Javanese healing tradition by Melania Messina


Brief Description

Southeast Asia is rich in healing concepts and practices. This series documents various types of healers and the therapies and herbal medicaments they use in Central Java, Indonesia. These indigenous options can be classified in two broad categories. The first category includes secular and technical options, application of ilmu lahir (outer, technical, natura! knowledge) such as self-medication with herbs and massages, and healers such as midwives (dukun bayi), masseurs (dukunltukang pijit) and herbalists (tukanglpenjual jamu). The second category includes healers who apply ilmu batin (inner, spiritual or magical knowledge) such as ‘wise’ persons (orang tua) and mediums (dukun prewangan, dukun kebatinan). The photos, documenting ealers and methods from both categories, were taken in 1989, but up to these days we can find the same practices in Java and other parts of Indonesia, a testimony to the resilience of tradition notwithstanding the greater expansion of biomedicine.



Born in Palermo (Italy), Melania Messina studied photography at Maui Community College in Hawaii, and afterwards at the School of Visual Arts in New York. After years spent traveling around the world, including in Indonesia, she now is back in Sicily where she on social issues with a special attention to women. She likes to experiment with innovative visual codes and colors and tries to use photography to give voice to marginalized people. She has conceptualized various cultural events to provide opportunities for social inclusion and integration, such as in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Palermo or working with migrant women and survivors of violence. Recently, she received an award as acknowledgement for her social engagement.