Jakarta. Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city and home to more than 10 million people, has no shortage of problems: traffic gridlocks, flash floods, dirty – and smelly – waterways, lack of cheap housing, lack of clean water – the list of complaints goes on. But a photo exhibition currently running at the Plaza Indonesia shopping mall in Central Jakarta is bravely trying to encourage the city's residents to love the city despite its many shortcomings.
The exhibition is called "#JakartaRumahku" ("Jakarta is My Home"), organized by Jakarta-based creative consultant Vosfoyer and held on the fourth floor of the flashy mall from Aug. 9 to Aug. 30. This is the second #JakartaRumahku exhibition after its inaugural event last year.
At the exhibition’s opening on Friday (10/08), Vosfoyer founder and chief executive William Sudhana said the event brings together content creators from various backgrounds to tell photo and video stories about diversity and tolerance in the megalopolitan.
The photos and videos are created by 20 photographers and 20 videographers who collaborated with the SabangMerauke foundation. The collaboration also involved students from all corners of Indonesia who were invited to a three-week exchange program in Jakarta. The creators followed the students and documented their experiences.
"We held a photo and video competition on Instagram asking people to define tolerance for themselves. We had about 200 submissions and whittled them down to 20 photographers and 20 videographers. We didn't just look for pretty pictures, but also strong stories," William told the Jakarta Globe.
SabangMerauke program officer Wildan Mahendra said the foundation is funded by corporate partners and also uses Kitabisa.com's crowdfunding platform to raise money to fly the students to Jakarta and house them for a week.
"This is an interfaith exchange program. This year for the first time we had participants from aliran kepercayaan ['spiritual beliefs' outside the six state-sanctioned religions]," Wildan also said.
A story accompanies each photo or video in the exhibition. One interesting work featured Hilyatul "Ila" Aulia Syahrul, a hijab-wearing junior high school student from Bulukumba, South Sulawesi, photographed by Reinardus Darren.
Ila visited a church as part of her exchange program. But the appearance of a hijab-wearing young woman there shocked some in the congregation.
"They were afraid she was a terrorist. People were still paranoid after what had happened in Surabaya," Wildan said.
In May, 13 people were killed in suicide bomb attacks on three churches in Surabaya – including the bombers who were members of the same Muslim family.
Ila and the pastor at the church had to explain to the congregation that she was there as part of SabangMerauke's interfaith exchange program.
The exhibition also includes 40 portraits of Jakarta celebrities taken by fashion photographer Rio "Riop" Prasetia. The celebs – actors, models, Instagrammers – had their photos taken at their favorite spots in the city. Each photo comes with a quote on why they love Jakarta.
Riop said he selected celebrities who have worked with him before, including model and actor Mike Lewis.
Lewis said he grew up in Canada, the United States and China but has chosen to live in Jakarta in the past 15 years.
"Jakarta is my home," he said.
He said life is indeed hard in the megalopolitan, but Jakartans are "special" because they "always find beauty in life."
The "Dead Mine" actor also said he is impressed by the city administration's effort to tidy up the city for the Asian Games this month and that people should be proud of the progress being made.
Meanwhile, actress Asmara Abigail ("Setan Jawa," "Pengabdi Setan") said Jakarta has made her tougher. But since she now lives in Tangerang, just outside Jakarta, Asmara admitted she is more than grateful to have the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital at the end of the day.
Other celebrities featured in Riop's photo series include singer Tasya, actress Hannah Al Rashid, Kimokal’s vocalist Kallula, indie rock band Efek Rumah Kaca and fashion blogger Anastasia Siantar.
Designed by architect Kamil Muhmmad from Pppooolll studio, the exhibition space is set up like your typical Jakarta cafe, with brightly painted metal racks and indoor plants in every corner. One wall is kept bare for visitors to write down their impressions of the exhibition.
MauBelajarApa.com, an online marketplace that connects students with tutors, also hosts a series of workshops and sharing sessions throughout the exhibition. The workshops are earmarked for young content creators. The sharing sessions are free but you have to pay a registration fee to join the workshops. Schedules and prices are on the MauBelajarApa website.