The Jakarta Post - JPlus - - Between The Lines - WORDS & PHO­TOS TARKO SUDIARNO

A cor­ner of the city

Al­most all ma­jor cities in In­done­sia are home to Chi­na­towns, in­clud­ing Surabaya, the na­tion’s sec­ond largest city. Tam­bak Bayan kam­pung, situated on the banks of Kal­i­mas River that di­vides the city cen­ter, is no gleam­ing gated com­mu­nity, but one of the poor­est ar­eas of Surabaya.

The area was the site of Istal Kuda (horse sta­bles) dur­ing the Dutch colo­nial era and the Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion dur­ing World War II. Chi­nese mi­grants from Can­ton be­gan re­sid­ing in the area from 1930, tak­ing jobs as car­pen­ters, sta­ble hands and cooks. The 30 heads of house­hold in the area to­day are their de­scen­dants.

Most of the fam­i­lies live in res­i­dences mea­sur­ing 4 x 4 m that are neatly ar­ranged within the hall-like struc­ture of the for­mer sta­bles, al­though sev­eral other fam­i­lies re­side in ad­ja­cent houses.

De­spite their tough eco­nomic con­di­tions, the res­i­dents live in har­mony. Tra­di­tional Chi­nese cus­toms and cul­tural ob­ser­va­tions per­sist, and the res­i­dents ex­tend a friendly greet­ing to vis­i­tors.

How­ever, the area is threat­ened by pro­posed de­vel­op­ment of a ho­tel. The prospect of los­ing their long­time homes haunts the lo­cals.

“We were born and grew up in Istal. I am the fourth gen­er­a­tion of eth­nic Chi­nese peo­ple liv­ing in Tam­bak Bayan,” said Gepeng, a young ac­tivist in the kam­pong.

LIT­TLE CHANGED: Car­pen­ter Lie Cie Sieng lives in a com­mu­nal home. (pho­tos clock­wise from cen­ter) Two gen­er­a­tions of a fam­ily take a time­out to­gether. Neigh­bor­hood ac­tivist Gepeng wears tra­di­tional Chi­nese at­tire. Nio Koen Hing pulls water from a well.

DAILY LIVES: Touches of Chi­nese her­itage are on dis­play in the home of Liong Kem Wen. Most res­i­dences con­sist of one room to live in.

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