Around 6 PM, every participant of Akumassa Ad Hoc from many communities came one by one. Otty started to give us briefing. After the briefing, one of my friends asked me to watch the theatre show, 13 Windows, which Galis and Ira had played roles in it.
“Galis and Ira are the couple whose house we live in,” said Otty.
Then Otty told us about a very active couple who empowered the youth in particular, and the inhabitants of Paseban in general, through the art and cultural activities. They had found Paseban Cultural Community.
Ari and I did not get to go to watch the theater. We had a discussion about the akumassa Ad-Hoc project, which was initiated by the Forum Lenteng akumassa Program — directly coordinated by Otty — to participate in the Jakarta Biennale 2013 event, entitled SIASAT (Tactic).
Some of my colleagues, let’s call them Anib and Zikri, were coming from the Teater Kecil building direction with a little disappointed look. They could not enter the theatre hall because it was full. Finally, we decided to get into Kampong Paseban, because there were a lot of things to talk about.
“Please, don’t expect to see luxurious houses there…,” said Otty to Ari and me, while we were passing the big houses at Paseban Raya Street.
“We still have to get into the small alley anyway …,” Otty proceed.
I was very curious to be in the middle of the Paseban inhabitants. My friends had told me about a lot of interesting events in Paseban. They had been living in there more than a week since before I had arrived in Jakarta. Ira and Galis’ house was at Kampong Paseban, in Kramat Sawah III, in Senen District.
***Historically, Paseban has important historical value. Paseban is the name of the village as well as the name of villages in Central Jakarta. ‘Paseban’ literally means gathering. Precisely, Paseban became a gathering place for troops of Sultan Agung of Central Java in an assault of Batavia, during1628-1629, to expel the VOC. However, in the two attacks carried, Sultan Agung failed to get the win. The second attack was precisely then fouled Ciliwung River and caused an outbreak of cholera in Batavia at the time.
Paseban inhabitants themselves were very familiar with that history. When I asked why the village was named Paseban, let alone parents, even the children could tell you the story, though in different versions. However, the core of the central Paseban Community was very understandable by the Paseban inhabitants.
There were two things that represented Paseban in real life society. The first was the presence of Paseban Cultural Community, founded by Galis and his wife, Ira. The community was founded in 2000. However, after one year, Paseban Cultural Community still had not had a program. Therefore, the two founders first had focused on activities that examined how and what had been needed by the Paseban citizens.
“During the first year, we both just hung out with the people here, watching what was required for Paseban citizens, especially citizens of the Keramat Sawah Street,” said Galis.
Furthermore, Galis added that the inhabitants apparently had missed the space, somehow even the shape of the space, either as a space of social, youth, or arts and culture. Thus, the existence of Paseban Cultural community as an empowerment community was one channel solution for them.
Galis admitted that it was not easy to invite people to form communities. One of the difficulties was the background of very diverse community. Although he acknowledged that ethnic differences was not the main problem.
Moreover, he admitted that in the early stages of running Paseban Cultural Community, they had had difficulties in programming. This was due to the consideration, from which all of this would start, and how to start those programs.
However, according to my observations, it seemed the Paseban spirit embedded on its own citizens. So, although it had taken a long time, there were many positive activities organized by Paseba Culture Community by involving citizens. It had been 13 years, this community still existed to encourage and establish awareness of Pasebans.
From Galis’ story, initially he had invited residents to watch the German animation film accompanied by gamelan music from Indramayu. Later, he had invited the residents to develop creativity through drawing and painting on paper, which then continued to the thematic painting in the trash can. Painting in the trash can was a message made by the citizens to keep and care for the environment around.
The cultural community now has members from all citizen elements, be it mothers, fathers and youth, and also children. Their activities are theater, workshops, exhibitions, bazaars, film screenings and even up to the free treatment, both medical and non-medical.
Even more interesting was how the Paseban Cultural Community implemented community-based work system with citizen participation (participatory management system). For example, in a painting program, Community did not prepare material, but the people did, such as the T-shirt painting activity, which the residents prepared the shirt.
Furthermore, the interesting part of Paseban Cultural Community was, to build awareness of their economy. Ira, as one of the founders of this community, was a creative person, who channeled her creativity to the housewifes. Every Wednesday, they gathered and held a craft workshop. Usually, they made recycling crafts, such as making wrappers gallon, tablecloths, and used straw mats. According to Ira, in addition to environmental benefits, the workshop that she gave to the members could have economic value. Just imagine, one dozen coasters could reach Rp. 20.000, -.
Paseban Cultural Community activity was an exemplary activity for other communities. Often, the community’s existence was not in contact with its society so that made gaps and the lack of understanding of the community. Moreover, if we looked at where Paseban Cultural Community located in area that had a high mobility, where people sometimes became very individualistic.
***The second representative case, which was also interesting from Paseban Cultural Community, was Perintis Square. Perintis square was one of the most crowded spot in Paseban. This square was such a center of “cultural activities” in Paseban. Many unique and interesting things happened almost every time in this square.
This square, actually, was a badminton court built long time ago. According to residents, there were a lot of previous squares like this in Paseban. But now only two remained. One of them was Perintis square. Right next to it, there was a post of RW02, who also became one of the forums for people to complain and seek solutions to their problems.
Many Paseban residents’ activities set out in this square. In the morning, we would see mothers bringing their children to pre-school Bahagia, which was located beside the kampong administration Office. And in the break time, little kids would come out and play at Perintis square. In addition, the merchants house a wheel barrow, flashed with different characteristics. Some used their own voices screaming to attracted buyers, some other used electric music adding to the boisterous atmosphere of Perintis Square.
Not to mention in the afternoon. Because this field was always crowded, so ondel-ondel show and street dangdut music band deliberately lingered in this square. Once, when we were holding a photography workshop at the square, we heard ondel–ondel musical sound. Instantly, the children became excited and scattered. They immediately surrounded ondel–ondel group and danced just like the ondel–ondel danced. And occasionally, they would yell to follow the drumbeats. What a ‘Jakarta’ atmosphere.
Indeed, it was not enough to see Paseban in a few days. However, the experience of seeing Paseban Cultural Community activities and being in Perintis square with its colorful citizens, was a really interesting social experience (as well as the visual experience).
*Most of the images in this paper is a documentation archive belongs to Paseban Cultural Community
This article has been published in the Art on Senen Border journal (Forum Lenteng, 2013). The journal is one of the results of collaborative work of the authors of some of the communities who were involved in the Project of Akumassa Ad Hoc initiated by the Forum Lenteng AKUMASSA Program, in order to participate in the Jakarta Biennale 2013 – SIASAT (Tactic).