While I lived in Bali for 3 months, a year ago, I couldn’t help noticing the local women carrying weight on their heads. I have been traveling a lot, in the past years, in developing countries where similar custom seems to be part of a daily routine.
At first I was amused in a surprised way but, by the end of my stay on the island, I was fascinated by the ease with which women seemed to carry heavy loads on their heads.
I became interested in knowing more about how they get the ability of holding balance while they carry a big basket full of fruits and vegetables on the head, other loads in the hands sometimes while riding the bicycle or motorbike.
I was living in a home stay at that time owned by a numerous family. I had the chance to witness ceremony preparations including big arrangements full of fruits and cakes which women are required to carry on their head, by tradition, in order to take them to temple
as offerings to the gods.
I asked my host how do they get the dexterity of carrying burden on the head, she kindly explain the girls are trained at an early age by the elder women in the family and they have to practice quite a lot to reach a level of balance and confidence. She told me all this with a trace of resentment in her voice, it seemed to me, but not questioning the fact one second.
I believe the religion and tradition plays a strong part in the lives of these women. Even though they have been in touch with modern ways of weight transport they prefer carrying the load on their head going to the market, as merchants or just to shop, on construction sites or on paddy fields, you name it.
Researchers didn’t miss the subject over the history. A recent study led by sport scientist Ray Lloyd on women from different environments, show that the experienced head-loaders reported that neck pain was a big problem to them and they usually give and receive neck massages after returning from fetching water. The overall result of his study proves, in fact, that “head loading in not more efficient than other methods and it is very painful for women”.
Coming from an environment where mothers, very often, wouldn’t allow their grown up children to carry shopping bags from supermarket back home I developed an enormous respect for women all over the world who, from ancient times, kept the practice alive with such grace and pride, sometimes with a smile on the face.