John Kevin Chandra
The Mangrove Parliament: Foundations of a Capital
Thesis Supervisor: A/P Dr. Lilian Chee
Site: Northern Tip of Jakarta, Muara Angke Kapuk Wetland
A country with the world’s largest mangrove forests, the capital city of Jakarta is constructed on swampy foundations. At the same time, past neglect of mangroves, worsened by climate change and rising sea levels, has resulted in geological subsidence of the Indonesian capital at a rate of over 25cm per year. Despite widespread neglect, the mangrove forest is central to the survival of this capital. Extending beyond this ecological argument, the thesis probes the significance of the mangrove to the capital city from a cultural perspective.
Expanding the understanding of Jakarta’s material and physical mangrove foundations, it focuses on the popular Indonesian exports derived from the mangrove forest – Batik, Krupuk, Gamelan, Wayang Kulit. These items constitute forms of soft power, and central to Indonesian diplomacy, acting as familiar Indonesian cultural symbols. They persuasively articulate national sentiments without the burdens of state policy and government ideologies.
Through the contextual framing of the annual and internationally influential Jakarta Fair, and the narrative of a new Ministry of Mangrove, the thesis explores how the cultivation, storage, processing and distribution of mangrove and its relationships to the production of Batik, Krupuk, Gamelan, Wayang Kulit might become foundational to the independent livelihood of the Jakarta people and critical to the sustainable transformation of the city structure.
The comic strip is a pictorial experience of the Jakarta fair through the eyes of 2 tourists as they immerse themselves within the mangrove swamps and fully enshrouded by soft power - permeating their senses visually, through the smell of wafting parafin wax and pungent salted fish, through the hypnotic clanging of gamelan.