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Kampung Luar Batang

A babysitter entertains kampung children while their parents are working

One of the first places I stumbled across and photographed after moving to Jakarta was Kampung Luar Batang. Tucked away behind the maritime museum in North Jakarta, it was a minor miracle that I found it in the first place. Dating from 1630, this area was known as the oldest neighbourhood in Jakarta, and some of these families had been living this life for generations.

A quasi tour guide that I met in the street offered to take me in and I jumped at the chance. He led me deep into the winding alleyways where I discovered a vibrant and happy community where most were living off of meagre earnings from fishing or dock work. The vitality of the place was apparent from the moment I plunged in - it was labyrinth of ramshackle and unplanned construction, filthy in places, but at the same time a heart-warming place where a smile and friendly greeting met you around every rickety corner. At the time, I was unaware that the wheels were already in motion to 'revitalise' the area and evict and re-settle the inhabitants.

Six months later, when a friend was passing through, I thought this would be the ideal place to introduce him to a form of traditional Indonesian life - this was right up his alley. I was upset to find the place was now a barren, bulldozed, muddy expanse with little hint of the structures or people of before. I couldn't help but feel sadness for the generation who had lived and lost a historic touchstone - a place that may have been ugly for some, but that was home and a source of stories and myths for its late inhabitants. This is not a unique story within Jakarta, a city in the midst of a rapid transformation. I do however feel thankful that I was able to document a sliver of that world before it evaporated.

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