A Kingdom, a Giant Mushroom Shaped Volcano

Mount Merapi is considered one of the two most powerful mythical kingdoms in Yogyakarta, connected through an imaginary axis with the Sultanate of Yogyakarta and the mythical Queendom of the Southern Sea—an ancient covenant that supports each other. Around Mount Merapi, the ontological knowledge of Javanese cosmology used to coexist with Islamic values, a tradition rooted in the knowledge of Hinduism and animism. Local people believe that they are sharing the living space with not only animals and plants, but also with the ancestor spirits, deities, and supernatural beings and protectors of nature. Living side by side, it is important to respect and protect each other to keep balance and reciprocity.

Dito Yuwono’s series of photographs titled “A Kingdom, a Giant Mushroom Shaped Volcano”, is part of his long-term research on the extractive practice of the sand mining industry under Mount Merapi volcano. Anchored in the connection between the world of the human and the non-human, the visible to the invisible, and the mythical to the ‘real’ world due to its proximity to Mount Merapi; the research question the presence of displaced spirits that are extracted from the volcano through the sand mining industry. This question is rooted in the locals’ belief that everything that comes from the volcano is considered inhabited by a spirit.

What does it mean when ancestral material such as volcanic sands, stones, and gravels are being transported beyond their place of origin? If a city is built with ancestral material, are the citizens being haunted by the displaced spirits? In the case of ‘lelembut’ residing in a random tree or stone, is it possible for them to stop or slow down the exploitation of natural resources? Can they resist the involuntary and forced displacement to foreign places that are so out of their contexts?

This project was presented in 900mdpl: Genealogy of Ghosts and How to Live with Them, Yogyakarta – Indonesia (2022) curated by Mira Asriningtyas,and also presented in Jakarta International Photo Festival’22, Jakarta – Indonesia (2022) co-curated by Asep Topan, Ayos Purwoaji, and Ng Swan Ti.

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