Women in Bali use their heads – Literally!

Women in Bali carry everything on their heads – sometimes using caps that provide a flat surface, and sometimes it appears as if there is simply a rag between their hair and the object to be carried.

I’ve seen women carrying water bottles – just one. Clearly it’s easier to walk if your hands are free. I’ve seen and photographed women carrying 45 kg, 100 lb bags of cement and/or sand on their heads – as they navigate tiny passageways and staircases. I’ve seen women carrying tree trunks, stacks of bamboo logs, baskets with unknown contents. I’ve even seen men with wheelbarrows holding exactly the same thing that a woman behind them has on her head. Bottom line – woman in Bali use their heads the way we’d use backpacks, wheelbarrows and lift trucks!

And one thing you don’t see in Bali – ladies with widow’s humps – the sure sign of osteoporosis. Clearly – standing absolutely upright your entire life is good for the spine!

Most commonly, and certainly most photogenically – It’s the ladies with their offerings on their heads on their way to the ever on-going festivals that captured my attention. It’s easy to wonder where that stuff is kept when it’s not on your head or in the temple – and so of course – I asked.

When we went to visit Diana’s home – we explored their back rooms to see what they stored where – and the truth is that most of the storage place is occupied by the items required for these offerings.

Stacks of banana palm leaves, officially made baskets – either from the more solid rattain, or the younger lighter cheaper version – palm fronds, and several of those gaily painted wooden platters that nested and I’m guessing – stacked. What you didn’t see is what we’d be storing in the same space – bags of rice, bunches of cans of this and that, boxes of cereal. In fact – there was almost no food at all stored in the kitchen – which explains the daily shopping habits! Our hosts explained that they had gone out that morning to buy the food stuff for lunch. It’s not totally about the money either – I think keeping the insect population in check has to figure into the decision not to keep bags of raw rice in the house.

Diana also explained that generally – meals are not eaten together. Woman prepare the food in the morning – and leave it out during the day. Members of the family – and extended family – just walk in to the kitchen area when they are hungrey and help themselves. The only problem? A 4 year old nephew who’d discovered Diana’s love of ice cream and was now tall enough to reach into the freezer.

But back to the heads – Most women carried at all times a small round basket shaped item – which it turns out is the cushion on which you balance things on your head. If you look at the images – you can see woman shading their faces from the sun with those baskets – and then in the picture of the parade of women going to the temple with offerings – the same baskets now used to protect their heads.

It’s not that you don’t see Western influences in Bali – you do. But you can also see people practicing the traditional behaviors as well – and that is what made Bali so wonderful – look and you can find farmers tilling their rice fields the old fashioned way, brides getting married in outfits so splendid it took your breathe away, and lots and lots of woman – using their heads.

Signing off – The Soup Lady

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