I Gusti Mangku Sumantra is a traditional healer from the Gianyar region of Bali who has been healing people since the 1970s when his father passed away.
Bali has a long tradition of Bali Usada, also known as Balinese traditional healing. This practice uses natural herbs and spices, holistic therapies and ancient wisdom to cure physical and mental illness.
The Balinese live equally in two worlds: the seen or conscious world called sekala, and the unseen or psychic world, called niskala. In traditional Balinese healing, both of these elements are addressed in order to truly heal an ill patient.
Many Westerners flocked to Bali after reading the book or watching the film “Eat Pray Love”, in the story the character played by Julia Roberts visits a healer in Bali who reads her palm and gives her invaluable advice on her life.
Since then, many Balinese healers have become famous such as the late Ketut Liyer who was featured in the “Eat Pray Love” story. While many healers capitalised on this popularity and turned their healing into business, I Gusti Mangku Sumantra continues to heal people for free and would only accept a donation if offered.
He heals people with a variety of ilnesses such as cancer, strokes, eye problems and joint pains. He says “there are many problems which people can have, I will treat any!”
I thought it would be interesting to show people that not all healers in Bali have become businessmen, some stay loyal to their oath of accepting donation only and are willing to heal people for free. I Gusti Mangku Sumantra’s modesty and humility was something I really wanted to capture on film in order to show people the mystical nature of Bali Usada and the potential power of plant medicine.