Finding selfless people in this world is very rare. For one, they don’t advertise themselves, and two, most people today only care about broadcasting banal information across social media with moments that validate their self-esteem– A kind of personal record-keeping system for storing mundane events becomes proof of their existence. But on a rare occasion, I came across a selfless photographer in Bali who regularly helps others through his camera lens.
Photography helps people to seeBerenice Abbott
self·less photographerˈselfləs/ pho·tog·ra·pher | fə-ˈtä-grə-fər
: one who practices unselfish photography especially: one who makes a business of taking photographs to help others before themselves.
1.Photography that captures the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own; unselfish.
Selflessness and photography links us with all humanity
About Rudy Waisnawa
Rudi Waisnawa was born in Singaraja, Bali where he developed a passion for journalism photography, human interest photography, traveling photography, and culture by 1998. Just two years later he began his career in commercial film production as location manager, fixer, line producer, and photographer in Bali. By 2013, he shot his first documentary. Today, he dedicates his photography to Suryani Institute for Mental Health shooting with a full arsenal of cameras and lenses, his favorite is the Canon DMark III with either his 24-70mm lens or 35mm lens.
In 2014 Rudy met Bali’s leading psychiatrist, Luh Ketut Suryani, founder and director of the Suryani Institute for Mental Health. Ever since they met, he has documented her activities with his camera to support her efforts in helping people with mental disorders in Bali. That same year his photographs and documentary films were exhibited at the Bentara Budaya Bali.
In 2015, his work was recorded as a photo book entitled “Pasung” and exhibited at the Raffles Hotel Gallery, Singapore. In October 2017 Rudi was invited to exhibit at the Anti Stigma International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, and another exhibit at Die Erste Etage, Hamburg with an exhibition entitled “Approach”. The exhibition was sponsored by Franziska & Tim Cordts-Stiftung and opened by Mr. Singgih Yuwono who represented Indonesia’s consulate general in Hamburg. Rudi’s work has also attracted the attention of the public, helping people affected by leprosy in a village in Bali.
While Rudy is busy trying to educate the world about pasung, or a photographer in Bali, he’s also tending to the needs of the mentally ill. Rudy volunteers by cleaning patients’ rooms, bathing them, provided them with food, and giving his friends much needed human contact. Rudy is also a public speaker who loves traveling with his friends to communities throughout Bali.
Together they still continue to educate people on differences between reality, superstition, religious beliefs, and cultural differences. They also show people that with the right treatment or medication, their conditions can be controlled. Also, locking them in chains or Pasung is a thing of the past, a bad decision based on fear, superstition, religion, and cultural beliefs. In the end, most people are happy to see that Rudy’s friends are in fact not possessed by evil spirits.
A message at 2019 Ubud Readers and Writers Festival
Rudi Waisnawa was one of the speakers who attended the 2019 Ubud Readers and Writers Festival. He had a story to tell and those that listened sat in disbelief as he shared unimaginable acts of inhumanity. I had the pleaseure of meeting Rudy at the festival while I was struggling to become a freelance photographer in Bali. We exchanged very few words before I shared my views and interest in helping his cause. He was a very humble and soft spoken but you could tell he had a lot on his mind.
Later, a slideshow was projected onto a small screen, and in that instance, his listeners figured out that Rudi’s first choice of communication was through his camera lens. As Rudy’s images came to life on the screen, tears and emotions filled the room. After the room went silent, the only words you could hear were somehow heard through Rudy’s photographs. I can assure you that the message was received.
Mental health issues are often misunderstood or ignored in Indonesia. Especially when there is a lack of information, misinformation, and superstition. As a result, families continue to chain up their loved ones for years out of desperation, fear, and loss of hope. The mentally ill are then abandoned, chained to the floor, or locked up in cages hidden from public view.
With just one mental Hospital on the island and only 30 beds reserved for the poor, families are forced to take action into their own hands. Also without funds, a chain and lock seem like a better option. But today, Rudi Waisnawa, Luh Ketut Suryani, and other volunteers continue to help the mentally ill. They all continue to travel from one village to the next using a holistic approach. A combination of modern psychiatry, anti-psychotic drugs, Balinese spiritualism, and lots of love.
“Passung” by: Rudi Waisnawa
Passung is the Indonesian term for restraints or restrained. It’s also a word often used for shackles, animal cage, a shed, being locked in shackles, locked in a room, confined to a shed, or locked in an animal cage. Passung was banned in 1977 but still used anytime there is a mental disturbance in a community or village.
In the eyes of the village, they are protecting their loved ones and the individual. And without money to properly diagnose or treat the mentally disorderly, Indonesians will continue to use Passung, Shamans, and traditional healers as their popular choice of healthcare.
Rudy Waisnawa created “Pasung” a book made with love and empathy. He hopes to one day completely eliminate this inhumane practice. Rudi’s dream is that this book can help with the funding for this cause since he doesn’t have enough money to publish it himself. Rudi is offering anyone who wants to publish this book all the rights. You can use your own logo, name, choose a different layout, sell it, or simply donate it. As long as he can continue to help this cause in any way, he will be happy to work out a deal with you. If you would like to publish this book or donate to this cause, please email Rudy directly at [email protected].
Rudy feels he has an obligation to help these people due to the fact he has seen it with his own eyes and taken pictures of them. What kind of man would he be if he turned his back and did nothing? Especially when they were still sick and in pasung. Rudy helps by providing them the medical assistance they need through the Suryani Institute for Mental Health (SIMH) located in Denpasar until they can be released from pasung (shackling).
Once that happens, they still can’t work yet, so until they can, Rudy and SIMH continue to provide them with food, basic necessities, psychiatric treatment, education, social work, medical assistance, and a sense of purpose until they can become somewhat self-sufficient. Rudy and SIMH both share a dream, that one day these human beings will become physically and spiritually healthy and happy on the Island of Bali.
Join the cause
The 2020 Pandemic was the hardest for Rudy because he couldn’t work either. Having spent all his savings and making zero income, it has been very difficult for him to help his mentally ill friends. He is asking everyone more than ever to help in any way during these turbulent times. If someone were to buy or publish the Passang book, he could then use that money to help everyone. Some of those in the Pasung book has fully recovered due to Rudy’s dedication to them. But, there are still many who need Rudy’s persistence, selflessness, and help. If not for Rudy, many of these men and women would be forgotten and left alone in shackles.
If you are interested in publishing his book, please contact him through email at [email protected], visit his website: http://www.rudiwaisnawa.com or follow him on social media: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Please support #BaliFREEfromChained.
If you liked my story about Rudy Waisanawa, photographer in Bali . Here is something else to read : Evolution of a Travel Junky