Shocking footage reveals sad truth behind monkey mask exhibitions
Shocking footage shows monkeys being forced to wear costumes, walk on stilts and ride miniature motorcycles to entertain passers-by.
Reporter Sutanta Aditya visited the streets of Medan, Indonesia, last week and captured distressing images of the primates being carried around in metal chains and forced to wear masks to amuse local children.
But he said his images from behind the scenes are even more disturbing, with sad-looking animals kept in dark cages and being handled roughly as their keepers prepare them for the shows.
He said: “The shows are controversial because of the sensitivity of human feelings.
“When one person can think depriving other creatures of freedom in iron chains to make money is commonplace, I can see this comes from economic limitations.
“I can’t say if it’s cruel or not but it is a mirror for people to look at their own humanity.
“I wasn’t able to ask the monkey mask workers to stop.
“Caring humans who train macaques are skilled, but not if it is accompanied by violence and chains.
“If you’re taming a creature of God, there must be a responsibility which comes from this.
“I feel sad for the monkeys and hope my pictures produce thoughts and actions.”
In Indonesia, monkey mask artists earn from 75,000 to 150,000 rupiahs [between £4 and £8] in one day of work – just enough to conduct a modest lifestyle.
Sutanta interviewed monkey mask artist Andi, 28, who defended his job and said he turned to the profession three years ago, after struggling to find employment which could provide for his family.
Andi said: “Initially I was helping a friend of mine with his monkey mask performances.
“Then I started learning, I started recruiting baby monkeys and learned to tame them.
“Finally, I could make my own monkey mask exhibitions.
“Sometimes, artists don’t get support but instead are expelled because the exhibitions are noisy.
“Other times there are a lot of people watching the show, but nobody wants to give money.”
In Sutanta’s footage, Andi drags his monkey around the streets, sometimes on a pair of stilts, sometimes on a small motorbike, he is handed out notes by amused onlookers.
Sutanta said the animal seemed quietly resigned to its condition as it put the tiny helmet back on its head and steps on the motorbike.
The controversial exhibitions are also found in India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Thailand, China, Cambodia, Japan and Korea, and the audiences are mostly children.
Andi added: “I do understand that monkey mask art is a controversial profession in Indonesia.
“Some people like it, some don’t.
“But, as long as it does not disturb public order, I can still make a living as a monkey mask artist.”
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