World Traveler: Dave Lumenta

This is my cousin Dave.

Dave is the oldest of our cousins, and my being the youngest meant that by the time I was born, Dave was already grown up. Never mind the age gap, we lived so far apart anyway that my sister and I never got to know him. He didn’t play with us when we visited, we were little kids, and we didn’t really care what he was up to. Now, as I’m finally getting to know him, turns out he’s been up to a lot.

Dave is an anthropologist. He specializes in Southeast Asian cultures, especially in Indonesia and Borneo, where he’s visited places so remote, he’s been the first outsider allowed in by the people. The above photograph with the severed cow head was taken in West Kalimantan, on the Indonesian side of Borneo, in 2001.

Dave has seen and done things we will most likely never even think about experiencing. And maybe it’s better that way — the preservation of as-of-yet untouched cultures is worrisome. Globalization is an unstoppable phenomenon. He hasn’t updated his blog since 2007, but you can check it out here. His photographs capture the cultures he encounters in a way that is both intriguing and eerie.

His most recent photographs of Jakarta, which he calls “A Dystopian¬†Megalopolis.”


This is toxic foam.

These are from his trips to Borneo:

Struggling up the Tekelan river to the Gerugu Naris gorges

Batang Kanyau became the frontline for Indonesian-Malaysian confrontations from 1963-66

Seven needles are bound together to block the colour

The skin swells as it’s injected with soot. Salt is the only disinfectant

For Apai Linggong (1945-2003), his tattoos are his life story. He got this one after he traveled on an airplane for the first time when he went to work in Sarawak in 1975. The other tattoos are traditional designs.


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