14 imagesAlmost exactly one year ago, Dolly, a quarter within the Indonesian second-largest city of Surabaya, made it way into the world's news for a good (or bad) cause. Often touted as the biggest red-light district in Southeast Asia and had been operating since the 1960s, it was officially closed by the local authority on 19th June of 2014. The authority argued the social problems Dolly has created was no longer bearable since it was located right in the crowded residential area of the city. One of the most notorious brothel in Dolly is Barbara, which said to host the best sex workers in all of Dolly. During its heyday there were more than 60 girls waiting in prison-like rooms within its six storey building. The price for sex here was ranging from US$25 to US$35, the most expensive around Dolly. The first step of the Dolly's total closure were actually started from this place too. Tri Rismaharini, the lady mayor of Surabaya and a devout muslim, decided to acquire Barbara for IDR 9 billion (around US$750,000) using the government's budget, a great amount in Indonesian standard for an uninspiring structure. A pilot project then started here for the empowerment of the locals who are affected by the closure of Dolly. Barbara's first floor now houses an internet training facility for local kids and a small shoes workshop for adults. But stepping above, the scene is still very much grim. The prison-like rooms are yet to be renovated. According to the plan a public library is in the to-do list. It was from those abandoned rooms I then collected scattered items that become the material of this series: few things that left behind. Dolly may not exist anymore (although it goes online now), but by looking at these items, we are offered a different perspective and a glimpse into the past of one of its brothel.
27 imagesStraddling in the middle of the deep Indonesian Banda Sea, the island of Rhun is a place that define isolation. It appears like an anti-thesis of our modern world: it is not easy to reach, and there is no phone signal nor cars. It is also too small to be visible on most map, or if it does, it is probably an exaggeration or clue for its past importance. Looking from a high point towards the seaside settlement in the island, it resembles nothing more than a sleepy fishing village. Rhun was busier few centuries ago, and much more important too. Along with few other islands in the Banda archipelago, it was among the place the seafaring European most sought after. The reason was the nutmeg that used to be exclusively grow in the Banda. It was useful in preserving food in the world without refrigerator and believed to contain the power for curing various illnesses. Along with other spices, it drove the European to navigate the uncharted territories in the east, fueling the Age of Discovery. It was Portuguese that arrived first in the Banda in the early 15th century for the spice trade, but later the Dutch came taking control for the most part of the archipelago shadowed by English that laid their claims on Rhun. Rhun is considered as one of the earliest English colony overseas. According to historian John Keay in his book titled The Honourable Company, Rhun is comparable in its significance in the history of the British Empire as Runnymede is to British constitutional history. But in fact things never went really for the English in Rhun as the Dutch fought for the full monopoly in Banda. Following some bloodshed and truce, Rhun was formally handed through the treaty of Breda in 1667 by the English to the Dutch in exchange for New Amsterdam, or popularly known as Manhattan, making the Dutch monopoly completed in the Banda and the Spice Islands. The Dutch monopoly on nutmeg and mace was only ended by the transfer of nutmeg trees to Ceylon, Grenada, and other British colonies in the early 19th century, leading to the decline of the Dutch supremacy in the spice trade. Thus at the same time, Rhun and also the rest of Banda, has slipped into obscurity. Today, there is very little evidence of Rhun's glorious past left in the island. Nutmeg still grows in Rhun and somehow it still serves as a local currency as people can trade it for clothing or boat engine. But it is never a lucrative business like it once was. Coming into Rhun is also a real nuisance since the only way to arrive and depart from the island served by a small wooden passenger vessel. And it is not unusual for the boat to halt its services once the sea get a little too rough, which happens often in the Banda. Long after its past importance, Rhun has really grew into a place that the world grew to forget.
46 imagesThe story of Kosovo Ballet is portrait of a struggle. Formed within the National Theater of Kosovo in 1972 by Ahmet Brahimaj, a young Kosovar who had studied ballet in Skopje, the troupe made a great contribution toward the establishment of art scene in Kosovo. As one of the youngest ballet troupe in the Balkans, they performed well in many stages in the former Yugoslavia and some major international festival. But, after many years of hard-labour, the conflict in the region at the end of 80s affected the ballet activities. The Serbian authority, who was worried of the voice brought by the ballet, put them under police surveillance. And yet the worst was just about to begin: in 1991, the dancers of the Kosovo Ballet were banned by force from the theater. For once, all the ballet activities was ceased. In 2001, public saw the revival of the ballet troupe for the first time. After many years of silence, the first generation of the Kosovo Ballet returned to the stage. By then, they were accompanied by the young dancer of the school which just established earlier. In 2005, the first class of the ballet high school also graduated and continue forming the core of the troupe onto these days. However life was never easy in the newborn Republic of Kosovo where living cost is high and unemployment is widespread. The members of the troupe, which mostly work full-time for the ballet, gain only around 250-350 euro per month, barely enough to live. The ballet itself also dreams for a new venue and proper training facilities. But with the improving situation in the country, the members are optimistic. For them, the future is never looked brighter like today.
21 imagesThe haze resulted from forest fires and burning peatlands has covered the greater part of western Indonesia for months towards the end of 2015. With nearly 100,000 active fire detections all over the country, the recent disaster was the worst since 1997. The major cause was illegal land-clearing by slash and burn, mostly to make way for palm oil plantations. Indonesia, with majority of plantations located in the island of Borneo and Sumatra, is currently the largest producer of palm oil in the world. The disaster has directly affected the lives of more than 40 millions population within at least five countries, with more than 500,000 suffered acute respiratory infection. The emissions generated each day during the worst month last September exceeding the daily average from all U.S. economic activity, an economy twenty times larger than Indonesia. Some scientists argued it is possibly the greatest environmental disaster in the 21th century, while the others called it as a crime against humanity. This work highlights the disastrous effect around the city of Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan, the worst affected area in Indonesia by far. By focusing on the landscape, I hope to present how the haze transformed the city into an unlivable place. Here, the haze was so thick that the sun remained unseen for weeks. In some days, the sky turned orange and visibility was limited into less than a hundred meters. Since air toxicity level was way too high, the government advised the citizens to limit their outdoor activities.