the fishing villages of Bintan, Indonesia

next stop after over two months of flying, training, rickshawing, horse riding, motorcyling, driving and walking from city to city in India was back through Singapore and on to a two hour ferry for Bintan, Indonesia. Heena Patel, Director of The Island Foundation had heard the Earthaware QiGlobal presentation done back in October and asked if we would stop in Indonesia on the way back to the USA to run a series of workshops in their fishing villages.

The island of Bintan has seen rapid development of high-end resorts along its beautiful north coast. This development has pushed out the local people from land they have occupied for hundreds of years. In addition to the land-grab and subsequent intimidation and voilence based property transfers, the traditional near-shore fishing houseboats, called Ke-Longs, have been declared unsightly by the developers and have been outlawed within the view-scape of the luxury resorts. The families that  have historically lived a Ke-Long life have fished six of seven days per week then come into market the fish they catch on the seventh day. These folks have been sea-people for all their written history, now they are forced onto land. The local way of describing this change is they have had their fins cut and been forced to grow legs.

The newer communities formed by these shifts struggle with unemployment and education for the newly earth-bound people. The Island Foundation has setup a series of communitiy centers and after-school programs to aid in education of marketable skills, language and self-directed craft industry develoipment for export. Our invitation was to direct a program utilizing local skills and materials to create an art based learning experience for kids which would include materials available immediatley around them.

We arrived with this basic knowledge and as always began a listening mission. Before running any workshops we learned that we must meet with the elder of each village. Some of these elders were Muslim, others were Christian... an amazing aspect of Bintan is that these two religions live and work together in the same communities.

We described what we wanted to do with the kids, took a look at the trash on the beaches, 99% of which is washed in from foriegn lands, and were warmly welcomed and approved for a weeks worth of workshops.