FAREWELL TO BARBARA Muhammad Fadli

Almost exactly one year ago, Dolly, a quarter within the Indonesian second-largest city of Surabaya, made it way into the world’s news for a good (or bad) cause. Often touted as the biggest red-light district in Southeast Asia and had been operating since the 1960s, it was officially closed by the local authority on 19th June of 2014. The authority argued the social problems Dolly had created was no longer bearable since it was located right in the crowded residential area of the city.

One of the most notorious brothel in Dolly is Barbara, which said to host the best sex workers in all of Dolly. During its heyday there were more than 60 girls waiting in prison-like rooms within its six storey building. The price for sex here was ranging from US$25 to US$35, the most expensive around Dolly.

The first step of the Dolly’s total closure were actually started from this place too. Tri Rismaharini, the lady mayor of Surabaya and a devout muslim, decided to acquire Barbara to make it into public facility for IDR 9 billion (around US$750,000) using the government’s budget, a great amount in Indonesian standard for an uninspiring structure. It was from this now abandoned brothel I collected and photographed scattered items that become the material of this series: personal things that left behind. There is a logbook to keep daily track of the sex workers; there is crossword puzzle which possibly used as a cure for boredom by the girls; or the piggybank possibly used to save the tips from the visiting guest. Whatever it is, those items offer us a different glimpse about how life once was within the brothel.

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