Indonesia, home to more than one hundred volcanoes, sits directly above the Pacific Ring of Fire, and the Alpide Belt cuts across the country’s two main islands of Java and Sumatera. Due to its critical position atop the equatorial earthquake belt, this archipelagic nation gets its ample share of devastating temblors and equally perilous volcanic eruptions.

A volcano is revered and bestowed important status in Indonesian traditional culture. It is considered an embodiment of the creator of the universe and is looked upon as the heart of creation—the throne of the gods and seat of unparalleled strength. Thus, volcanoes are perceived both as the benefactors and destroyers of life.

The relationship between man and volcano satisfies the need in humans to be coupled with the Divine. Over time, people endowed these enigmatic fire mountains with humanistic traits symbolizing fertility, bountiful harvests, and wealth for the people. In particular, the Divine Feminine is customarily associated with a volcano’s nurturing nature and looked upon as a source of life and abundance. Hence, a volcanic eruption is literally the process of shaping sacred fertile land and a necessary part of co-evolution to ensure survival. Ironically, the same fresh lava flow that nourishes the land obliterates everything on its path, living or dead.

It has been a challenge over the years for the authorities to convince those who were born and raised at the volcanos’ bases of the imminent danger that is posed to their lives and property. The inhabitants choose to surrender their fate to these fostering—albeit treacherous—fire mountains and continue to live in their shadows, as their ancestors have done before them for generations.

—Kemal Jufri

Editors’ Note: Don’t miss the work of
all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Earth Awards 2015. In total, you’ll find 34 unique points of view inspired by the earth, nature and our shared surroundings. Beauty, destruction, wonder and hope—these are timely, important works that shouldn’t be missed!