Down and Out in Jakarta

A survey on the effects of Java’s migration to the capital. There, tens of thousands live in plywood sheds no more than an arm’s length away from railroad tracks and in housing built on stilts above pools full of garbage, plastic, and rotting hyacinths. The eviction of the poor and razing of their organically grown settlements are perpetrated in the name of property development.

“For a week I had accompanied a group of young people from the slums of Jakarta as they toured Indonesia’s capital in search of a living. They worked as mobile teams – difficult for the authorities to catch. They sang and made music in the public buses, and they waited outside the supermarkets for rich women whose bags they might carry to the car park. They sold newspapers at the traffic lights on main roads, and at the port they collected lumps of ice from the fishing boats to sell to the restaurants. If they found any stray dogs, they beat them to death slowly with clubs, so that the cramps which toughen the flesh did not develop, and then they burned off the fur with a gas-torch before cooking the meat under the bridges of the Ciliwung. Once a day I invited them to a Kentucky Fried Chicken – that was their wish.” (Excerpt from One World, or Something of that Sort, in: Tales from a Globalizing World. Daniel Schwartz, ed., Thames & Hudson, London 2003)

The survey was commissioned by SDC – Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Bern.