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Indonesia; Colonial Hygiene

by on August 13, 2011

I have been working on collecting remnants of colonial hygiene of Indonesia on my Google Plus page. The idea is to build visualizations of environmental history of Indonesia, particularly in cities in which documentations of hygiene behavior and colonial projects are well documented.

(kindly click the hyperlink at each number for further details)

1. Tjari Koetoe

The indigenous habit of cleaning hairs and skin of the head from louse. This activity was part of daily social activity in which boys and girls, old and young, gather together and form the formation of tjari koetoe (looking for head louse).

2. MCK (Mandi Cuci di Kali)

In the colonial time, MCK stand for Mandi Cuci di Kali (river bathing and laundry) which was polluting the surface water. Interestingly, as a sign of modernity, urban colonial government built stairs at the riverside to accommodate this behavior.

Batavia, 1930

Batavia, 1930

3. Toilet and Defecating

Before, only affluent neighborhoods who have toilet inside their house. Sanitation facility was limited. Defecation was an outdoor activity. However, it is interesting to see how the colonial government build an indoor communal toilet for political prisoners in Ngawi.

Communal toilet, Ngawi political internment camp, 1940

Communal toilet, Ngawi political internment camp, 1940

4. Sewerage

As part of Dutch Ethical Policy, the colonial government had the responsibility to improve health and hygiene of the so-called priboemi. Decentralization began. Peripheral urban (such as Bandoeng and Manado) had the same right to be as developed as Batavia.

At that time, Bandoeng was being set up as the new capital of Dutch East Indies. The colonial government built large scale construction sanitation projects; sewerage and hi-tech waste treatment plant inhofftank.

Unfortunately, it only lasted for short period of time. The Great Depression in 1930 shelved those projects. And when they started to continue it, Japan invaded the nation.

Bandung, 1929

Bandoeng, 1929

5. Water Supply

Batavia was the most urbanized city in Dutch East Indies. Yet most of the populations were not served by piped water supply until the end of 19th century. Clean water transport relied mainly on corporeal network of toekang air, ambulatory water vendor who shoulder buckets of water and travel around kampungs. Alternatively, there were ground water wells which were used communally for drinking, cooking and washing cooking utensils.

Water vendor, Batavia, 1905

Water vendor, Batavia, 1905

(pic source:

From → Indonesia

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