Maesy and Teddy of POST Santa. (Photo courtesy of Liandro Siringoringo)

A Creative POST at Pasar Santa

MAY 19, 2015

Jakarta. Since 2014, Pasar Santa, a traditional market near the Senopati area in South Jakarta, has unexpectedly become the hippest congregation for creative types in the city. If the market used to be frequented by housewives looking to buy groceries and home essentials, now it has become a new weekend destination swarmed by those weary of yet another visit to shopping malls.

Encouraged by its relatively low rent price and rather strategic location, many young entrepreneurs have opened up their businesses here. Ranging from specialty coffee joints and food stalls (serving the likes of noodles and tacos) to vinyl stores and barbershops, most of them inhabit tiny slots of space on the market’s upper floor.

But in the middle of this oft-hectic scene where foodies and culture enthusiasts alike mingle side-by-side, a brightly lit corner of about eight square-meters emanates a different kind of atmosphere. The place features a yellow signage that simply reads “POST,” accompanied by a sentence painted on its exterior wall: “Books, gatherings & all things creative.” Inside, numerous books along with some framed paintings and illustrations are tidily displayed on wooden shelves and tables.

Enter POST Santa, a pop-up bookshop and community hub dedicated to creative expressions of any kind. A brainchild of Maesy Angelina, Teddy W. Kusuma and Steven Ellis, the place has so far hosted various cultural events and creative programs, such as marathon writing sessions and art exhibitions, on weekends.

It all started when Maesy and Teddy visited Pasar Santa for the first time in July 2014 to attend an event held by a record shop there.

“Aside from ABCD School of Coffee and Sub Store, the upper floor of the market was very empty at the time. But then we met and talked with many people, and we found a very lively community here. Afterward, we met with our friend Steven and thought about creating something new at the market,” says Maesy, a writer who works on research and innovation for women empowerment and poverty reduction. 

The visit culminated into the idea to establish POST.

“We envisioned it as a ‘post’ inside the market — a place where creative communities of all kind can gather, organize events, meet the public and bring more people to Pasar Santa,” Maesy adds.

After renovating the space with the help of people working at Pasar Santa and using supplies they can find at the market itself, they finally opened the space in August 2014. Inspired by their passion for books, they filled POST Santa with a variety of titles that one rarely encounters at big bookstores in Jakarta.

“Our first intention in opening this pop-up bookshop is to help independent publishers in Indonesia. They have published many great books that offer something different from the mainstream ones, but it’s hard to find them. So we want to create a hub to introduce these independent titles,” Maesy explains. 

“Some of the independent publishers that are distributing their books at POST Santa include Banana, Marjin Kiri Indie Book Corner, Serambi, and Kata Bergerak,” adds Teddy, a financial management analyst who blogs about travel with Maesy at Thedustysneakers.com.

POST Santa also carries some English-language titles, ranging from literature and essay compilations to graphic novels and art books.

“These are the results of our book hunts, where we usually only get one or two copy of each title. I think this is why people are always interested in coming back to our place. We always post our new titles on Instagram, and if they do not hurry, someone else might already purchase them," Maesy says. “We also have some used books. People can donate their books to us and we’ll curate the selection.”

The POST Santa team is also armed with the mission to empower emerging creative individuals and communities who want to engage a wider public.

“If we hold an exhibition here, we wouldn’t feature a popular artist who already has access to, say, the National Gallery. Instead, we are interested to feature new talents — for instance, a comic artist who once did a 24-hour drawing marathon and whose comic was inspired by The Beatles,” Maesy explains.

Other recent events include an art exhibition called “Luka Lama” ("Old Wounds"), which was curated by Ika Vantiani and featured works by students of Erudio School of Art. On another occasion, a film critic workshop by Adrian Jonathan Pasaribu and Andreas Rossi Dewantara took place as part of POST Santa’s regular writing sessions. 

“For the writing community, we like to organize classes and writing challenges. Windy Ariestanty once shared about narrative non-fiction, and there was Reda Gaudiamo who gave a class on writing stories for children. We plan to make more classes like this in the near future,” Maesy says.

Through events like these, the team aims to attract people who share the same interest but might feel intimidated to join a more established community event.

“We want POST Santa to be a safe place for amateurs to gather,” she adds.

In planning the events for each weekend, Teddy mentions that they often brainstorm together with the community POST Santa is going to feature.

“Many of them are still newcomers in their respective fields and we discuss about how we can showcase their works best, be it through exhibition, discussion or other events. We encourage them to interact and speak directly with the general public through these events,” he says.

As one of the earliest pioneers of Pasar Santa’s new face, POST is also actively involved in a movement to advocate the sustainability of the market. The rising rent price, among other factors, has started to become a disadvantage for small, low-income tenants who have inhabited the market for many years.

“When we first came, the market was dead. From around 350 kiosks on the upper floor; there were only about two or three tenants. But now, with a wave of media attention and many people seeing good business opportunities here, we need regulations that will prevent tenants from being displaced from the market,” says Maesy, who banded together with other tenants to start the #SustainableSanta movement.

They recently started a petition for Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama to protect the tenants of Pasar Santa.

“The challenge is to ensure that affordable rent price at Pasar Santa can stay in line with the economic interests of the market’s private developer,” Teddy adds.

When asked about POST Santa’s future, Maesy admits that the team aims to do continue this "experiment" for a year.

“We also have to see the conditions of the market. Do we want to be part of the ecosystem? If some tenants end up being displaced, I don’t think it’s right for us to stay here,” she explains. “The future is still up in the air. And what we want to do now is to experiment as much as possible — to get more people here and create new things together.

For more information, check out @post_santa on Instagram.

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