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.