In Search of Emptiness (part 2 of 2)

08 Jun 2011 | Ferdiansyah Thajib - Yogyakarta, Indonesia

3. When formal ownership meets guerrilla occupancy

- The level of urban development can also be traced through forms of wastelands occupation. In metropolitan cities like Jakarta, Bandung or and Surabaya, empty lands (fenced or unfenced)  are increasingly evolving into arenas for , so to speak,  cat and mouse game between squatters and land owners/ city municipals via the hands of civil service police. Temporary shelters within the wasteland are built one day, removed in another.

-  Apart from the use of placards  and fences in some cases the act of ownership are inscribed  through the limited freedom given to by owners to squatters to build shelters  for an undetermined period, some times even letting, if not allowing, squatters to build semi-permanent housing. This way  wasteland is the site in which performance of apparitional control becomes  one of the daily norms constituting informal occupancy.

*Yogyakarta’s ‘special’ condition

Since the founding of  Republic of Indonesia, Yogyakarta region is given a special status by the state due to its service during the struggle for independence, as the only region s the only province in Indonesia that is still governed by a precolonial monarchy, the Sultan of Yogyakarta,  who serves as the hereditary governor of the province.  Recently, a government-proposed Bill on the Special Status of Yogyakarta has caused Yogyakarta`s people to react strongly against the government`s intention in the Bill to revoke the rights of  Sultan as the monarchical governor.

The nature of my  investigation sees that one of the issues underlying the heated debates around the special status of Yogyakarta  as a struggle for land control.  The dual application of land ownership law  in Yogyakarta, one colonial and another modern state,  constitutes a land status into four categories according to its proprietor:  Sultan Ground, Pakualaman (the prince) Ground, private and the state’s.  While the exact percentage of who has the most acreage of land remains a mystery as  continuous inquiry tends to produce erratic figures, on the surface, Sultan owns the majority of land in the  region. In reality,   Sultan Ground areas becomes pivotal sites from which private and public initiatives negotiate different use rights ranging from building to cultivating.

While ambiguous land property regulation,  overlapping ownership and competing temporal notions set off disputes as they are  constituting abandoned lots in the local setting,  one of the typical nodes that particularly interests me is the existence of the so- called  ‘tanah wedi kengser’ in Yogyakarta. This particular site is a land located in riverbanks  formed from the deposition of the sediment carried  by the rivers flowing from the volcanic, Merapi mountain.

During my preliminary interview, a colleague Yoshi Fajar Kresna Murti, an architect – cultural activists who have been studying about land statuses in Yogya brought up this subject, saying that formally  the Sultan Rijksblad stated that the state (then, colonial) can only acquired the area located 50 meters from the rivers passing through the region, it is called the ‘wedi kengser’ land. While I need to dig further for the factual details of his statement,  the idea that a newly landform could shift  proprietary schemes  draws my attention,  who can claim ownership over such work of nature ? If there is none, can it be the wasteland I am searching for?

Next, I will try to trace the various locations and uses of wedi kengser area in the city,  and from there on  decide the relevant spot  for  this project.

End of  Part 2


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