Staats’belang, Setabelan, Stabelan

I just had a group exhibition. Will write a bit about it.

Staats’belang: Photographs and notes from Stabelan, a small village on the western slope of Merapi volcano

Stabelan is one of the closest villages surrounding the Merapi volcano summit. It is only about 4 kilometers away from summit, administratively located in Tlogolele, Selo district, Boyolali region, Central Java. Stabelan survived the November 2010 Merapi eruption. Unlike Kinahrejo in Cangkringan district, Sleman region, Yogyakarta, which is a bit farther from the summit but has now gone, swept by the pyroclast on 4 November 2010. Stabelan “only” suffered volcanic ash rain—the ash later devastated the village’s farming.

Photo: Herri Ardi

Photo: Herri Ardi

Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan

Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan

We (5 photographers, 5 interviewers, 2 logistics caretakers) came to Stabelan in mid January 2011, some time after the status of the volcano was declared safer, and stayed there for about a week. The village could’ve been gone if Merapi volcano spewed pyroclast west-ward. The original idea of the expedition was to contribute family portraits to the villagers, who live in constant threat of the next eruption. They had no proper portraits of themselves or the whole family. So we thought it was the least we could do. But of course, while staying in the village, we documented daily life moments too, as we also learnt their unique way of life.

From 100+ families living in the village, less than 10 have proper closet. Electricity network was built in the village only about 6 years ago. Water is scarce, as the village is higher than the springs. To mention a few.

Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan

Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan

Back to Yogyakarta, we collected our photos and tried to see the bigger picture. Separating the daily life moments from the family portraits, we found that these images became an important document that mustn’t be kept deep in our hard drives. So we decided to hold an exhibition to introduce this village, not very well known due to its remote location; its way of life, unique due to its closeness to Merapi volcano; and its people, who believed they are descendants of a local warrior called Mbah Bagor.

The exhibition was held in Bentara Budaya Yogyakarta gallery, 28–31 May 2011. The exhibition was formally opened by the Regent of Boyolali, Drs. Seno Samodro. We were very happy that some Stabelan villagers came to visit our exhibition too. ∎

Me making portraits of the people of Stabelan. Photo: Ali

Me making portraits of the people of Stabelan. Photo: Ali

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