Bandung Stories and Tips

Visiting Hours at Kampung Seni

My hosts in Bandung wanted to give me some tourist experiences, so we looked through an old list of cultural activities and found Kampung Seni, an artist neighborhood (kampong is something between a block and a neighborhood).

Hoping it was an area with shops or a market of local handcrafts, we took a taxi down to the street listed and asked around for this kampung, which most people did not know. Finally, we were directed to a house and invited to come in and sit. The front room was spacious and full of art -- it could have been a gallery.

My friend is a language student, but I don't know more than a dozen words of Bahasa Indonesia, so my understanding of the conversation was very sketchy. We asked about Kampung Seni, and the man who lived in the house pulled out some clippings from the 1980s about murals on the gang (alley) walls in this kampung. But by 2004, it was impossible to tell that the bits of blue paint here and there on the wall were once a mural, or even intentional.

The man brought us coffee and snacks and had us sign a guestbook. My friend spent sometime trying to understand if he was an artist, a dealer, or what. Since I couldn't understand the conversation, I looked a little more closely around the room and saw that it was pretty dusty and had some cheap gag gifts that might have been for sale, but no other evidence that it was a gallery. It began to seem like we were just in this guy's home.

He and my friend seemed to be talking about an idea he had for an artist market that never got any investors or government support. I wondered if we were being asked to buy into his project. After 10 or 15 minutes (maybe more - certainly it seemed like more), we started trying to end the conversation and got out of there without having to drink any more coffee (the java on java is awful).

When we tried to work out what had happened there, we concluded that a couple of foreign women dropped in on a complete stranger and asked about the good old days. Fortunately, our visit was in the late afternoon, a time when it is customary to visit and accept visitors, probably a very natural thing in that culture. I was lost because I had no sense of what our role was. Going down there, I thought we would be shoppers. But when I realized that there was no Kampung Seni and no artists. I couldn't figure out why we were so welcome and what he thought we were doing there.

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