Martapura: The Friday Market

South Kalimantan

March 8, 2015

Frankly, I don’t know what to expect.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.  And my sense is that in the remote areas of the archipelago, Islam tends to be practiced in a more conservative manner than in the areas near Jakarta, the capital.  

For example, the area of Aceh on the tip of the western island of Sumatra has a reputation for strict Islam.   Sulawesi, far to the east has the same reputation.  So, what will I find here in remote Kalimantan, the Indonesian area on the island of Borneo?

In Banjarmasin, I hire a taxi and we drive for an hour to the town of Martapura to visit the Friday Market.   The traffic is heavy; the streets are choked with every imaginable conveyance.  The stalls are busy and well-stocked with goods from native batik cloth to ripe bananas. 

As is my habit, I wander down a side street, and then a side street off the side street.  By chance, I arrive at the edge of a village where the lady in a small shop offers me tea and cake.   And just ahead is a gaggle of curious kids.  I raise my camera.  They dart away screeching and screaming.  Curious myself, I follow them down the narrow path and into the village.

Now here’s something I haven’t seen before:  a group of ladies are gathered in a large shop.  They are watching a tattoo artist as he paints a henna design on the forearm of a young woman.  My guess is correct:  the attractive tattoo is part of the young woman’s preparation for her wedding day.   The festive mood turns positively raucous when I raise my camera.

As for the kids I chased down the path?  I suppose they feel more comfortable when they are closer to home.  They are cheerful and energetic and rambunctious and screech now in delight as I contort my face into a silly clown-like mask. The children are the “show-stoppers” of this day.

And what about the adults in the market?  As far as I can tell, among the hundreds or thousands of folks on the streets here today, I am the only Westerner.   So, are the adults shy, or cool or unresponsive or even hostile to my “invasion” of their shops and their neighborhood? 

Or …..?

My photographs provide the answer….   

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