores.

Text by Roy Voragen

Henri Ismail is a Jakarta based photographer. He also made the photo essay Paradise Lost!, see here.

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