It would be hard to find an equivalent to the Jembatan Item flea market in Jatinegara, East Jakarta. A hub for secondhand items, the market is home to a hodgepodge of trinkets—ranging from TV remotes to porcelain statues—and merchants with loud personalities and equally showy personal styles (think full stacks of bracelets adorning both arms). Seamlessly tucked amidst this bustle is Kongsi 8, a collectively run artist studio, consignment shop and canteen with a mind for inclusivity.
Artist and zinester Icha, better known by her moniker Hai Rembulan, initiated the space alongside visual artist Rangga Kuzuma in 2021 to be a gathering space for their artist friends, most of whom are women and/or queer, based around the area. “Being affected by the pandemic, we felt the importance of assembling our own support system. This space allows us to figure out where we’re heading and what we can do together,” shared Rangga.
Run and funded independently, the space fluidly shifts between functions: it can serve as a sewing corner today, a makeshift photography studio tomorrow, or a clay-making lab depending on the artists in attendance. Hand-painted murals and greenery, planted peculiarly in used bottles and leather boots, adorn the space; while across the retail shelves, one can discover works by some lesser-known local creatives. From pottery homeware by Unloc Inventory, boxes of Manikara’s gemstone necklaces to sustainable bath kits by Kebunkuuk, it would be hard to ignore the do-it-yourself spirit that is palpable in the space.
But Kongsi 8’s biggest draw is their regular community events. Bunga Zine Fest attracts a variety of zine artists and readers with a bazaar, workshops as well as art and music shows that spotlight femme, queer and non-binary creators. The monthly Pasar Kongsi market is a buzzing celebration filled with fun agendas such as karaoke sessions and tarot readings. And to top it all off, there are also intimate live music sessions featuring names such as hara and Nadin Amizah, which hones in on the close-knit energy that the space has come to be known for.
Last year, they opened Kantin Rawa Bunga, a pocket-friendly mini eatery where members can try out their recipes and share them with hungry visitors. Don’t hesitate to dig into Nasi Goreng Nenek, the ultimate home-cooked butter fried rice or the gyoza stuffed with cabbage, chives and mushroom, Icha’s go-to vegan delicacies. Afterwards, a cold glass of Es Jeruk Songkit, freshly juiced Songkit oranges from Pontianak, makes a perfect antidote to Jatinegara’s heat.
“We really try to make this space our own and sustain it ourselves, that’s what I believe makes this initiative so genuine and distinct. We’re not guided by some big narratives,” said Icha. “Especially since we added the Kantin, it’s easy for people of all backgrounds to feel welcome here. That includes our artist friends, those who know nothing about art and even merchants from around the area. It’s something that you don’t see every day in Jakarta.”