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Art In Jakarta's Old Town

Who says grassroots in Jakarta only cause social and environmental problems, as well as littering the streets and the sidewalks? They are a group of people that is excluded from modern city life. Similar to the old city that is dull, the paint of its old frames had long been peeled. They are marginalized by the new part of town, shiny granite floors, frames of aluminum, dazzling glass-walled. This paper will discuss grassroots from a different angle. Grassroots whose talents is through the brush strokes on canvas, sketching pencil scribbles on paper which have artistic value.

Look for example, at the sidewalk of Pintu Besar Street of Jakarta, there are street-painters, grassroots who worked through their instinct of art: painting. They paint the faces of people as well as the old part of town to make a living. The painters present their paintings at the edge of the sidewalk, protected from rain and sun by tent or the top floor of a row of shop houses that is jutting out. For those who are interested in this service can leave the photo to be painted with a black pencil for 400 thousand rupiah. However, the street painters are not only painted with pencil, also with oil paint for man faces or buildings in the old town

The painter also painted murals on the walls of the uninhabited house. Their painting is clearly seen from across the street, enlivening the atmosphere of the city traffic jams. With a firm expression of criticism, in 2001 they painted political figures who were that time on the stage of Indonesia. Secretly a professor from the University of Leiden who was passing by click the mural picture as part of his paper about Jakarta.

At the door of the shop, closed for seventeen years since the riots of 1998, they hang an assortment of paintings. On the walls of the neglected shop house they expressed their mind through painting to forget the economic conditions that plagued them into street-painters. Jakarta modern city already does not want to look at them again, threw them into the old town which is forgotten. Street-painters are the creator of beauty that are being buried by the glittering city, such as the old city of Jakarta, which was eliminated by the sparkling modern city.

The painters are devoting his talents on the sidewalk where people rarely pass by, in front of the uninhabited shop house. Indeed, since the 1998 riots many buildings are damaged and left by its inhabitants, so that wild plants emerged on the neglected upper floors. The owners of empty shop houses are trauma of the riots that destroyed his property. But the terrace of their empty house became a place for artists to work.

The art of painting like in Pintu Besar Street has to be developed to turn the old city on. In the old towns of Europe, for example, can be found the street painters who became the center of pedestrians attention. In Paris many painters paint the corners of the city and their painting reproductions are for sale at roadside stalls. On the banks of the canals of Amsterdam there are also the painters who became the center of a crowd of pedestrians who later bought the painting.

The correct city is a city that is able to embrace its artists. City that elevates the dignity of the painters and give them a place. Painting on a piece of sidewalk of Pintu Besar Street may not be comparable with the paintings in the gallery of famous artists, but they, the grassroots, make the old town alive despite dying.

In Pasar Baru, on the edge of the Samanhudi Street, there is also a seller of the painting and frame for painting or photograph. Their stall is at the sidewalk taking the pedestrian place.  If floods come during the rainy season they rush to save the paintings. Once the rain stropped, they held back paintings in the "tent gallery”.

From the interviews, most of them are painters who did not come from art school. They learned to paint autodidact and eventually making a living with his art skills. All art work was started on the fun, hobby, be it painting or other art. Art capabilities will evolve if government, city government or the central government seriously develop the arts in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta's old town

Ironically, the painters in the old city of Jakarta are walking alone. They hung their paintings in places where no tourists visit, hence they cannot be part of the tourism attractions. Art in the Old City is part of a method to revive the old city.

The old city sidewalks should be a gallery of paintings for everyone, not isolated like the sidewalk of Pintu Besar Street. Residents of the city should be proud and valuable when walking there, appreciate and criticized the art work of the Jakarta painter. The old town’ sidewalks are not just a place for the painters of the lower classes who cannot exhibit in the gallery, but also home of the famous painter to open a gallery there. Jakarta's old town is the home of painters and artists in general. Could it be?

A Painter at Pintu Besar Street
A Painter At Pintu Besar Street