Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Little Scientists

On the pavement is a single white cow head. Grey plastic twine, knotted into a bow, holds the jaw shut. The neighbourhood girls are delighted.
One, in candy pink, kneels by the head and lifts the lip. "His teeth are very yellow," she reports. Another girl pulls up the eyelid. There is no squeamishness in these little scientists.

Tanah Abang, in central Jakarta, is lively with oil drum beats and the merriment of the Idul Adha holiday.
"Come! The butcher is here!" a woman in her best blouse urges, waving towards an alleyway narrow and shadowed. It leads to a courtyard splattered with blood, the open drainage channel thick with green digestive sludge. "Want a drink?" Someone offers a disposable plastic cup of water with a thin straw.

The butchers are slick and shirtless. Cigarettes smoulder between their lips while they eviscerate the goats hanging by their ankles from bamboo poles. Neighbours gather together to watch. This is the holiday spectacle.
"Do I look handsome?" brags a young butcher, standing stripped to the waist in the courtyard with a goat draped over one shoulder. He has a spider tattooed on one shoulder above a flag and the initials P.N.
The scene at the mosque is bloody and buoyant. "Welcome," says a man in an immaculate white tunic. "Do you celebrate Idul Adha in your country as well?" he asks as we step through the butchers' camaraderie to the open mosque door. "You do have Muslims, don't you? Then you must have Idul Adha."
The animals are divided into one-kilo portions and are distributed through the mosques to the local poor.


  1. nevermind, i'm sure the sate kambing tasted good.

  2. Brilliant photos, as always!

  3. Thanks Xan!
    "Keren": you sent me to the dictionary to discover that keren means "impressive".

    The dictionary actually gives a rather unusual example of usage: "Wah, keren betul pakai baju baru nyetir mobil Mercedes!" Which it translates as: "Hey! Hot stuff! Wearing a new suit and driving a Mercedes!"