DixPix Photographs

     

INDONESIAN ARCHIPELAGO

 
     
  WORKING  

 

Lets face it, with the exception of the indigenous areas, most people in this region work in jobs which would be easily recognizable to westerners.  They sell, they cook, they teach, they drive things and they work in the service industries, and the thousand other employments that make the modern world go around.  What follows are some of the occupations which are a little different, or a little less modern.  For most of them there are mechanized counterparts, but it is the older ways which are more colorful.

 

A major portion of the people living in this region are subsistence farmers, working small plots of land, often family owned. Click to see big picture (367x480 pixels; 74 KB)
Many of the things they produce for themselves and for the market are common world-wide, such as here.  Those which are more regional are discussed in the pages called Fruits and Vegetables and Weird Foods. Click to see big picture (640x427 pixels; 129 KB)
There are also secondary industries which support agriculture and food distribution, such as this woman building clay pots in northern Suluwesi. Click to see big picture (329x480 pixels; 75 KB)
Rice is the staple for most of Indonesia, and where conditions are suitable it is grown on a massive scale. Click to see big picture (640x418 pixels; 136 KB)
Planting rice in a more tradition valley setting, with stone-lined irrigation ponds. Click to see big picture (640x412 pixels; 111 KB)
Larger holdings are tended by hired workers, some contracted as 'work gangs' when needed. Click to see big picture (640x365 pixels; 83 KB)
But a great number of Indonesians still work family plots on a subsistence level. Click to see big picture (640x385 pixels; 107 KB)
A typical picturesque home, built on a mound amid the rice paddies. Click to see big picture (640x473 pixels; 123 KB)
On the other hand, if things are going well, one of the first purchases is often a satellite dish and TV.  One must also be close to the electrical grid. Click to see big picture (640x409 pixels; 115 KB)
Subsistence farmers also grow other crops and livestock, both to feed themselves and to have something to take to market.  This Sumatran scene could be from many third-world countries. Click to see big picture (579x480 pixels; 117 KB)
And while in the market, why not try a game of chess with the locals. chess
Slash and burn agriculture is still common in many areas, often as part of the permanent clearing of the rain forests.  This is known as Ladang farming. Click to see big picture (640x392 pixels; 99 KB)
Here in Sarawak, an Iban tribal group have burned an area to plant corn.  The fertility of the soil allows only one good crop.  In areas of ongoing volcanism and volcanic ash deposits, such as Sumatra, the soil is richer in nutrients and more resilient. Click to see big picture (640x449 pixels; 138 KB)
Increasingly, agribusiness and large holdings are taking over, such as this complex in southern Suluwesi viewed from the air. Click to see big picture (640x405 pixels; 93 KB)
And this is an aerial view of a plantation, likely of oil palms, for which huge sections of the rain forest have been destroyed in southeast Asian. Click to see big picture (640x442 pixels; 88 KB)
Much of the annual burning of the forests in the dry season is to clear land for plantations. Click to see big picture (640x414 pixels; 77 KB)
While oil palms seem to be the modern plantation favorite, rubber trees are more traditional.  These were originally imported from Brazil, where they cannot be grown in monocultures due to a disease which has not (yet) reached Asia.  Typically the latex (sap) is collected in coconut shells, after the trees have been grooved. Click to see big picture (568x480 pixels; 145 KB)
The contents of hundreds of shells are dumped into pits, along with antibiotics and preservatives; then the blocks so formed are removed and allowed to 'cure' in water.  The stench is considerable. Click to see big picture (640x457 pixels; 114 KB)
And then there is the largely illegal logging industry.  Introducing a Sumatran log loader. Click to see big picture (640x426 pixels; 106 KB)
At least the industry employs a lot a people, instead of relying on big machines. Click to see big picture (640x400 pixels; 137 KB)
A small portion of the logs are milled locally for lumber, etc. sawmill
But most are trucked to the coast for milling and for export. Click to see big picture (640x432 pixels; 94 KB)
Between plantation development, logging and a general dislike of jungles, the Indonesian rain forest is disappearing very rapidly.  More on this under Environmental Problems. Click to see big picture (640x424 pixels; 94 KB)
With loss of the rain forest and growth of cities, the hunting and gathering way of life is ever less prominent.  Here a woman gathers a rounded species of pitcher plants to use as cups. Click to see big picture (339x480 pixels; 62 KB)
Disappearing also, is the use of the water buffalo for clearing land. Click to see big picture (640x433 pixels; 146 KB)
Enter the backhoes and bulldozers, which along with fire are the modern methods of clearing the rain forests. Click to see big picture (640x430 pixels; 91 KB)
Although some workers still dig in bare feet. Click to see big picture (616x480 pixels; 127 KB)

Another artisanial industry which is still alive is gold extraction.  Even in prehistoric times, Sumatra was known as the land of gold.  Here it is being panned from stream sediments in traditional style.

Click to see big picture (640x457 pixels; 76 KB)
Gold flakes in a wooden pan after all lighter material has been washed away, with a pencil for size. Click to see big picture (640x454 pixels; 108 KB)
Other small scale methods of separating gold include the sluice box on left, and the ingenious micro-mill on right.  Turned by water power, this mill grinds ore with mercury to extract the gold.  The dangers of mercury in the water seems to be unrecognized. Click to see big picture (640x366 pixels; 113 KB)
A typical hard-scrabble mining town in the mountains of the Bengkulu Province of southwestern Sumatra. Click to see big picture (640x420 pixels; 136 KB)
A group of self-employed miners takes a smoke break before heading back down the shaft behind them. Click to see big picture (480x314 pixels; 58 KB)
Underground, by the light of ancient carbide lamps, the miners use their experience to decide what ore to bring up for milling.  The gold itself in not visible. Click to see big picture (640x448 pixels; 109 KB)
Other miners try to extend the old Dutch (and Japanese) gold mines, here in the Muaraaman area of Sumatra. Click to see big picture (640x447 pixels; 92 KB)
The results are known as 'rat-hole" mining, as workers excavate small leads and veinlets in an erratic fashion.  Could that be the writer up there? Click to see big picture (332x480 pixels; 92 KB)
From new shafts or old mines, the goal is a small pile of muck and rock chips, which hopefully contain invisible gold.  Only the mills will tell. Click to see big picture (640x434 pixels; 121 KB)