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Mkemang, Indonesia

28 June 2017

Words / Images: Sarah Freeman

Much like its fruity nickname of the Big Durian, Jakarta is a city people either love or hate. Despite a long and diverse cultural history, the chaotic yet cosmopolitan capital of Indonesia serves predominantly as a business hub and gateway to the country’s 17,000-plus islands. If you can grin and bear the air pollution and gridlocked traffic, there’s a city brimming with enterprise and creativity to discover – you just need to know where to look.

A good place to start is Kemang, the city’s sprawling southern district and an incubator for Jakarta’s contemporary art scene. Galleries such as Biasa Artspace, Galeri Hadiprana and Edwin’s are leading the movement, together with concept stores like restaurant-cum-gallery Koi and community-focused Dia.lo.gue.

Before Kemang succumbed to development in the 1970s, it was a simple Betawi village strewn with traditional Javanese-style mosques, surrounded by green fields and a handful of its namesake Kemang mango trees. For a glimpse of the original kampung (village), you’ll need to explore the network of tree-lined alleys that lazily branch out from the neighbourhood’s main traffic-choked artery, Jalan Kemang Raya.

This neighbourhood is also the place to brunch, with families flocking to reliable haunts like Komunal 88 and Baconerie at the weekend while al fresco rooftop bars like FJ on 7 draw a younger crowd to their all-day Sunday parties.

Kemang’s diverse food scene is proof that nowhere in the city straddles two worlds quite like this district. Street food vendors wheel their colourful carts past towering residential blocks and fancy restaurants, and you can line your stomach with some of the best bubur ayam (rice congee) in town for about 40 US cents or spend 10 times that on a scoop of artisan ice cream. Add to this a slew of home decor stores, from upscale six-storey Bika Living specialising in colonial homewares to traditional shack-style shops and you have all the ingredients of a neighbourhood worth exploring.

THRIVE MOTORCYCLES

Kemang has its fair share of motorcycle repair shops but none with a waiting list that reads like a who’s who of Indonesian celebrities. Thrive’s five founders – a group of local creatives, including a photographer and a graphic designer – set up the garage six years ago. Despite having zero mechanical background, their like-minded passion for riding motorbikes prevailed.

The sketches hanging on the wall of Thrive’s topsy-turvy workshop reveal the quintet’s unusual design ethic, which head builder Barata Dwiputra brings to life in his reworking of classic motorcycles from Harleys to Hondas. No engine size is too big or small for Dwiputra. He works his magic on British, Japanese and American bikes, doing complete engine overhauls and hand-fabricated bodywork that has earned Thrive a reputation for top-notch craftsmanship. On average the custom workshop makes just eight bikes per year, each one a bespoke work of art.

Jl Kemang Timur Raya no 15

RT7/RW3

Bangka

Mampang Prpt

Kota Jakarta Selatan

Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta

12730

+812 840 14081

Also in the area...

PD KARYA MANDIRI

Nicknamed Kemang’s Bamboo Man, Karya Mandiri’s shack-style workshop is packed to the rafters with one-of-a-kind baskets, ladders and chicken cages-turned-lampshades, fashioned from bamboo with the owner’s trusty machete.

Jl Benda No 35
RT8/RW4
Cilandak Tim
Ps MingGu
Kota Jakarta Selatan
Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta
12560

DIA.LO.GUE

Although Dia.lo.gue’s location is just a stone’s throw from one of Kemang’s noisiest intersections, there are few places more tranquil in the city than this cultural venue. Designed by renowned Indonesian architect Andra Matin, the art space, cafe and shop’s indoor/outdoor vibe, concrete walls and wooden panels (not to mention floating staircase) make it one of the most instagrammable galleries in town. What’s in a name? Well, in Dia.lo.gue’s case, more than you’d think.

In Bahasa Indonesian, dia means he/she, lo means you and gue means me, echoing founder Engel Tanzil’s vision to build an art community. The light-flooded gallery hosts five to six major exhibitions a year showcasing mainly Indonesian artists, whilst the eclectic shop stocks ceramics, vintage posters and unique stationery crafted by local designers. Even if the art doesn’t float your boat, come here for a glass of iced lychee tea – best enjoyed alfresco in their shaded, stylish garden.

Jl Kemang Sel no 99a

Bangka, Mampang Prpt

Kota Jakarta Selatan

Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta

12730

+217 199 671 | dialogue-artspace.com

Also in the area...

MUSEUM DI TENGAH KEBUN


Translating as ‘museum in the middle of the garden’, you can take a 90-minute private tour of Pak Djalil’s vast collection of archaeological artefacts and antiques, sourced from over 63 countries.

Jl Kemang Timur Raya Raya Nomor No 66
RT7/RW3,
Bangka, Mampang Prpt
Kota Jakarta Selatan
Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta
12730
+217 196 907

VOO

This whimsical boutique might be housed in Colony 6 outlet mall but its vintage fixtures and secondhand furniture could be mistaken for an atelier. Tulisan started life in the garage of its graphic designer owner Melissa Sunjaya, who worked tirelessly on her grandmother’s Singer sewing machine alongside an upholstery tailor before launching the international lifestyle brand in 2010. Her passion for typography and illustration infuses the store’s colourful collections of notebooks, cooking aprons, passport holders, stationery and canvas tote bags, each one handcrafted and produced sustainably.

Jakarta-raised Melissa’s ongoing philanthropic work with KDM (a non-profit set up to rescue Jakarta’s street children) is encouraging conscious shopping. Her latest project has generated more than US$12,400 through the sale of 1,700 pepe dolls, handmade by disadvantaged kids using Tulisan fabric offcuts. Every doll sold provides one child with either a week’s worth of schooling, five square meals or up to 10 visits to the local health centre.

Jl Kemang Raya no 6

RT14/RW1

Bangka, Mampang Prpt

Kota Jakarta Selatan

Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta

12730

+212 952 9927

tulisan.com

Also in the area...

SIMPLY RAW


The brainchild of another native female entrepreneur, Yus Dina, this newly opened plant-based organic restaurant serves creative dishes like zucchini lasagne, fruitarian sushi and durian cacao tart.

Raya
Jl Benda Blok Bambu Kuning No 20A
RT6/RW4
East Cilandak
Pasar Minggu
South Jakarta City, Jakarta
12560
+212 278 0962

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