Any mention of Jakarta conjures up images of kampongs (villages) dispersed in a city of high-rises and monumental boulevards. At the same time what comes to mind is a city of endless sprawl, choc a block with traffic. Not only has the urbanisation project of the city in the last several decades given shape to a massive territory which can be described differently as a metropolitan; megalopolis or a megacity pocked with traces of settlements it has absorbed, but it has also given shape to a unique hybrid urban landscape that extends far beyond any regional or metropolitan jurisdictions and boundaries. If one is to traverse this settlement landscape one comes across an amorphous continuum characterised by the juxtaposition of rural and urban worlds in varying proportions and dimensions, with a gradient from highly urban to deep rural areas. These landscapes are aided by systems of efficient and rapid transport, road networks and flows of services and migration; resource and capital. One also notices ‘handmade landscapes’ of symbiotic habitation and ecology that have been shaped by the culture of rice farming subsistence.
The following visual essay tries to capture the dynamics of these urban rural systems and how these are facilitated. It also tries to capture the rapid pace of the urbanisation project in this region and how productive landscapes are giving way to urban wastelands. The narrative of this essay might resonate with the conditions across many similar metropolitan regions in Monsoon Asia.